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Album Review

Belle and Sebastian, 'The BBC Sessions'

December 1, 2008
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Indie Rock
BELLE AND SEBASTIAN THE BBC SESSIONS
MATADOR
ESSENTIAL "Lazy Jane"

It's hard to overstate the importance of these Scottish folk-pop romantics to music fans of a certain persuasion (moping) and world outlook (wearily sarcastic) who came of age in the late '90s. For many of them (OK, us), the literary, lovelorn missives of songwriter Stuart Murdoch and his merry band of miscreants were like a longed-for second coming of Morrissey. Anachronistic in style but utterly modern in outlook, the band changed the musical landscape with its heavy-hearted acoustic strumming, brassy retro bounce, and lonely bedroom confessionals. This collection of live radio performances from the band's early years is like a letter from an old friend long delayed in the post. Favorites in the vein of the bitterly arch "The State I Am In" and the swooning ode to athletic beauty "The Stars of Track and Field" are well represented here in mostly familiar arrangements, as are non-album singles like the swelling march "Slow Graffiti." But it's the quieter takes on the bouncing Motown blast of "Lazy Jane" and unreleased songs like "Nothing in the Silence," featuring the last stunningly precious, tragically beautiful contributions from early band principal Isobel Campbell, that make this a past worth revisiting. (Out now)

LUKE O'NEIL

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