“How to Solve our Human Problems” Belle and Sebastian
Glasgow-based indie pop-rockers, Belle and Sebastian, are back with an eclectic collection of tunes ranging from disco-inspired dance-y synth-pop to baroque-pop and everything in between. The tracks were released over a period of three months (Dec. 2017 – Feb. 2018) in three separate five-song EPs. Those songs have now been brought together in a massive 70-minute collection of “witty, tuneful indie pop” as Rolling Stone describes it. Not every tune works; a few critics have even suggested that the release could have been pared down to a more disciplined 10- to 12-track album. But with so much variety, you’re sure to find something that you like here.
1. (6:29) Sweet Dew Lee — (False start – might want to start at 7 sec.) Breezy, dance-y synth-pop. Jangly guitar. Synth squiggles and strings. Lounge-y. ***
2. (5:37) We Were Beautiful — Urgent, slightly edgy synth-pop. Skittering trip-hop beat. Some pedal steel guitar. Brass in the anthemic choruses. ****
3. (4:03) Fickle Season — Slower, light and lilting folk-pop with lead vocals by Sarah Martin. Bell-like synths and flute. Timekeeping drum track.
4. (4:49) The Girl Doesn’t Get It — Synth-pop in the style of Brian Eno or recent New Pornographers. Political lyrics contrast with the light upbeat arrangement. FCC: "f-cked up"
5. (5:28) Everything Is Now — Did B&S and Arcade Fire get together on this? Deliberate-paced psyche-rock with 1960s organ, handclaps and Beatles-like harmonies. Lyrics shift from “everything is different” to “everything’s indifferent.”
6. (3:53) Show Me the Sun — Rubbery bass line and tribal tom-toms under a 1960s era go-go tune, which slows halfway through — then resumes its gallop.
7. (3:35) The Same Star — Swaying Fleetwood Mac-sounding song with Sarah Martin again on the lead. Straight-ahead, sunshiny indie rock. ***
8. (4:16) I’ll Be your Pilot — Oboe! Heartfelt sentimental folk ballad dedicated to Murdoch’s young son. Reassuring harmonies and backing vocals. ****
9. (4:26) Cornflakes — Like an extended disco remix. Don’t let the gleams from the mirror ball blind you. Gets clashy and discordant.
10. (5:03) A Plague on All Other Boys— An ode to Belle and Sebastian in their early years. Stately baroque folk-pop. Literate lyrics examine first love. ****
11. (4:28) Poor Boy — Clubby dance tune. Features a funky beat, groovy guitars, synth, and Sarah and Stuart in a duet on lead vocals.
12. (5:39) Everything Is Now (Part Two) — Fuller, more complete and intriguing version of track 5. Swaying, swirling strings support Murdoch’s warm vocals — with Martin singing counterpoint in a love song debate. ***
13. (4:27) Too Many Tears — Easy listening ballad. Light rock with playful guitar licks.
14. (3:24) There Is an Everlasting Song — Strummy, uplifting folk-rock. Optimistic lyrics nevertheless reference the sometimes harsh realities we all may face. ****
15. (3:41) Best Friend — Soulful 1960s-style retro tune. Guest lead vocalist is Glasgow’s Carla J. Easton. Melodic and bright. Nice closer. ***