Ambiguous Indie

Album cover of Write About Love/Photo courtesty of Wikipedia

Album cover of “Write About Love”/Photo courtesty of Wikipedia

The album Write About Love by Belle & Sebastian puts deep thoughts into light, dancy melodies that are easier to digest than in their raw form.  This album takes listeners back to a time heavy with nostalgia, where they are unable to change their past, but are permitted to retrospectively analyze the choices they have made.

Belle & Sebastian came to be in mid-90s Scotland; it was started by two college students, who after finding success with their debut album Tigermilk, recruited several more members and embarked on an official music career.  Gaining popularity in the late 90s with their album If You’re Feeling Sinister, Belle & Sebastian has achieved a devoted following over the years and continues to make music in its signature poppy, lighthearted style.

“I Want The World To Stop” is unarguably the catchiest song on Write About Love. Starting with a four-beat drumstick count-off, the song immediately follows with driving percussion, speculative keyboard, and a faint bassline. After a few measures, a guitar takes over with a fast-paced, smooth melody that serves as a bridge to seamlessly introduce vocals into the mix.  The main vocalist is echoed by a lighter vocalist, who either repeats the main phrase or adds on to it varyingly.  The lyrics convey a message that is concealed by the peppy instrumentals throughout the song.  Our vocalist wills the world to stop, because life is moving too quickly for him, and he needs time to contemplate it. He desperately needs life to pause for just a moment, so that he can find meaning in an ever-changing world.  The speed of the song mirrors the speed of the world he has found himself in, and although he pleads for it to slow, it does not. This song helps listeners realize that they cannot fight the progression of life, but can hope to eventually catch up with it.

The song “Come On Sister” brings a synthy sound to the album, with short sequences similar to video game sound effects sprinkled throughout.  The percussion in this piece is overshadowed by guitar and vocals, contrasting “I Want The World To Stop”. Once again, in the Belle & Sebastian style, bright music is accompanied by lyrics that hold much greater weight. The song is told from the perspective of a young man who admires a girl from afar, knowing she is unattainable, the lyrics hinting that the two may have been in a relationship that did not end well.  However hopeful, our vocalist seems aware of his naivety and the unlikelihood of her becoming his friend.  This song is a painstakingly relatable one for listeners, most of who have been in a similar situation to the protagonist of the song.  Belle & Sebastian makes a point through this song that we cannot make anybody like us, but we are not restricted from imagining a relationship with them.

The last song I will focus on is the title track of the album.  “Write About Love” is a quintessential Belle & Sebastian song, starting with an assertive guitar line and percussion matching in style.  After a few seconds, the music stops for a moment, then continues with soft vocals.  Following the first section, a new vocalist takes over, adding her own experiences into the song’s plotline. Just like in “I Want The World To Stop,” echoing vocals complement the lead singer at times, making the phrasing more interesting and layered.  This song has a bit of a folksy feel to it that is not present in the other songs of the album, with background guitars diversifying the sound.  This song follows the daily life of two people, both of whom believe they are missing out on all the fun in life.  However, undertones of responsibility advise that the carefree life is not safe and that it is better to observe it than to be a part of it.  

Belle & Sebastian can deceive first-time listeners as being a cute and spritely band.  The sound of its songs may match this description, but the meaning behind the lyrics pulsates with realism.  If you are looking for some light indie pop to listen to, Belle & Sebastian is a great choice for easy listening.  It is when one truly considers the lyrics, however, that Belle & Sebastian becomes something that listeners can relate to on a personal level. 

A special “thank you” goes out to Audren Hedges-Duroy, who contributed to the laborious process of deciding what to name this column.