Vinyl love: Belle And Sebastian “Girls in peacetime want to dance”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Belle And Sebastian
Album Title: Girls in peacetime want to dance
Year released: 2015
Details: black vinyl, 2 x LP, gatefold sleeve

The skinny: The Glasgow-based indie pop collective returned after five years with album number nine and to my ears, it’s their best in a decade. It’s fresh and rejuvenated and shows that Stuart Murdoch hasn’t quite found the end of his tether yet.

Standout track: “The party line”

Best tunes of 2010: #21 School Of Seven Bells “I L U”

True story: In 2004, two bands embarked on a US-wide tour as opening acts for Interpol. Three years after the tour, a new band was formed from members of these two bands. Secret Machines would attempt to carry on without their lead guitarist, Benjamin Curtis, releasing one final album in 2008 but On!Air!Library! could not survive without twin vocalists, Claudia and Alejandra Dehaza.

School of Seven Bells was the name of said resulting band, a title they took from a legendary and perhaps fictional training school for pickpockets and thieves in a South America. They released two full-length albums, 2008’s “Alpinisms” and 2010’s “Disconnect from desire”, before Claudia quit the band, leaving behind a duo. There was another album released and they were working on a fourth when Benjamin Curtis was diagnosed with lymphoma and died suddenly in 2013. Alejandra finished his work and released the final album last year. But that’s a story for another day.

I got into School of Seven Bells because I was rather enamoured with Secret Machines’ first two albums and wanted to see what it was that could drag Benjamin Curtis away from such a good thing. As it turned out, I really liked his second band as well, though they were quite different. Where his first band was all about the big and epic prog-influenced, guitar rock, Curtis’s direction with School of Seven Bells takes his listeners on a dreamy, electronic voyage through mysticism of many different stripes.

“I L U” is, in my mind, the undisputed standout track on “Disconnect from desire”, the band’s second album. It a song of longing and regret and immobilizing sadness set to an incredible beat and irresistible waves of synths and guitars. The Dehaza sisters’ vocals are there, clear and strong, floating above the ether and threatening to delve deep into your soul. It hints at left of the dial eighties but there is something so very fresh about it at the same time. 

And something otherworldly too. Indeed, “I L U” could be a dance floor filler at a dance club for ghosts. Lovely stuff.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2000: #7 Teenage Fanclub “I need direction”

Creeping ever closer to the number one song on my Best tunes of 2000 list, we have, at number seven, Teenage Fanclub”s “I need direction”.

Teenage Fanclub is a criminally overlooked, alternative rock band that formed in Scotland in 1989. They were for many years a guitar heavy quartet, made up of Norman Blake, Gerard Love, Raymond McGinley, and a revolving door of drummers (finally settling on Francis MacDonald), but in recent years, have added a fifth member, Dave McGowan, on keys. Over the course of ten albums, their sound has evolved from its basis in loud, anarchic, and distorted guitars to the jangly beauty it is today, deeply rooted in their love for Big Star and the sweet sounds of harmonizing vocals. Songwriting duties are shared evenly between the band’s three principal guitarists and each take lead vocals on the songs they wrote, with all of the members adding their backing vocals to the mix.

I got into Teenage Fanclub originally in 1991 with that year’s excellent long player, “Bandwagonesque”, and have been following them closely ever since. In fact, “Howdy!”, the 2000 album on which “I need direction” appears, is their first album since “Bandwagonesque” that I didn’t purchase immediately on compact disc. Not because I stopped loving the group, mind you. It just so happened that around this time there was a little thing called Napster and the explosion and proliferation of file sharing. I admit to being pulled in. Mostly every crazed music fan salivated at the thought of limitless “free” music. Online file sharing and the MP3 changed everything for music, the music industry, and music fans (perhaps more on that another time). In 2000, however, my internet came courtesy of a dialup connection so though it was “free”, the downloads were slow. One had to be more choosy than we were in later years when high speeds became the norm. I had a copy of the single, “I need direction”, and grew to love it long before I ever purchased and listened to the rest of “Howdy!”.

And maybe it’s for this reason that I still see this song as the standout track on the album. The Gerard Love penned and helmed number is boppy with jangly guitars and sweet, almost to the point of cheese, “ba ba ba ba” harmonies that flit in and about the chorus. If you’re not with me so far, have a taste of that zippy organ Doors-esque bridge around the 2:43 mark that leads to some lovely dark guitar lickage. Sold, no?

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2000 list, click here.