Belle and Sebastian released their first album in five years, entitled Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, this past winter. The title reflects the attitude of the band’s new-found live energy: they’re at a fairly peaceful time in their career, and they really just want to dance.
Who can blame them? After years of dreamy, sleepwalking twee pop, the band has adopted a more accessible, club-worthy sound that still showcases their knack for songwriting.
Don’t like it? Well, Belle and Sebastian don’t care, simply because they’re Belle and Sebastian. They have the experience and magic charm to turn even the most top-40-sounding melodies into indie hits. Then they’ll just pull you up on stage and dance the negativity out of you. Literally.
Lucius may be that up-and-coming band you haven’t heard yet. But once you hear them, you’ll never forget them. Their songs are luminous, meant to be shouted to the heavens from a cliff on a starry night. Dual frontwomen Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe always match crazy outfits. Their stage presence is commanding, and their harmonies are equally lifting. They’re backed by Peter Lalish and Andrew Burri on guitar, and Dan Molad on drums. The band can jump from a whisper-quiet sweetness to a roar of vigor, and they sure do know a thing about dynamics.
They played the greats from their debut Wildewoman, including “Don’t Just Sit There”, “Turn it Around”, and “How Loud Your Heart Gets”, as well as a new song from their upcoming sophomore effort.
The seven-member lineup of Belle and Sebastian then took the stage. They further expanded to include a string quartet, who added aurally pleasing ambience to the band’s lovely full sound. They opened with one of frontman Stuart Murdoch’s most confessional and wistful songs to date, “Nobody’s Empire.” They then proceeded into the joyful “I’m a Cuckoo” from 2003’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress, then main single off the new album, “The Party Line”.
The set was actually a career-spanning, well-rounded collection of fan favorites from some of their most beloved albums. Songs like “Stars of Track and Field,” “If You’re Feeling Sinister,” “There’s Too Much Love” and “The Boy with the Arab Strap” were warmly received.
For some songs, trippy graphics cascaded across the backdrop. For others, live action couples danced around a room. Let’s not forget the dancing – the band pulled members of the audience on-stage to have the dance party of a lifetime.
Since their formation in 1995, Belle and Sebastian have been indie front-runners – pioneers of exploring such Generation Y issues as hopelessness, isolation, and the various trials of youth. But the modern attitude showcased on Girls in Peacetime was perhaps foreshadowed by the lyrics and music of “Electronic Renaissance” off their debut album Tigermilk (which they did play, backed by a video screen filled with old 80’s arcade games):
Hand in hand with the electronic renaissance is the way to go
You’re learning, soon you will do the things you wanted
Since you were wearing glitter badges
Now, it seems, the group has always desired to push through that self-focused edge of indie rock and into something outside themselves. That’s why Girls in Peacetime‘s political undertones may come as a surprise to some fans. An important thing to keep in mind is that Belle and Sebastian are just another band that’s changing their sound as the times change and their tastes change – you can’t play the same music forever.
At the same time, however, what Belle and Sebastian do best remains the same: compacting heavy lyrical themes into art. And while the music may be boppier and dancier, it doesn’t lose meaning.
- Belle and Sebastian Setlist: June 9, 2015
I’m a Cuckoo
The Party Line
The Stars of Track and Field
I’m Waking Up to Us
Sukie in the Graveyard
Piazza, New York Catcher
If You’re Feeling Sinister
The Power of Three
There’s Too Much Love
The Boy with the Arab Strap
I Didn’t See It Coming
We Rule the School
Judy and the Dream of Horses
Belle And Sebastian, Lucius, The Tower Theater