Friday, 18 September 2009

Softly, softly...

Belle and Sebastian are probably the last band that I'll be into in the buying the tee shirt, going to see them lots of times type of way. I went to see the tour for "The Life Pursuit" and it was a perfectly brilliant gig but haven't got round to buying the album yet. I was a bit disappointed by the singles but I'm sure, in the fullness of time, I'll pick it up. So, what's your favourite Belle and Sebastian album? Mine, by a mile, is "Swansong for You" by the Gentle Waves. I was thinking of a post around female vocalists (the Shangri Las one was a by-product). Quite often, it seems to me, male singers hide behind their style of singing. Mick Jagger or Morrissey for instance. As if singing were something to be ashamed of. And sometimes it means I enjoy the songs less. So, on balance I think I prefer female vocalists. In fact I know I do.

The post was originally going to take in Joni Mitchell, Sandy Denny and Isobel Campbell (and maybe her out of Pentangle and Nina Persson of the Cardigans). But, casting about for tunes, I found myself utterly rapt by "Swansong for You". I'd played it a lot at the time but hadn't given it a spin for a while due to being separated from my record collection for a period and the vinyl of this particular record being a bit fucked on account of the heavy rotation. What all these singers have got in common is very high, or very pure voices. You might separate them into hard and soft with Isobel Campbell falling into the latter camp.

I haven't really been able to get into the latterday Nancy and Lee stuff she's currently churning out with Mark Lanegan. The chamber pop of "Swansong for You" seems far more suited to her voice and penchant for cellos and xylophones and other bits and bobs. It's funny - in Belle and Sebastian she was the epitome of indie winsomeness, a dead ringer for Jean Seberg. Why do so many snappy dressers end up going in for the western look?

Anyway, "Swansong for You". I've spoken of albums being close to perfect. This album is perfect. Derivative in places of the Zombies, she makes no secret of her love of that band. I started off loving the simpler songs such as "Flood" and "Loretta Young" but was eventually floored by every single track - taking longer to appreciate the heavier strings of "There was Magic, Then..." and the Morricone knells of "Partner in Crime". Amid all the instrumental variety though is the constant, soft, lovely, lilting voice - gentle even for the talking bits.

The Gentle Waves: Flood

The Gentle Waves: Partner in Crime


  1. Found your blog thought that poetry bloke Ande. Lovely stuff you're writing about. I love Belle and Sebastian!

  2. Hello Jukka,

    Cheers for the comment. Like your blog name - nice description of Ande too.