Music Roundup: The Return of Belle & Sebastian

 It's been four years since Belle & Sebastian wooed fans with their dreamy sixth effort, 2006’s The Life Pursuit and in that time, they've gone on to achieve some pretty special things, including selling out their epic Hollywood Bowl show with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and The Shins. "Piazza New York Catcher" and "Expectactions” were also included on the critically-acclaimed Juno soundtrack while frontman Stuart Murdoch finally brought his film and music project, God Help the Girl, to life after five years in the making.

It seems that a bit of a break suited the Scottish indie pop collective, for their long-awaited follow-up, Write About Love (out in the US this week) features some of the band's most magical material to date. Swooon!!!

The Guardian recently referred to them as "The Smiths for the generation that came after Morrissey and Marr" and such a depiction is richly deserved. A few members also elaborated on why it was important, but natural to take a well-needed breather after the last album. Guitarist and vocalist Stevie Jackson described it as, "We're always playing together, always in and out of each other's pockets."

"I knew I felt very different about writing straight after the last record," adds Murdoch, "which was part of the reason I wanted to take a break. I think the band was ready for a break, I might have said to folks: 'I don't write songs like I used to, I'm off.' or something like that."

As previously reported here, British actress Carey Mulligan guests on the album's jangly title track about the perils of working for a living, and her wispy angelic vocals are a perfect match for the Glasgow-based group's '60s-tinged soundscape. Another stellar collaboration comes from Grammy Award-winning artist Norah Jones, who offers her usual loveliness on the mellow number "Little Lou, Prophet Jack, Ugly John," also included on her latest duets record, Featuring…. Other special highlights include the immaculate synth-heavy "Sunday's Pretty Icons" and current single, "I Want the World to Stop."

"I Want the World to Stop":

“To Write About Love” featuring Carey Mulligan:

Other notable albums released this week:

Antony & the JohnsonsSwanlights
Carl BarâtCarl Barât
The Black Heart ProcessionBlood Bunny/Black Rabbit
IdlewildPost-Electric Blues
The Orb w/David GilmourMetallic Spheres
Sufjan StevensThe Age of Adz
Robbie WilliamsIn and Out of Consciousness: Greatest Hits

Other notable singles released this week:

Chapel Club"All the Eastern Girls"
Detroit Social Club"Northern Man"
Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster"So Long, Goodnight"
Esben and the Witch"Marching Song"
The Ting Tings"Hands"

Other music news:

- Speaking of Belle & Sebastian, Stuart Murdoch has a serious hankering for Mexican food and has designs on opening a taqueria in his native Glasgow. This could be good. "I've had this idea for a while, to open a Belle & Sebastian taqueria," Murdoch revealed to NPR's Planet Money blog this week. "I'm about to get serious about this, because this could be the thing that allows me to carry on doing music – to serve a decent taco." (NPR)

Starsailor's James Walsh has been cooking up material for his solo debut EP, Live at the Top of the World, since the band went on hiatus last year. The mini album will finally see the light of day November 1st and will feature the work of renowned composer Bernt Simen Lund. The album was recorded in the country town of Tromso, Norway, which is the most inhabited spot closest to the North Pole. (The Sun)

– UK electro-techno outfit Simian Mobile Disco is readying the release of Delicacies, a double-disc collection of singles inspired by the eccentric foods the band has tasted while touring the globe over the last year. It’s set for release in October. Yummmmy. (NME)

One to keep an eye on: The Joy Formidable

The American blogosphere has been in a frenzy over the rousing indie rock edges of The Joy Formidable for much of 2010, especially falling for their spiky space-rock riffage on "Popinjay." In June, the trio joined The Manic Street Preachers to open up for Sir Paul McCartney at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. And just last weekend, the Manics took to their official Twitter to sing their praises, "Liking the joy formidable more and more-something about them feels right xx."

Something feels right indeed, and today Ritzy Bryan (vocals/guitar), Rhydian Dafydd (bass/vocals), and Matt Thomas (drums) issue "I Don't Want to See You Like That." Get hip to the band's blissful cacophony which recalls Siouxsie & the Banshees, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and The Arcade Fire. And any band that can bring Mansun's Paul Draper out of hiding gets major props in my book.

The Joy Formidable – "I Don't Want to See You Like This"

by MacKenzie Wilson

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