Belle & Sebastian - If You're Feeling Sinister LP

(Jeepster Records, 1996)

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“Stuart Murdoch has spoken about how simple and unsophisticated the songs on Sinister are — how they’re all three-chord songs, not complex arrangements, and how he’d pile on all these instruments only because he had so many people in the band and they all wanted to try out different things. And the simplicity — the strummy guitars, Murdoch’s reedy and conversational tone, the gentle propulsion at work in even the quietest songs — is certainly key to their appeal. But Murdoch also had an amazing and innate sense of how to put a stunningly gorgeous song — where the flutes and violins and harmonicas and pianos should show up, how to slowly fill these arrangements out without compromising their endearing fragility. There was familiarity in all of this; we had, after all, heard our parents’ folk-pop records, where sounds like this were commonplace. But we hadn’t heard them put to work to express the sort of shy, alienated warmth that Murdoch got across better than any of his peers ever could.

Murdoch was writing about stammering pauses and distant conversational murmurs and emotionally confusing makeout sessions and fleeting infatuations in ways that drew up a picture of a whole world — one that sounded enormously appealing, especially when you had no real frame of reference for it. He found glamor in coyness in ways that only Morrissey had really ever discovered. “Think of it this way: You could either be successful or be us,” he sang, and he made a lack of success sound like the best possible way to live. For some of us, this felt important — a state to which we could aspire.” - Tom Breihan for Stereogum