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Friday, Feb. 10, 2006


Belle & Sebastian "The Life Pursuit"

Belle & Sebastian built a loyal following with their steady brand of intelligent and whimsical neo-folk. Their sound began to change, though, with their last Trevor Horn-produced release, "Dear Catastrophe Waitress." As the band made forays into new pop music structures, they also improved their sound production.

The experimentation continues on "The Life's Pursuit," their seventh album, with new producer Tony Hoffer (known for his work with Beck). Their sound now contains a contagious exuberance inspired by use of a number of studio effects, horns, hand claps -- and a new swagger. The recording distances the band from their lo-fi origins, but the core of their distinctive sound remains intact: Stuart Murdock's storylike, image-heavy songwriting and the evanescent soaring melodies.

This is most apparent in the opening track, "Act of the Apostle," the story of a girl who was late for Bible-study class on purpose. But what's unexpected is the glam-rock channeling of Marc Bolan on "White Collar Boy" and "The Blues are Still Blue." The party continues with upbeat and funky tunes like "For the Price of a Cup of Tea" and "Sukie in the Graveyard." And change can be good.

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