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Belle and Sebastian

Our critics' picks in new releases

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Even to a committed Belle and Sebastian fan, the "concept" of this album sounded unappealing: a half-instrumental and (most likely) half-baked soundtrack album for the Todd Solondz film, Storytelling (only six minutes of the album's music is actually used in the film). But don't be deceived. While the six tracks that feature vocals are standard Belle and Sebastian mood-pop, there's not a throwaway in the bunch, rivaling, in fact, the superb singles the Scottish collective has released in the two years since their last full-length. Even though vocal duties are shared among group members, B&S always manage to produce a cohesive, if varied, sound. Tracks range from the slow, solemn "I Don't Want To Play Football" to the perky popster, "Scooby Driver." And that's just the vocal half of the album.

Although the instrumentals, for the most part, only vaguely recall the B&S sound, the prevalent use of strings and piano has resulted in a batch of beautiful soundscapes that would fit right alongside the work of soundtrack master Ennio Morricone. B&S also overcome the typical soundtrack syndrome by keeping said instrumentals short and sweet--nothing over three minutes. Heck, even the snippets of dialogue interspersed throughout the album enhance the overall package.

Storytelling should not be the first Belle and Sebastian album you purchase, but once you're a fan, you may find this to be their most enjoyable piece of work.

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