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Belle & Sebastian

A band that takes its name from a French children's television series about a boy and his dog would almost have to be precious, and to be sure, Belle & Sebastian are precious. But precious can be a damning word, and Belle & Sebastian don't have the negative qualities that the word connotes: they are private but not insular, pretty but not wimpy; they make gorgeous, delicate melodies sound full-bodied. Led by guitarist/vocalist Stuart Murdoch, the seven-piece band has an intimate, majestic sound that is equal parts folk-rock and '60s pop, but Murdoch's gift, not just for whimsy and surrealism but also for odd, unsettling lyrical detail, keeps the songs grounded in a tangible reality.

Based in Glasgow, Scotland, Belle & Sebastian released their first two albums in 1996 at the peak of the chamber pop movement. At first, some critics in Britain's music weeklies tied the band into the subgenre, yet the group was too pretty, too delicate, to bear that label. Through their first two years of public existence, the bandmembers shielded their personalities, submitting publicity photos featuring a girl that wasn't in the band and reluctantly posing for photo shoots. Furthermore, they performed in odd venues, playing not only the standard coffeehouses and cafés, but also homes, church halls, and libraries.

The idiosyncratic approach to building their career isn't surprising given Murdoch's approach toward starting a band. A longtime fan of Felt, Murdoch left Glasgow for London in the early '90s in hopes of finding the group's leader, Lawrence Hayward, but he never found his idol. Upon his return to Glasgow, he enrolled in university and began writing songs and short stories. While at school, he took a music business course where he decided to form a band and release a record for his final project (he had tried to form a band before with no success). For the project, he assembled the seven-piece Belle & Sebastian, featuring himself on guitar and vocals, and choosing and recruiting members by instinct in a local all-night café in late 1995. He eventually found Sarah Martin (violin), Stevie Jackson (guitar), Chris Geddes (keyboards), Stuart David (bass), Richard Colburn (drums), and Isobel Campbell (cello). All seven members were college students, and all agreed that the idea behind the band was to stay on a small scale, to keep it as a project and not let the band run their lives; they even assumed they would release two albums and break up.

In May of 1996, Belle & Sebastian self-released their debut album, Tigermilk, on Electric Honey Records. Only 1,000 copies of the album, which was only pressed on vinyl, were released, but it unexpectedly became a sensation, earning terrific word of mouth throughout England. As a result, the band became slightly more than a school project -- it became an actual band. If You're Feeling Sinister, released on the independent Jeepster label, followed in November of 1996. By the time the album was released in America on the EMI subsidiary The Enclave, it had earned considerable critical acclaim in the U.K. -- not only from music weeklies, but from newspapers like The Sunday Times and magazines like The Face -- and a large cult following; by some accounts, Tigermilk was being sold for as much as 75 pounds. Over the course of 1997, word of mouth continued to grow in America, even as the band pulled out of an American tour because The Enclave went bankrupt and closed.

As the band's cult continued to build in 1997, Belle & Sebastian released three EPs -- Dog on Wheels (May), Lazy Line Painter Jane (July), and 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light (October). Each subsequent EP placed higher on the indie charts and received much critical acclaim. By the end of the year, the group finalized an American deal with Matador Records, issuing The Boy with the Arab Strap in September 1998. The following year saw the eagerly anticipated, wide re-release of Tigermilk, the album that started it all. Following completion of 2000's Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant, Stuart David left Belle & Sebastian to focus full-time on his solo project, Looper. In 2001, the group released two EPs -- Jonathan David and I'm Waking Up to Us -- and recorded the soundtrack for Todd Solondz's film Storytelling. Just before the soundtrack's release in spring 2002, Belle & Sebastian embarked on a comprehensive tour of the United States and Canada before returning to Europe for the summer festival season. Midway through the tour, Isobel Campbell left the band, citing the usual differences.

Another major change soon took place when Belle & Sebastian left Jeepster and Matador to sign with Rough Trade, with their next record, late-2003's Dear Catastrophe Waitress, produced by the inimitable Trevor Horn (who also produced Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Yes, and scores of others). The record spawned the brilliant "Step into My Office" and "I'm a Cuckoo" singles, the latter of which was the group's biggest U.K. hit, reaching number 14 in early 2004. After a long worldwide tour that found Belle & Sebastian reaching new levels of success, they retired to Scotland and began preparing for the recording of their fifth album. The Life Pursuit was recorded in Los Angeles with producer Tony Hoffer and was released in 2006 by Rough Trade in the U.K. The band was back with Matador in the U.S.

After a tour that included a sold-out show at the Hollywood Bowl, the band took a well-deserved break. Apart from the release of The BBC Sessions (by Matador and Jeepster) in 2008, no Belle & Sebastian records were released until 2010. During the hiatus, Murdoch spent time on his God Help the Girl project (which included much of the band as well), and Jackson and Kildea toured and recorded with the legendary Scottish indie pop band the Vaselines, who had re-formed in 2009. After spending the early part of 2010 recording with Tony Hoffer, the group released Write About Love on October 12 of 2010.

Write About Love performed well -- it peaked at eight on the U.K. charts and at 15 on Billboard in the U.S. -- and after its release, the band entered a quiet period. They re-emerged in 2013, touring the U.S. prior to the August release of The Third Eye Centre, a collection of B-sides and non-LP tracks released between 2006 and 2010. A few more shows followed in 2014, along with the release of Murdoch's film adaptation of God Help the Girl -- he turned the side project into a musical -- and the group announced it was beginning work on its ninth studio album. Preceded by the single "The Party Line," the Ben H. Allen-produced Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance appeared in January 2015. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: The Third Eye Centre

1. I'm A Cuckoo (The Avalanches Remix)

2. Suicide Girl

3. Love On The March

4. Last Trip

5. Your Secrets

6. Your Cover's Blown (Miaoux Miaoux Remix)

7. I Took A Long Hard Look

8. Heaven In The Afternoon

9. Long Black Scarf

10. The Eighth Station Of The Cross Kebab House

11. I Didn't See It Coming (Richard X Mix)

12. (I Believe In) Travellin' Light

13. Stop, Look And Listen

14. Passion Fruit

15. Desperation Made A Fool Of Me

16. Blue Eyes Of A Millionaire

17. Mr Richard

18. Meat And Potatoes

19. The Life Pursuit

x

Track List: Write About Love

1. I Didn't See It Coming

2. Come On Sister

3. Calculating Bimbo

4. I Want The World To Stop

5. Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John

6. Write About Love

7. I'm Not Living In The Real World

8. Ghost Of Rockschool

9. Read The Blessed Pages

10. I Can See Your Future

11. Sunday's Pretty Icons

x

Track List: BBC Sessions

1. The State I Am In (BBC Live)

2. Like Dylan In The Movies (BBC Live)

3. Judy And The Dream Of Horses (BBC Live)

4. The Stars Of Track And Field (BBC Live)

5. I Could Be Dreaming (BBC Live)

6. Seymour Stein (BBC Live)

7. Lazy Jane (BBC Live)

8. Sleep The Clock Around (BBC Live)

9. Slow Graffiti (BBC Live)

10. Wrong Love (BBC Live)

11. Shoot The Sexual Athlete (BBC Live)

12. The Magic Of A Kind Word (BBC Live)

13. Nothing In The Silence (BBC Live)

14. (My Girl's Got) Miraculous (BBC Live)

x

Track List: Push Barman To Open Old Wounds

Disc 1

2. The State I Am In

3. String Bean Jean

4. Belle & Sebastian

5. Lazy Line Painter Jane

6. You Made Me Forget My Dreams

7. A Century Of Elvis

8. Photo Jenny

9. A Century Of Fakers

10. Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie

11. Beautiful

12. Put The Book Back On The Shelf

Disc 2

1. This Is Just a Modern Rock Song

2. I Know Where The Summer Goes

3. The Gate

4. Slow Graffiti

5. Legal Man

8. Jonathan David

9. Take Your Carriage Clock And Shove It

10. The Loneliness Of A Middle Distance Runner

11. I'm Waking Up To Us

12. I Love My Car

13. Marx And Engels

x

Track List: Books

1. Your Cover's Blown

2. Wrapped Up In Books

3. Your Secrets

4. Cover (Version)

x

Track List: Dear Catastrophe Waitress

1. Step Into My Office, Baby

2. Dear Catastrophe Waitress

3. If She Wants Me

4. Piazza, New York Catcher

5. Asleep On A Sunbeam

6. I'm A Cuckoo

7. You Don't Send Me

8. Wrapped Up In Books

9. Lord Anthony

10. If You Find Yourself Caught In Love

11. Roy Walker

12. Stay Loose

x

Track List: Storytelling

1. Fiction

2. Freak

3. Dialogue: Conan, Early Letterman

4. F**k This S**t

5. Night Walk

6. Dialogue: Jersey's Where It's At

7. Black And White Unite

8. Consuelo

9. Dialogue: Toby

10. Storytelling

11. Dialogue: Class Rank

12. I Don't Want To Play Football

13. Consuelo Leaving

14. Wandering Alone

15. Dialogue: Mandingo Cliche

16. Scooby Driver

17. Fiction Reprise

18. Big John Shaft

x

Track List: I'm Waking Up To Us

1. I'm Waking Up To Us

2. I Love My Car

3. Marx And Engels

x

Track List: Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant

1. I Fought In A War

2. The Model

3. Beyond The Sunrise

4. Waiting For The Moon To Rise

5. Don't Leave The Light On Baby

6. The Wrong Girl

7. The Chalet Lines

8. Nice Day For A Sulk

9. Woman's Realm

10. Family Tree

11. There's Too Much Love

x

Track List: The Boy With The Arab Strap

1. It Could Have Been A Brilliant Career

2. Sleep The Clock Around

3. Is It Wicked Not To Care?

4. Ease Your Feet In The Sea

5. A Summer Wasting

6. Seymour Stein

7. A Space Boy Dream

8. Dirty Dream Number two

9. The Boy With The Arab Strap

10. Chickfactor

11. Simple Things

12. The Rollercoaster Ride

x

Track List: If You're Feeling Sinister

1. The Stars Of Track And Field

2. Seeing Other People

3. Me And The Major

4. Like Dylan In The Movies

5. The Fox In The Snow

6. Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying

7. If You're Feeling Sinister

8. Mayfly

9. The Boy Done Wrong Again

10. Judy And The Dream Of Horses

x

Track List: Tigermilk

1. The State I Am In

2. Expectations

3. She's Losing It

4. You're Just A Baby

5. Electronic Renaissance

6. I Could Be Dreaming

7. We Rule The School

8. My Wandering Days Are Over

9. I Don't Love Anyone

10. Mary Joe

x

Track List: Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance

1. Nobody's Empire

2. Allie

3. The Party Line

4. The Power Of Three

5. The Cat With The Cream

6. Enter Sylvia Plath

7. The Everlasting Muse

8. Perfect Couples

9. Ever Had A Little Faith?

10. Play For Today

11. The Book Of You

12. Today (This Army's For Peace)

x

Track List: Paper Boat (Single)

1. Paper Boat

x

Track List: The Cat With The Cream (Single)

1. The Cat With The Cream

x

Track List: The Life Pursuit

2. Another Sunny Day

3. White Collar Boy

4. The Blues Are Still Blue

5. Dress Up in You

6. Sukie in the Graveyard

7. We Are the Sleepyheads

8. Song For Sunshine

9. Funny Little Frog

10. To Be Myself Completely

12. For the Price of a Cup of Tea

13. Mornington Crescent

x

Track List: The Life Pursuit (ITunes Edition)

2. Another Sunny Day

3. White Collar Boy

4. The Blues Are Still Blue

5. Dress Up In You

6. Sukie In The Graveyard

7. We Are The Sleepyheads

8. Song For Sunshine

9. Funny Little Frog

10. To Be Myself Completely

12. For The Price Of A Cup Of Tea

13. Mornington Crescent

14. Meat And Potatoes

15. I Took A Long Hard Look

x

Track List: The Party Line (Single)

1. The Party Line

Comments

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love it!
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I saw them in D.C. last Thursday!! It was the best night of my life.
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Best band from Scotland ever
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Arab Strap and Tigermilk are full of classics. Fold Your Hands started a turn towards more of a 70s pop feel that comes and goes with me. Stuart's ballads are just lovely and melancholy. An interesting side note on the bio: while at university, Stuart formed the band on a dare from his instructor who thought he would never follow through on his daydreams of releasing records. That instructor was Mr. Alan Rankine, 1/2 of the late, incredibly great Scots band, the Associates with Billy MacKenzie
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They just did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit a few hours ago. Pretty great, right? Wish loads of bands would do that. Very great.
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Can't wait to see them live again in April!!! :)))
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Love!!
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kenya_ritchi e
I Love this song ya aaaaaaaa
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kalgrizz
Kinks vibe
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Say iPhone 5 times and then ur fav color and then comment this on 2 other songs and look under your pillow
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I seen them at salt lake this friday
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If You're Feeling Sinister and The Life Pursuit are my favs...
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Actually I like the Tigermilk one!
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Question why are people advertising on here
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amye45
smile cry indeed
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Who cares about Belle & Sebastian, I came to this band's comments to find out more about BLUDOS.COM
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amynicolle95
I'm seeing them in concert this weekend in Salt Lake!
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rjholla4g4
My love of The Velvet Underground led me to Belle and Sebastian. Luckily I got to see them in Lawrence, Ks. in 2002, I think.
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analiagrubb3
They make me happy when I am horribly depressed. I smile crying when I listen to them.
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This song reminds me of cats wearing sweaters.
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pmatteucci
I've loved this band since I first heard them in 1998, heard them again in 2011 in Sydney in a tiny, dark venue and fell in love with them all over again. It was so intimate and personal, the stage was so low and there were so few tickets available (maybe 200). Probably the best gig of my life :)
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I grew up in the 60's, and they remind me very much of the bands of that era.
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For the longest time I thought Belle and Sebastian were an 80s glam rock band lol. Their music is very nice.
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bbhulse1
Belle and Sebastian is the only band that matters, period.
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The album cover isn't offensive, it's just uhh...inappr o p r i a t e . (Tigermilk)
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named after sebastian from the series
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I like most of what I heard. Sometimes, the lyrics are so stupid it distracts from the sound (as noted by the Judy and the Dream of Horses comment from Seamus Walsh below), but overall pretty good.
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i serisouly dont understand why the cover would in any way be offensive.
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Offensive commentator below. Please delete him.
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bromide01
Offensive album cover. Pandora please delete.
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wenberep is so precious
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anthony.vanh
Love it
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wenberep
I had drinks with Belle once. She was nice. She sang me a song and we talked about jewish politics.
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delicate is an appropriate description of this artist imo. Like going through family antiques on a rainy day with sunshine streaming through the window.
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Judy and the Dream of Horses is the worst song I have ever heard. It sounds like a Jimmy Fallon joke song.
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bromide01
I am sadly interested maybe.
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beautifully sad
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ladyspineret t e _
I am interested
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THIS SONG IS SO BEAUTIFUL! it made me cey within the first 20 seconds.
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I'm just really discovering Belle and Sebastian. I've known they've been around and heard a thing or two at a distance, but these guys are good. I really like them and hope to immerse myself.
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theweez09
This band is meant to be enjoyed out in the open air. I was fortunate enought to see them twice in the last month and it was absolutley lovely- to say the least. If you are given the opportunity to see them, take it-and a picnic basket too.
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Just saw them Monday night in Chicago at the Chicago Theatre, really good show and 4 or 5 songs of the new album as well - they can be a little hit and miss live, so it was great to see one where they were really on.
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while trying to think of good recomendatio n s i realized you really can't go wrong with any of there music. my favorite album is dear catastrophe waitress but i love all of there stuff. the boy with the arab strap is another really good album.
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ccurtin8
Damn great show last night at the water front in Williamsburg Brooklyn. If they play your town go see them! They played Piazza New York Catcher last night! Check out Suki in the grave yard(life persuit) and the entire alblum if your feeling sinister.
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I just recently discovered Belle & Sebastian. I really like the album "The Life Persuit" which I believe is their most recent record.
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I'm not sure how but I missed these guys across the years and have never heard of them before today. I'm listening to Piazza, New York Catcher right now and it's really hitting home for me, reminds me of a lot of 60's folk music I listened to on record when I was just a wee lad. Would anyone care to recommend some common liked hits from them for me?
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again i adore
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amhurych
To suushi7... if you don't like them why are you listening and/or commenting on them? Just a question.
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One of my all time favorite bands is B & S... I am pretty sure my life would be much different had I not discovered their music way back in 1997. Now... I just wish I could get my wife to like them.... hmmm...
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I'vde never heard them before; though I've heard alot about them. Thumbs up, this stuff is good.
Show more

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