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The Life Pursuit Preview
16 February 06 from petrarch 5
I am new to both to B&S and TNP, but I've been listening to both "The Life Pursuit" and "Twin Cinema" quite a bit in the last week. Interestingly, my reaction is exactly the opposite of glenn's. I find B&S cloying, self-conscious and even a bit pretentious. It feels like music very carefully crafted to be shiny and "perfect." Weirdly, despite such negative sounding comments, I like them.
But I've enjoyed TNP much more. It may be self-conscious pop music, but I think the diversity of voices (both literally and in terms of authorship) gives it a vitality I find lacking in B&S.
Perhaps my opinion will change over time. I have no doubt that it is biased by my preference for a slightly rougher edge on my pop music. To that end, I have also really been enjoying Brendan Benson's "The Alternative to Love." I should have put that on my list in the "Best of 2005" topic.
15 February 06 from Ian Mathers 3
Jer, as long as you program out "Beyond The Sunrise" (worst B&S album track ever?), you should be fine. The rest is great.
14 February 06 from jer fairall 4
OK, Kill Bill makes a lot more sense. I mean, I like both Kill Bills and all three New Pornographers albums (as well as A.C. Newman's The Slow Wonder), but I can see where you're going with that. I guess I would argue that, even as genre pieces, Kill Bill/New Pornographers attain a kind of perfection of their genres without ever transcending them. Tarantino isn't my very favorite director, nor are the New Pornographers my very favorite band, but they're very much worth having around, I guess, in order to show that genre is valuable.
The power-pop equivilant of the first Legally Blonde, meanwhile, I think would probably be something like The Orange Peels. Or maybe The Weekend.
I don't think that I have actually listened to Fold Your Hands... since around the time it came out, and looking at the track listing right now, the only song I even remember liking a lot was "The Model." But as I'm sure my enthusiasm over the new will lead to me relistening to some of the older stuff, I will be happy to give it another go.
As for "Funny Little Frog," I like the song but, having heard it for the first time in the context of the album, I can't imagine it standing out for me in isolation. "Another Sunny Day," "Sukie in the Graveyard" and especially "The Blues Are Still Blue" are the ones I imagine being my most prominent mix CD selections from this one.
14 February 06 from glenn mcdonald 2
The original Legally Blonde is the one I had in mind, but scratch that, Kill Bill is a much better example of what I mean: a deliberate genre exercise that seems to want us to believe its deliberateness grants it genre transcendence. Obviously plenty of people like and repsect Tarantino, and ditto for the NPs.
And Ian, I didn't find "Funny Little Frog" that inspiring as an isolated single, either, but (perhaps along Jer's singles/album line) not only am I loving the whole album, I also think that "Funny Little Frog" is one of its highlights now that I've heard it in context.
14 February 06 from Ian Mathers 3
I actually think Fold Your Hands... is the first iteration of B&S Mark II, and not the last gasp of Mark I (which is still godd, but not as good as the recent stuff). It's so lush. And while I think Catastrophe is an amazing album, I listen to Fold Your Hands... a lot more. I haven't heard the new one yet (a friend mailed it to me, but I think Canada Post stole it), but if "Funny Little Frog" is any indication I might find it slightly disappointing.
13 February 06 from jer fairall 1
Yeah, I still maintain that Sinister is better than Arab Strap, Fold Your Hands, Storytelling, Waitress or any of the singles from Legal Man onward. "This is Just a Modern Rock Song" may be my very favorite thing that they've ever done, period (though there are maybe three or four songs on this new one that might challenge that), but I still think that Tigermilk to Fold Your Hands is one era of B&S, while Catastrophe and The Life Pursuit is another (with the Solondz soundtrack being a weird one-off), nor am I sure that liking one automatically means liking another. I just take Sinister (and maybe "Modern Rock Song") to be the definitive examples of the former, and The Life Pursuit of the latter (so far, at least).
Our opinions on The New Pornographers seem to diametrically oppose each other, as I actually think they're getting better with each album, or at least (as Twin Cinema proved to me, anyway) that they're getting better at making albums rather than just collections of potential singles. I've actually been talking up this new Belle and Sebastian record to people as sounding more like New Pornographers than anything circa Sinister or Arab Strap. And even if you don't like the New Pornographers, do you really think their albums are the Sweet Home Alabama, Legally Blonde 2 and Just Like Heaven of music? Ouch.
13 February 06 from glenn mcdonald 2
Not to spoil the minimalism of this "discussion", but I'm listening to The Life Pursuit again right now, and man, it's marvelous, but I really don't know how to explain the difference in my reactions to B&S and the New Pornographers. They're both unabashed pop traditionalists, and they both make variety into parts of their recognizable personality, which isn't easy. I think I basically believe, as I listen, that both groups are self-consciously playing the characters of pop stars. And yet when the NPs do it I feel condescended to, as if they think this genre is easy and profitable and maybe fun but ultimately beneath them. When B&S play I feel like Pop is something magnificent to which they are consciously, but also reverently, aspiring. If B&S make me feel, in music, like Down With Love made me feel in movies, to me the NPs are, what? The remake of The Mod Squad? No, that's overstating it. Something with Renee Witherspoon.
You imply that you still like If You're Feeling Sinister better than anything up until this, though, and I'm not with you there. I haven't listened to ...Arab Strap in a while, but I like Fold Your Hands... and Dear Catastrophe Waitress at least as much as IYFS, and would probably take DCW if I had to reduce B&S to one of their full-length studio albums.
11 February 06 from glenn mcdonald 2
The record I always imagine in my head when I read New Pornographers reviews!
10 February 06 from jer fairall 1
Their best since If You're Feeling Sinister?