Belle and Sebastian’s Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance tries something new

Emma Dahl

Belle & Sebastian is a modern embodiment of the chamber pop genre; characterized by simple melodies, creative and orchestral instrumentation and extensive balladry, their style gives songs time to breathe and build momentum. Belle & Sebastian’s sound is very recognizable: it is chamber pop through and through, complete with creative instrumentation, clean melodies and upbeat messages.

In their newest release, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, Belle & Sebastian tentatively try something new; a slight departure from their normal Europop elements thoroughly integrate into the fabric of the album. The instrumentation is noticeably different from previous records; while synthesizers were previously used as background accents (most notably on 2010’s Write About Love), they’re now featured front and center. For example, the intro to “The Party Line” sounds more like a Madonna song than something from Belle & Sebastian. However, the band definitely does not lose itself in this new musical territory-every track is still quintessentially Belle & Sebastian beyond a shadow of a doubt.

While the band does a good job of staying true to themselves, I think their style is much better suited to something more along the lines of indie rock than pop. This style of music does not really allow them to explore the same dynamic of emotion that they’ve encompassed on past albums; there isn’t much deviation from the high-strung sugary-sweet mood that they initiate right off the bat. I know that Belle & Sebastian can effectively emulate a wide range of emotions, so I’m a little disappointed that Girls doesn’t fluctuate much from peppy happiness. Some, but not much. For example, “Enter Sylvia Plath” is essentially over-saturated with techno elements, and that’s the only song where Belle & Sebastian get close to losing their identity, drowned in the quick tempo and dramatic synthesizers. What I mentioned earlier about giving the song time to breathe, by the end of this song you’re completely out of breath and not in a good way.

Kudos to Belle & Sebastian, though. It’s often difficult to find bands that are unafraid to experiment with their sound and still manage to retain their originality. Overall, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance is a solid effort that isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of what the artists are used to creating.