Glaswegian sextet Belle and Sebastian have been hiding in plain sight for 18 years now. Beyond their diehard cult followers and the mild crossover success of their 1998 record The Boy with the Arab Strap, they’ve scarcely seen the kind of acclaim worthy of a band boasting an 8-album body of work. Lately they’ve been bunkered away in Atlanta with producer Ben H Allen III (Animal Collective, Gnarls Barkley) for their ninth LP Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance – slated for release early next year. The first track to drop from said record is The Party Line – a bit of a departure from the melancholic twee-pop for which the band is best known.
The throbbing filter-sweep that kicks off proceedings explodes into a kind of shoegaze/disco hybrid that’s pretty irresistible from the get-go. The plaintive, peaceful vocals of frontman Stuart Murdoch gel impeccably with an ‘80s-tastic, Talking Heads vibe for which bassist Bobby Kildea should receive a special mention. His nimble but sympathetic melodicism underpins the airy, nostalgic synth tones and fleeting percussion with a tasteful inventiveness shared by few across the indie-pop spectrum.
The Party Line is deliberately aimed more towards the dancefloor contingent than the tastemaker art-school crowd Belle and Sebastian tend to draw, but in no way is this a bad thing; It shows a band who are willing to take risks and is certainly a sign of interesting things to come on album #9.