Belle and Sebastian: What to Look for in Summer (Matador) | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, December 9th, 2021  

What to Look for in Summer


Dec 11, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Belle and Sebastian have been a musical institution for a quarter of a century now and long may it continue. From the moment they delivered their charmingly lo-fi debut Tigermilk in the summer of 1996 against a backdrop of Britpop up to last year’s 10th long player, soundtrack Days of the Bagnold Summer, they’ve been one of the most consistent ensembles on the circuit.

More importantly, they’ve also never been ones to compromise or allow themselves to be compartmentalized. Steadfastly doing everything their own way, whether it be encouraging fans to use a then new-fangled thing called the internet to vote for their nomination as Best Newcomers at 1999’s Brit Awards (which they did in droves) or launch the UK’s first music festival in a holiday camp (The Bowlie Weekender), which subsequently paved the way for ATP, Rockaway Beach, et al, culminating in last year’s ambitious festival on a boat (The Boatie Weekender) to commemorate their 20th anniversary.

So, it’s probably a logical step they’d also put out a live album to coincide. Comprised of 23 songs spanning their entire career, What to Look for in Summer follows on from their previous live albums, in particular 2015’s live recording from the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, although its inclusion of “We Were Beautiful” and “Poor Boy” from 2018’s How to Solve Our Human Problems EPs coupled with an updated “Step Into My Office, Baby” (the line “I was burned out after Thatcher” becomes “I was burned out after Boris Johnson”) gives this collection a current makeover that’s both refreshing and relevant.

The album was recorded throughout Belle and Sebastian’s 2019 world tour, which saw them take an extended trek across the United States of America, as well as parts of Europe and the aforementioned boat trip. Highlights include a rare jaunt through “My Wandering Days Are Over” off the band’s first album that’s dedicated to former member Isobel Campbell, apparently present during one of the Boatie Weekenders. “I Didn’t See It Coming” off 2010’s Belle and Sebastian Write About Love provides an opportunity for Sarah Martin to sing lead vocals and feels exhilarating as a result. While the crowd pleasing likes of “Boy With the Arab Strap” and “Funny Little Frog” finds Stuart Murdoch in fine voice while also taking to the role of lead compere with consummate ease as he so often does during the band’s live shows.

Having such an extensive body of work to choose from, and Belle and Sebastian being one of those bands that regularly change their setlists every night, there are bound to be fan favorites missing but what has been documented works even if not quite making up for the real thing. Which, of course, is the downside of not just this but any live album ever recorded. (

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