The latest release from Scottish indie balladeers Belle and Sebastian offers nothing shockingly new, but it avoids the abundant clichés surrounding its subject matter. Write About Love is a mellow, likable album about “love in any form, any tense, as long as it makes sense,” as the band announces in the album’s title track.
Adding clean retro guitar riffs to neat rhythms and jovial melodies gives Write About Love a nostalgic vibe, especially on tracks like “Come on Sister,” “Write About Love,” and “The Ghost of Rockschool.” B&S take elements of 1960s British pop, R&B, and rock and slip them into pleasant indie-pop songs. The band’s precision and mastery of melody comes through on “I Want the World to Stop” in a delightfully noisy barrage of guitars, bellowing horns, and high synth tones. “Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John” is also a triumph, featuring harmonious male and female vocals in a leisurely throwback ballad.
“Calculating Bimbo,” while still agreeable to the ears, is a bit dull. It’s slow and lackadaisical, not taking any chances. “Read the Blessed Pages” falls into the same trap. Despite a few bland moments like these, Write About Love is largely enjoyable. It tackles a banal, overdone subject and comes off grooving to its own poppy tunes.
B&S’ wistful pop may not be revolutionary, but it successfully fuses the traditions of classic rock and modern pop into the band’s own unique concoction. After eight studio albums, Belle and Sebastian are still making music that we want to hear, and that in itself is an impressive feat.