And so the wait for a bad Belle and Sebastian album continues. After a dozen albums since 1996 they are back with Late Developers. Its unmistakeably Belle and Sebastian. Full of radio friendly pop while never diminishing their indie music stalwarts status.
Recorded at the same time as last year’s Bit of Previous, it could easily have formed a double album. Its no cast offs though from that 2022 release, and is packed with some of their best tunes.
Among standouts is the first single I Don’t Know What You See in Me, which the band themselves liken to a potential Eurovision entry. Those synths! This is among their best singles over the last 27 years, and there have been plenty.
Others highlights include Give a Little Time, a great, upbeat track sung by Sarah Martin. There’s also the wonderful So in the Moment, where guitarist Stevie Jackson takes centre stage. Its customarily fun and full of echoes of 60s pop, as so many of Jackson’s are across the band’s long career when he gets his rare moment to shine.
And those horns on the title track, which closes the collection. They just demand seeing the band at a summer festival, accompanied by the bright glow of a setting orange sun. So many will do just that later this year no doubt.
With so much pop, opener Juliet Naked proves deceptive. Just vocals, occasional flute and Billy Bragg-esque electric guitar strumming for the most part, it gives the impression that the album will be a stripped back affair. So too Will I Tell You, an acoustic guitar and harpsicord folky Stuart Murdoch sung number, is another cheek trickster of a song.
Across the tracks it proves to be another fine collection from Belle and Sebastian. On initial listening it may well be one of their best. But then again, I think that after pretty much all their releases.
By Joe Lepper