Album review: Belle and Sébastien – A bit of precedent

Album review: Belle and Sébastien - A bit of precedent

A triumphant return

Belle and Sebastian’s new album A bit of precedent which was released on May 6, 2022 is an amalgamation of upbeat, slower indie tracks that are overall enjoyable to listen to. Although the group has been active in music creation for over two decades, Belle and Sebastian are still able to successfully evolve with new ideas; creating a clever mix between acoustics and electronics. It shows in the variety of music they create, from standalone singles to soundtracks to movies. Moving away from the songs themselves, all of Belle and Sebastian’s major album releases consist of a monochromatic color palette. A bit of precedent is no exception to this rule. Of the four artworks created for the album, all are a shade of dark brown. This creativity and this aesthetic cohesion, even from a simple visual point of view, are applauded.

As for the music itself, the tracks that have had the biggest impact so far since the full release have been “Unnecessary Drama” as well as “If They’re Shooting at You”. These two tracks lead the album in total streams, for good reason. For “Unnecessary Drama”, the song features heavy use of electric guitar. It’s an instrument that isn’t used much elsewhere on the album, and as a result, it helps this track stand out from the others for its timbre. With very tight lyrical writing and a strong tempo set by the percussion section, it’s easy to see why this song was selected as the single to boost the excitement of the band’s triumphant comeback.

“If They’re Shooting at You” contrasts the faster tempo of the other singles with a more lyrically driven melody. What sets this piece apart is its use of a background chorus with featured horns. This additive often helps create a mood and aids in chord build-up, showing the true versatility of what Belle and Sebastien are capable of.

This stark contrast continues in the album’s third track, “Talk to Me, Talk to Me”, which features a combination of faster synth and light percussion. It also revisits an electric guitar solo during the song’s bridge, similar to “Unnecessary Drama”. This song, and a few others like it on the album, feel like a blast from the musical past. Specifically, it has lyrics that contrast with the song’s more upbeat tune, with the echoing chorus “Confusion tries to take hold of me, all I wanted was peace in a sanctuary, I lived my life so desperate to be in control.” These types of heavier lyrics appear in many discographies of this album and are often paralleled with a more upbeat melody. This contrast between darker lyricism and the faster tempos of the music itself is one of the album’s strengths, and it’s a tactic the band has been no stranger to in their previous exits.

With plenty of 70s groove and 80s funk inspiration in this album as well as darker tones to the lyricism in many of their tracks, it’s clear that Belle and Sebastian A bit of precedent was worth the wait. By having contrasting tracks with a variety of different moods, the album is set to age well with timeless techniques. With nearly thirty years of creating music, it’s clear that Belle and Sebastian have mastered the art of creating truly timeless music.