If you're into independent music even in the slightest, you've certainly heard the name of Belle and Sebastian dropped more than your fair share of times. Seemingly out of nowhere, they burst onto the scene 2 years ago with their disc If You're Feeling Sinister and captured the hearts of twee and pop fans everywhere. With their innocent, yet experienced lyrics and songwriting, they seemed sort of like the quiet, witty kids who managed to put feelings into words like you wish you could.
When the group started to pick up, one of the things that kept surfacing among new fans was that the group had released an elusive (only 1000 copies printed on vinyl) first disc as a college project. This record suddenly became sort of the Holy Grail of sorts and within months, copies were selling for 200 dollars and more on Ebay (but isn't everything inflated there?).
With such a huge demand for the original, what better thing to do than run a re-release and not only satisfy the people who couldn't (or wouldn't) shell out the big bucks for the original, as well as make a few bucks on the deal. With the release of Tigermilk, that's exactly what happened. This is the college-project that basically launched the band and started it all.
The surprising thing about the disc is that it doesn't really sound like simply a project. While there are a couple of interesting other sounds, it works just as well as their "commercial" releases and proves that the group actually has a lot of innate talent. Sure, it's a little rough around the edges, but there are just as many songs to sing along with here, and probably even more than on If You're Feeling Sinister or The Boy With The Arab Strap
The disc starts out with a fairly mellow, "The State That I Am In," but soon goes on to what is one of their catchiest songs (IMHO) ever with "Expectations." It's one of their classic little ditties about being misunderstood and the music that accompanies it enlists not only the acoustic guitar and some light drumming, but a piano, some stringed instruments, and a horn as well. You simply have something wrong with you if your toe isn't tapping by the end. "Electronic Renaissance," one of the more interesting tracks on the discs, shows the group messing around with an analog synth for awhile before an organ and drum machine kick in. It's definitely different, but with lyrics about the discotech, even the treated voice of Stuart Murdoch (probably the only time I've heard the group mess with vocals on a song) doesn't really feel out of place.
The album continues with five more great songs that vary from the cranked-up 6-minute "I Could Be Dreaming" to the flute and piano driven album closer "Mary Jo." Overall, you really can't go wrong with the disc if you're a fan of the group. It's a very well-executed batch of pop songs that seems even more amazing for nothing more than a project. Not only that, but you can save yourself quite a bit of money instead of having to fork over the big money for the original.