Belle and Sebastian Capture Magnetic Energy with Career-spanning Live Album ‘What to Look for in Summer’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Most of 2020 has been a disappointing heap of cancellations, curfews and COVID. For music lovers, it has been especially difficult because of the absence of live performances. Some of us still can’t bring ourselves to throw away the tickets to those cancelled shows. For Belle and Sebastian, plans to tour as well as plans to record a new album in L.A. have been put on hold. However, not ones to be defeated, the Scottish indie rockers decided to give fans the next best thing and release a live album. The 23-track ‘set list’ on What to Look for in Summer is compiled from their 2019 tour, which includes their Boaty Weekender festival. 

With ten studio albums and nine EPs, Belle and Sebastian boast an impressive catalogue of songs to choose from for their live shows. For What to Look for in Summer, the band decided to handpick a selection of songs from the tour to create a career-spanning set list that includes both hits and deep cuts for the die-hard fans. Throughout their career the band has managed to both change their sound yet also stay consistent. This becomes apparent when you hear songs match up seamlessly, like “We Were Beautiful” from 2017’s How to Solve Our Human Problems EP 1 next to “Seeing Other People” from 1996’s If You’re Feeling Sinister. The added banter and silly new lines help to add an extra layer to the live album, as singer Stuart Murdoch does on fan favorite “Step Into My Office, Baby”. Changing the line “I was burned out after Thatcher” into “I was burned out after Boris Johnson” to give this ‘set list’ a makeover that’s both refreshing and relevant. There is something for everyone on this album, including some early tracks like “Seeing Other People” and “My Wandering Days Are Over” from their debut album Tigermilk. The song “The Boy With The Arab Strap”, from the 1998 album of the same name, has become a bit of a mainstay at Belle and Sebastian gigs and adds some great energy to the end of the album. 

Similar to any live show, not every song is going to make the set list and not every included song is going to be everyone’s cup of tea. However, Murdoch and company have done a great job in creating a live album that includes a little bit of something for everyone. What to Look for in Summer does a fairly good job of capturing the magnetic energy of a Belle and Sebastian show and since we have been starved for live music this year, this is a welcome release to help tide us over. 

Photo via Belle and Sebastian Facebook

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