Depending on your own personal track record with Belle & Sebastian over the past 15 years, the moody love-child of Stuart Murdoch has either been the recurrent answer to all your introverted prayers, or it's been that weird, quiet kid in the corner you've always been too freaked out to say hello to. While the lack of any real optimism in the music may have deterred those afraid of inner-brooding, B&S have always embraced a transcendental acceptance of life that in hindsight can be truly uplifting. On Write About Love, the band has evolved to a point where their intelligent pop melodies rise to the forefront of the songs and the album actually serves as the best introduction to their music that they've ever recorded. If your friends never 'got' If You're Feeling Sinister, this might help put it all in perspective.
The opener "I Didn't See it Coming" lays down a funkier backbeat than you'd expect, and is initially reminiscent of other modern indie-pop acts like The New Pornographers and Peter, Bjorn, & John. While both of these bands would probably include Belle & Sebastian as a heavy influence, the vocal spacings of the former and the bouncing rhythms of the latter are tricks Murdoch has intelligently taken and made his own here. When his repetitive cries of "Make me dance, I want to surrender" echo over the song's closing cycle, you get the sense he's pleading a new mantra for the music. How the music itself responds on the album is an intriguing sequence of twisted, introspective pop.
This is by no means though a dance album, but rather a new option in which the music may flow. It's as if they've opened up an extra window in the proverbial cabin. "I Want the World to Stop" and its apparent sister track, "I'm Not Living in the Real World" both move with the drive of old college-radio R.E.M. The classic B&S lyrical framework of yearning for alternate perspectives makes them both classic B&S songs, and reminds you that this music is always warm, even when it's dark. If not especially when.
The slow moments are still great too, especially the congruence of vengeance and regret that hits home on "Calculating Bimbo." "Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John" is probably the hippest moment of Norah Jones' career, unfortunately the beautiful song sounds too much like Norah Jones is singing on it. "Ghost of Rockschool" joins the list of indie-tracks over the years that would have sounded really dope on Springsteen's Nebraska. There are enough classics on the album to put it right alongside any of their previous albums deemed classic, and enough classic lines to strike deep upon subsequent listens. Ambassadors of all things bittersweet, Belle & Sebastian have perfected the combination of the eerie and the inspiring; perhaps worded best on "I Can See Your Future": "Forwards the only way to go/You catch me up we'll take it slow/I can see your future/There's nobody around."