I may have said once that after not liking Belle & Sebastian's The Life Pursuit I would not be having anything further to do with new records from that band. Despite all that, I have nevertheless bought this record. It features songs written by Stuart Murdoch and has many members of B&S playing on it, but on (almost all) the songs the lead vocals are taken not by Struan or any of his B&S pals, but by some random women pulled in from off the street (or from other bands).
The limited amount I had heard about it in advance suggested that Murdoch was going for a kind of 1960s girl group atmosphere here. Some of the tracks lean a bit in that direction, but the overall feel is a bit different. And, on a casual viewing of the sleevenotes, this looks like it might actually be some kind of concept album, with the various songs joining together to tell a kind of story, or maybe joining together to comment on the story in the accompanying booklet. And what is this story about? Why, teenage girls, of course!
My initial impression here is that this is a most enjoyable record, suggesting that Murdoch might have his songwriting mojo back. Or maybe he never lost it – the record features two songs written for the dreadful The Life Pursuit but rearranged here and sung by women. These sound wayyyyy better than on their first outing, suggesting that either TLP's production was not up to whack or that they just did not suit Murdoch's voice. The version here of 'Funny Little Frog' is particularly revelatory, with the soul inflections of singer Brittany Stallings giving this song a groove it rather lacked before.
In fact, so enjoyable are the women singers here that the couple of tracks featuring Stuart Murdoch vocals really jar. Go away Stuart, leave the singing to the ladies!
[It's only fair to say that I have not heard anyone else say anything positive about this record, so I do not entirely trust my favourable impression of it]