They had a prolific beginning; Belle & Sebastian released eight albums between 1996 and 2006. After their 2006 release, The Life Pursuit, it took another four years for us to get Write About Love. Five years later, in 2015, they gave us Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. 2017 saw them release what technically could be considered a LP, but was instead released as three extended plays and housed in a box set dubbed How to Solve Our Human Problems.
And now, two years later, we get Days of the Bagnold Summer.
Granted, other releases were in there, including some singles and compilations of rarities and B-sides. But the step back in creative output was a little telling. Die hard fans, like myself, noticed the change.
The releases that followed The Life Pursuit, just didn’t have quite the vigor and quality of the earlier era, and it was something we missed dearly.
Don’t take me wrong; this all sounds quite critical, and I do not mean it to be. It also sounds like there is no merit to the post-2006 releases. Not true–there are plenty of songs on Write About Love and Girls in Peacetime that have become favorites. The releases just didn’t seem to hold up as a complete work as well as the early albums.
Enter Days of the Bagnold Summer (2019). Could we be seeing a turning point for the band? (A band, mind you, that I would elevate to the claim of being within my top five bands of all time.)
Hint: quite possibly.
Music for Films
Days of the Bagnold Summer is actually a film, and the music on Belle & Sebastian’s release can technically be viewed as the movie’s soundtrack.
The film, directed by Simon Bird, is based on the 2012 graphic novel by Joff Winterhart. Here’s a clip from the film:
This isn’t the first time Belle & Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch has traveled this path. The album Storytelling was the soundtrack to the 2001 Todd Solondz film of the same name. His side project God Help the Girl took the name of and provided music for a film as well.
Reworking Past Favorites
Immediately apparent in the track list are two past favorites, now reworked with greater production value and a few other subtle changes.
“I Know Where the Summer Goes” was originally released as the first track on the B-side of Belle & Sebastian’s 1998 Jeepster single for “This is Just a Modern Rock Song”. On Bagnold Summer, the song seems to take a more mellow tone. Take a listen and let me know what you think:
The second reworked track is “Get Me Away from Here, I’m Dying”, originally off the band’s 1996 LP If You’re Feeling Sinister. It follows suit with greater production value, but seems to retain more traits of the original than the other track. Listen here:
A Summer LP for Early Fall
The music of Belle & Sebastian has always been one to compliment the fall months. Days of the Bagnold Summer is no exception. And like the other soundtrack-centric albums by Belle & Sebastian, this one features a few instrumentals: “Jill Pole”, “Sister Budha (Intro)”.
The first single the band is pushing from the album is “Sister Budha”, and in comparison to other tracks found within, it’s easy to hear why. There’s a greater, louder melody. There’s a faster beat. It’s catchy and fun. Check out the official music video below:
The song I find most intriguing, though, is “Did the Day Go Just Like You Wanted?” It’s the melody that does it for me, the vocal harmonies, the soft guitar. It’s lightly orchestrated like many of the best Belle & Sebastian songs, and I find myself wanting to hit repeat over and over.
Personally, I find Days of Bagnold Summer to be the best Belle & Sebastian release since 2006’s The Life Pursuit, and I hope the band continues down this creative path. It’s not too far off from the sounds of their more recent releases; there’s just something about it that sits right with me and for that, I love it!
What’s your favorite track? How do you think Days of the Bagnold Summer stands up next to other recent Belle & Sebastian releases? Let me know below.