Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant

Belle and Sebastian are often called precious. They are; what of it? As the Scottish pop band's fourth album proves, nobody out there minces as well as this band. Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant embellishes on the coyly lavish arrangements of 1998's The Boy With the Arab Strap without forgetting to flex real heart muscles. Violinist Sarah Martin's performance on "Waiting for the Moon to Rise" is so deliberately effete, it floats past like a cloud, but "Beyond the Sunrise" transforms its archness into art, using the earthy sound of a squeaking acoustic guitar to ground cellist Isobel Campbell's keening. Vocalist-guitarist Stuart Murdoch delivers the narrative of "I Fought in a War" with a whimsical lilt, but the accompanying strings, horns and twinkling keyboards compensate with a veritable wailing wall of emotion. Similarly, "The Wrong Girl" disguises itself as a spiffy pop confection, all cotton-candy choruses and tongue-in-cheekiness, but woe shines through in lines like, "I'm not what I could be/I need a true love/I went looking, and I found one/The wrong girl." Had Nick Drake lived long enough to learn how to smirk, he would have loved this band.