The Life Pursuit

Like the Kinks and the Magnetic Fields, Scottish pop perfectionists Belle and Sebastian are brilliant at pairing heart-tugging melodies with perfectly turned lyrics that favor kiss-offs over come-ons. But on the group's seventh album, a little bit of the bloom has come off the rose. The single "Funny Little Frog" — with its Muswell Hillbillies horns and lyrical nod to the early, amazing "The State I'm In" — is cuter than it is clever. And attempts to augment the band's trademark chamber pop with Shuggie Otis-style psychedelic soul (on "Song for Sunshine") and a Frampton Comes Alive guitar solo ("We Are Sleepyheads") aren't as memorable as you'd like them to be. But when the experiments work — as on "White Collar Boy," which marries a whistle-ready melody with a fat synth line, and the awesomely glam "The Blues Are Still Blue" — it's clear that band leader Stuart Murdoch still has plenty of major-league tunes left in the tank.

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