Belle and Sebastian
How To Solve Our Human Problems Pt. 1


4.7
superb

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
December 8th, 2017 | 33 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Belle and Sebastian prove themselves to be essential once again, releasing a classic EP with potentially two more on the horizon.

As a casual fan of Belle and Sebastian, I’ve had the luxury of picking and choosing the moments in their discography that matter to me. Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance felt anything but necessary, and when you factor in the lukewarm reception of Write About Love, it’s really been about a decade since the band has truly felt relevant. Stuart Murdoch must have felt the stagnancy setting in as well, stating in an interview with Rolling Stone that he felt like the band has lately been “treading water”, and opted for a nod to their earlier selves by once again releasing a string of three EPs to shake things up - this time titled How to Solve Our Human Problems. In all honesty, Belle and Sebastian may never be the apple of the hipster market’s eye quite like they were early in the millennium, but the first installment in this new series re-establishes them as a force to be reckoned with in modern indie, and the trilogy as a project very much worth following into the early months of 2018.

This five song EP is so warm, inclusive, and serene. Its overall tone and vibe reminds me of Broken Social Scene's Hug of Thunder, only an opposite reflection musically; expressing itself with eloquence and reservation as opposed to overt grandiosity and celebration. It's political but rarely preachy (the closest they come in a shot at racial supremacy in ‘The Girl Doesn’t Get It’), and features stunning musical arrangements like the Destroyer-esque ‘We Were Beautiful’ – a song that bustles with a humble but urgent percussive energy, all of which culminates in the most satisfying chorus of the extended play. The whole album is incredibly smooth, and the alternating male/female vocals make this feel like the score to some romantic indie flick. It doesn’t get any lusher than the lullaby-like ‘Fickle Season’, which features Sarah Martin’s gorgeous vocals and is rounded out with strings and a pan flute. It’s the perfect epicenter to How to Solve Our Human Problems, Pt. 1, capturing the gentle glow of this record in four blissful minutes. The opening track ‘Sweet Dew Lee’ may very well top everything though, gradually enveloping listeners with its dreamy guitars and classical pianos as it glides towards a spacey, synth-laden midsection replete with Murdoch’s unbelievably soothing self-harmonizing chorus. ‘Everything Is Now’ feels precisely in its right place as the closer, too, serving as an extended outro consisting primarily of instrumental components (flutes, a clap-like percussion element, and electric guitars whose intensity escalates as the song progresses) before resolving itself with a chanted, hymnal-like repetition of the song’s title. Every song on How to Solve Our Human Problems, Pt. 1 is diverse enough from its counterparts to be immediately recognizable, and they’re all stunning, memorable moments. From a band that has been as up-and-down throughout its recent career as Belle and Sebastian, you simply can’t ask for a more pleasant surprise.

The first EP of How to Solve Our Human Problems marks a noticeable uptick in maturity and creativity for the band, and should certainly pique interest for the second and third installments as they arrive in 2018. This may actually be my favorite Belle and Sebastian release, topping even The Boy With the Arab Strap, sheerly because of how exquisite everything sounds. It is sleek and placid yet never predictable, weaving its way through several different indie-pop and electronic stylings without ever once repeating itself. The art of the extended play may be lost nowadays, but you would be hard pressed to find a more aesthetically pleasing twenty-seven minutes of indie-pop than what Belle and Sebastian supply here. If they’ve been treading water for the last ten years, then How to Solve Our Human Problems, Pt. 1 is the sound of them emerging – refreshed, invigorated, and ready to return to the hearts and ears of fans across the world.




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user ratings (26)
Chart.
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
December 8th 2017


26033 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7 | Sound Off

Review might be a tad forced if I'm being totally honest with myself, but I'm extremely excited about this release and really wanted a platform to discuss it. This EP is incredible and has me beyond excited for the remaining installments.

Digging: A Perfect Circle - Eat the Elephant

ProjectFreak
December 8th 2017


2619 Comments


dangit sowing my 2017 backlog is already too long and here you go adding to it

Scoob
December 8th 2017


4344 Comments


Sebastian Bach?

SowingSeason
Moderator
December 8th 2017


26033 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7 | Sound Off

ProjectFreak, if you care about this band and bother with EPs then get on this. It's incredible.



Of course I'm a hype machine for things I like so this will prob have a 3.5 avg ;-)

Hovse
December 8th 2017


2633 Comments


Great band..hopefully this one better than both ''girls in peace time'' and ''write about love'' cuz I didnt dig those albums

Hovse
December 8th 2017


2633 Comments


Ok this is an ep nice...will check soon

wwf
December 8th 2017


5873 Comments


I only know the party line by these guys and that ones great so Ill check this

Sput's pretty averse to party music it seems

Digging: Liza Anne - Fine But Dying

ProjectFreak
December 8th 2017


2619 Comments


I remember jamming The Life Pursuit a lot back in the day but never digging more recent stuff much. I'll give it a shot, your review sold me as always

Hovse
December 8th 2017


2633 Comments


Check
1 If You're Feeling Sinister
2 Tigermilk
3 The boy with the arab strap
4 Dear catastrophe
In that order

SowingSeason
Moderator
December 8th 2017


26033 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7 | Sound Off

This strikes me as more artsy than their old stuff, but it's a hell of a pleasant listen. Honestly my taste has been so far off from the rest of this site for so long though that I can never really tell if ya'll will agree.

SowingSeason
Moderator
December 8th 2017


26033 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7 | Sound Off

Based on the other ratings besides mine so far, it seems like it's trending towards being something that I love more than the community will...oh well.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
December 8th 2017


40099 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

there's no way this is anywhere close to Arab Strap or their other stuff up to Dear Catastrophe



but I'll Be Your Pilot was a tune so I will jam hard nonetheless

butcherboy
Contributing Reviewer
December 8th 2017


7593 Comments


need to give these guys another go.. they were always a little too sedate for me, but I am older and wiser(?) now..

lovely write-up of course, Sow..

Digging: Abwarts - Amok Koma

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
December 8th 2017


40099 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

the song marked as "(Instrumental)" isn't even instrumental



1'ing this, clearing my hard drive, burning all my Belle & Sebastian CDs. I thought this was a LAND OF FREEDOM

NorthernSkylark
December 8th 2017


8751 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i dont see how this is as 4.7

Digging: Ultravox - Vienna

SowingSeason
Moderator
December 8th 2017


26033 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7 | Sound Off

Because it's beautiful and makes me all warm and fuzzy inside

Gyromania
December 9th 2017


24404 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Omg. Need this



Great stuff

Eons
December 9th 2017


1549 Comments


I don't believe this band is capable of producing a classic but I will be listening soon. Going in with doubt, though. I've only heard very little from the band but I remember thinking they were super generic at the time. I disliked the last album. Which is the only one I've heard (and a bit from the one before that, I think)

Digging: The Libertines - The Libertines

SowingSeason
Moderator
December 9th 2017


26033 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7 | Sound Off

This may not be an objective classic based on the early 3.5-type responses but it easily could become one for me. Slightly generic doesn't mean it can't be phenomenal music; I think this is more creative and interesting than their last two LPs anyway.

Gyromania
December 9th 2017


24404 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sinister, waitress, and pursuit are all masterpieces imo



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