Belle & Sebastian’s 20 best songs

The Glasgow indie legends set sail aboard the Boaty Weekender in August

When talent show judges talk of singers sounding “a bit cruise ship”, they definitely don’t mean delicate, emotional indiepop. Yet that’s what you’ll be hearing on Belle & Sebastian’s Boaty Weekender – the floating Bowlie departing Barcelona on August 8 for a four-day cruise to Sardinia with B&S, Mogwai, Yo La Tengo, Camera Obscura, Teenage Fanclub, Django Django, Alvvays and others providing the onboard sounds, and not a wobbly Neil Diamond cover in sight. We hope.

 

Every single person on board will have a different list of their favourite Belle & Sebastian songs, and no doubt the Horlicks-fuelled arguments will rage long into the night with many a beloved teddy bear lobbed overboard in frustration. So, as a vague starting point, here’s our choice…

Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying (1996)

“Nobody writes them like they used to, so it might as well be me”, Stuart Murdoch trills with cocky indie glint in his eye and a jangle-pop cracker in his back pocket.

Piazza, New York Catcher (2003)

Murdoch does his best Dylanesque fire folk in a fictional ode to the love life of baseball player Mike Piazza which comes out sounding like a sports-obsessed Lilac Time, and will do us nicely.

Lazy Line Painter Jane (1997)

Few people willing to shag literally anyone on the night bus have had songs as romantic as this lo-fi alt-country epic written about them. Jane got lucky. Again.

Like Dylan In The Movies (1996)

A suspense thriller edge drove this Gallic folk tune designed, presumably, to make you feel more secure on those long, dark walks home through parkland.

The State I Am In (1996)

Who among us can say that we’ve never kicked a disabled person’s crutches away in joy at hearing their brother come out in an impromptu speech at their sister’s wedding? Such was the story of ‘The State I Am In’, the first track on debut album ‘Tigermilk’ and a fittingly semi-comic introduction to B&S’s alt-pop storytelling.

The Loneliness Of A Middle Distance Runner (2001)

B&S, of course, are one of those bands that took pride in quality B-sides (come on, surely you remember B-sides?), and ‘Loneliness…’ was probably the finest example, all antique Hammond groove, spritely guitar solos and euphoric whistling bits.

The Stars Of Track And Field (1996)

If Squeeze had been locked in a basement living only on rice and quinoa and with only an old Sports Illustrated to pass the hours, they might have written a pop song as wistful, plaintive and delicate as this. Then it turns into The Byrds doing Kirsty McColl’s ‘They Don’t Know’. Class.

This Is Just A Modern Rock Song (1998)

“We’re four boys in corduroys/We’re not terrific but we’re competent”, sings Stevie Jackson at the climax of B&S’s slowburn Velvets homage. Only B&S could make self-effacement sound so epic.

The Boy With The Arab Strap (1998)

Psychological prisoners, Glasgow rock scene drunkards, London wankers, forlorn cabbies and recorder soloists people one of B&S’s most danceable tracks, a clappy swing liable to endanger the most tightly cushioned penis adornments

I Didn’t See It Coming (2010)

Fore-fronting the ABBA/PSB disco element often buried beneath B&S’s indie aesthetic, the opener from ‘Write About Love’ was the best Magnetic Fields collaboration with Erasure that never happened.

Sleep The Clock Around (1998)

A song reliving Stuart Murdoch’s period of sleeping for days on end due to chronic fatigue syndrome that’s surprisingly rise-and-shine, considering.

Seeing Other People (1996)

Vibrant indie jangle pop about teenage homo-curious experimentation. The song that invented The Hidden Cameras, then.

Jonathan David (2008)

A Stevie Jackson contribution, this freewheeling Biblical metaphor throws back to both ‘60s pop and ‘70s prog as it chases its ever-squirming melody through three minutes of sepia pop craziness.

If You’re Feeling Sinister (1996)

Faith, death and masturbation; signature themes for B&S’s signature tune.

Legal Man (2000)

A one-off single that gave B&S the chance to play at being an Austin Powers style ‘60s psych-jive band for two and a half minutes.

Me And The Major (1996)

If the runaway trains of Red Dead Redemption 2 had an indie pop carriage, this fervent harmonica hoedown would be playing.

I’m A Cuckoo (2003)

“I’d rather listen to Thin Lizzy-o”, Murdoch declares while his band set about knocking out their very own ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’, plus Dexys’ horns.

Another Sunny Day (2006)

You know that romantic moment when you’re trying to lick something out of someone’s eye, miss completely and ‘accidentally’ snog them instead? No? Us neither, but it sounds, rather euphorically, like this.

I Want The World To Stop (2010)

Dashes of Blondie, Costello, Northern Soul and ‘80s pop melt into a gourmet new wave stew.

Expectations (1996)

‘Tigermilk’’s mariachi ode to the trapped and abused young artist, on which B&S perfected the sound of setting yourself free. Grab your tickets for The Boat Weekender here.