Last week, we celebrated the art of Belle & Sebastian through a big list of their 25 best songs. Come Monday morning, we are celebrating the science (such as it is) of Belle & Sebastian list-making (and also some more art) with a quick post about the list’s outliers, quirks, and murky methodology. Apologies to songs as if they’re humans will abound.
THE PILE OF NEARLY-MADE-ITS
Two songs got muscled out of the Top 25 at more or less the last possible minute. With a final list submission that included a late-breaking surge of support for “Dress Up in You,” both “We Rule the School” and “You Don’t Send Me” got bounced off. We even had a blurb for “You Don’t Send Me” prepared by our panelist Jeff, which I will add as an honorary number 26 right now:
26. You Don’t Send Me
Dear Catastrophe Waitress, 2003
My kids like to play air horns to this song in the car. It’s pretty hilarious. – Jeff Prisco
As for “We Rule the School,” well, this Tigermilk track is the only track that Sara voted for that didn’t make it on the list (more on that in a moment). Sara has pledged her love for this song regardless of its inability to give her the perfect 15.
I WAS FEELING PRETTY LONELY
Pretty damn close to finding a spot on the list on the strength of a single vote: “Electronic Renaissance,” which Shannon put at number one; and “Marx and Engels,” which Craig ranked at number two. Did he dodge a bullet by narrowly avoiding the obligation to blurb a song only he voted for? Joke’s on him, we got him to write up “Me and the Major,” which other people also voted for.
Other songs that made it into double-digit point territory on the strength of a single vote include “Lord Anthony,” “Marx and Engels,” and “Dear Catastrophe Waitress.”
One song had the opposite problem: “Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie” was mentioned on three lists; everything else mentioned on at least three lists was in real contention for the Top 25. But even with its three votes, “Pastie” couldn’t crack the Top 30.
IT CAN BE IN ANY TENSE, BUT IT MUST MAKE SENSE
If You’re Feeling Sinister is everyone’s favorite Belle & Sebastian record, right? Of its ten tracks, seven made the list, and another two received votes, leaving only “Mayfly” unmentioned. But there’s a possible spoiler for the title of Favorite B&S: while Dear Catastrophe Waitress had “only” six of its twelve tracks make the list, every single song on it was mentioned at least once in the voting process. Yes, even “Asleep on a Sunbeam.” That is pretty hearty approval. With these two albums accounting for just over half of the Top 25, they’re pretty clearly the favorite children. Tigermilk bears a family resemblance; like the two favorites, its first three tracks all made the final list (along with a fourth later in the record), and like Sinister, nine out of its ten songs were mentioned by voters (sorry, “Mary Jo”).
Let’s do this for the rest of the records while we’re at it: In a slightly surprising result (at least to me, in comparison with the boffo showing for the stylistically similar Waitress), Life Pursuit only got two songs on the final list, though eight of its songs got votes. Arab Strap also got two songs, but only four songs total merited any votes (sorry, “Seymour Stein” — you’ll always have the High Fidelity soundtrack). That’s the same number as Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant, though only one of them made it to the final list.
Marisa had this to say about her multiple Life Pursuit choices that didn’t make it:
The ones I voted for that didn’t make the list are “White Collar Boy” and “The Blues Are Still Blue.” When I first put my list together, I was embarrassed by how many of my top 15 came from The Life Pursuit. If I didn’t love the band at its mopiest, I thought, I didn’t deserve them when they got a little bit more pep in their step. I got over it. The Life Pursuit is a great fucking album. It makes me want to dance like Stuart does in this Vine:
At the bottom is Write about Love; zero songs from that record made the list, and only three garnered mentions. This seems unfair to me (possibly because I voted for both the title track and “I Didn’t See It Coming”), and I’d usually blame its newness; the newest album by bands with lots of albums is rarely the best-remembered. But Love is also four years old at this point, so fair to say it’s established itself as least-favorite for a lot of people. Though I like it fine (in addition to my two favorites, “Come On Sister” is also quite good), I think I understand why: it starts out feeling like it’s going to be a pretty cohesive affair, taking the poppiness of Life Pursuit in a slightly dreamier, more ethereal (I hesitate to say dancier or synthier) direction, with songs like “Coming,” “Sister,” and “I Want the World to Stop” (actually the most popular Love song in terms of votes on this list). But after a time, it sort of shambles into a passable but not particularly distinct Belle & Sebastian record, with some easy-layup classics like the title track and “I Can See Your Future” mingling with less inspired material. Life Pursuit isn’t a lot more consistent and makes a similar slide from a new direction back into a pretty typical direction, but it gets a lot of mileage out of the boldness of its most energized tracks. Love doesn’t have that advantage, so it doesn’t really register as classic OR newfangled B&S. Still, I like it more than Arab Strap and maybe Peasant.
The “album” with the most overall mentions is actually a total cheat: Push Barman to Open Old Wounds, which collects singles and EP tracks from the first ten years or so of the band’s career, had thirteen songs mentioned (fourteen if you count “The State I Am In,” which appears on the compilation too), of which three made the final list. Their second rarities comp (one disc instead of two, and covering a smaller period of time), Third Eye Centre, only yielded a single mentioned track — though that’s in part because “Your Cover’s Blown” only appears there in an inferior remix.
THEY’LL BE HAPPIER THAN ME
Of our voters, happiest (statistically speaking) was Sara, with 14 of her 15 making our charts. Least happy (and perhaps more appropriately Belle & Sebastian-y in that respect) was Tim; only eight of his choices made the final list.
YOU WILL HAVE A GIRL TONIGHT
Speaking of non-album B&S tracks, seriously, only one person voted for this one particularly fan-favorited B&S song? Marisa (who did not vote it) pity-blurbs it:
Lazy Line Painter Jane
When this project was first announced, I was sure that girls would get this song on the list. Girls just seem to go crazy for it in concert. I guess we’re just not friends with enough girls, or at least those kinds of girls. This song only got one vote. On that voter’s behalf, here’s a version with Jenny Lewis, who girls also go crazy for in concert. – Marisa
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