Even from the start, Belle & Sebastian knew how to write incredibly catchy pop tunes with witty, self-effacing lyrics that drew frequent comparisons between Belle & Sebastian's band leader Stuart Murdoch and Morrissey. It's no surprise, then, that they took off with pretty much the exact same crowd; disassociated young adults who want to be reassured that they're not the only ones going through problems.

Belle & Sebastian are almost like a comfort blanket covered in disco lights: reassuring and warm but also not afraid of letting their hair down every once in a while to celebrate the great things in life. Murdoch's lyrics paint wonderfully vivid scenes of outcasts, dreamers and those just generally unsure about life. It was the breath of fresh air pop music needed as Britpop was slowly becoming stale but they never quite took off to the extent Blur or Oasis did. They were the reserve of those outcasts who wanted to spend time deciphering Murdoch's lyrics to piece the stories together themselves.

As Belle & Sebastian release their ninth studio album, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, we thought we'd compile an essential playlist of Belle & Sebastian tracks. Though they may not be the best tracks, they are certainly the ones that neatly sum up exactly what Belle & Sebastian are about.

'The State That I Am In'

The opening track to 1996's Tigermilk, Belle & Sebastian's debut album, feels like a breath of fresh air and stands as the perfect introduction to the whimsical, wry stories that Stuart Murdoch builds with each new track. What begins like a whisper in the ear grows into a fantastical tale of love, religion and everything in between without sacrificing the cosy intimacy of that initial confessional start.

'Step Into My Office Baby'

Belle & Sebastian were never one to release singles. They preferred to put out their works as one big whole, with any singles that were released seen as mere side projects. That was until Step Into My Office Baby, which is the first single to be taken from an album, 2003's Dear Catastrophe Waitress. And it's pure filth. Married alongside the sunny, endlessly charming pop melodies is the tale of a torrid affair with the protagonist's boss. Cue enough office fumblings to make your standard HR go into overdrive.

'Another Sunny Day'

This is, essentially, Belle & Sebastian's take on 'Summer Nights' from Grease; a summer love transported to the less consistently sunny climes of Scotland. Continuing on from the pop route most clearly taken on Dear Catastrophe Waitress, 'Another Sunny Day' is full of jangling, sun soaked melodies the perfectly complement the protagonist's trip down memory lane as they look back at that brief but wonderful relationship. It, as with many other Belle & Sebastian tracks, manages to be both uplifting and heart breaking in equal measure.

'The Boy With The Arab Strap'

'The Boy With The Arab Strap' is the real crowd pleaser. It's by no means the most impressive Belle & Sebastian track but it's so tightly put together with beautifully layered arrangements that it doesn't matter that there's not a lot ground breaking here. There's something about this boisterous track that just wants to make you grab anyone nearby and dance on the tables. And it has the line "You're constantly updating your hit parade of your ten biggest wanks," so what's not to love?


'Expectations' is almost like a John Hughes film transported to Glasgow and diluted down into a song. It's one of the ultimate odes to the struggles of school and of coming of age; trying to get to grips with the harsh surroundings at a difficult stage in life. It, like Hughes' films, seems to stand the test of time portraying a universal experience while reassuring us that everything will be OK eventually.

'Act of the Apostle II'

Like 'Expectations', 'Act of the Apostle II' is all about growing up, but here it's about coping with it through the magic of music. It's a point that's ever present throughout Stuart Murdoch's lyrics, particularly given that working on Belle & Sebastian was his own personal escape. It's about finding faith in what you love, with religion another common theme throughout Murdoch's lyrics. It also opens Murdoch's lovely 2014 film God Help The Girl, with Emily Browning taking vocals.

'Me and the Major'

Generational gaps are usually a subject left to the good old sitcom but here Stuart Murdoch paints the picture of someone who gets chatting to an old man on the train and discovers that there really is quite a lot of difference between the two but is still fascinated to hear his stories. It's a sweet little song about overcoming prejudices of class and generation enhanced even more by the chaotic Dylan style harmonic that crops up every so often.

'Piazza New York Catcher'

'Piazza New York Catcher' is the black sheep of Dear Catastrophe Waitress. While the rest of the album has the pop stylings of Seal producer Trevor Horn, 'Piazza New York Catcher' is its own beast; an acoustic ditty filled with sporting knowledge. Its lyrics are loaded with innuendo and metaphor, which is why it doesn't really need those fancy pop melodies of the rest of the album. It's a track that stands on its own just for being very clever.

'I Want The World To Stop'

Write About Love is probably my least favourite Belle & Sebastian record. It's isn't horrifically bad but it just seems to fall flat for me. Yet 'I Want The World To Stop' feels like the Belle & Sebastian that we know and love. With carnival-esque synths, a foot-tapping beat and giving Sarah Martin and Stevie Jackson a spot in the vocal limelight, it's such a well-rounded track that sits as a wonderful bright spot in an otherwise disappointing record.

'The Party Line'

The first single from their latest album, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, 'The Party Line' sees Belle & Sebastian almost entirely ditching their twee pop sensibilities and jumping on that great disco bandwagon that's been rolling back into fashion these past few years. Though Belle & Sebastian are no strangers to more danceable tunes - 'Legal Man' being an incredibly groovy 60s psychedelia inspired track - 'The Party Line' almost feels club ready, in a similar way to how Franz Ferdinand did such a jump with Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. And yet it is still, through and through, distinctly Belle & Sebastian.