Twenty years ago this month the chamber pop group Belle & Sebastian released their second album, and first masterpiece, If You're Feeling Sinister. From its now iconic cover with Kafka's The Trial in the background to its sophisticated folk pop sound, this album stood out among the crowd of Weezer, Beck, and Rage Against the Machine in 1996. So to commemorate the album's anniversary we thought we would highlight some of the artists who influenced Belle and Sebastian's masterpiece, in addition to some of the modern musical acts influenced by the album.
One of the strongest influences on this band was the melancholic and atmospheric folk musician Nick Drake. Drake died at the age of 26, and he only completed three albums that failed to chart and ultimately went unnoticed for decades. It wasn't until a Volkswagen commercial in the 1990's revitalized interest in his music. The intimate and somber Pink Moon is a great place to start if you are a fan of Belle and Sebastian, but his second album Bryter Layter and its dreamy orchestrations also influenced Belle and Sebastian.
Love to me still feel like one of the more underappreciated bands from the 1960's, and their third album Forever Changes remains one of the greatest albums to come out of that decade. While the electric guitars where front and center on their first two albums, it's the combination of acoustic guitars and the orchestral arrangements of strings and horns that dominate this album. Thematically the lyrics reflect a darker mood that many idealistic bands from the late 1960s didn't include. However, the more reflective and melancholy lyrical moments combined with layered acoustics and orchestra arrangements should please any fan of Belle and Sebastian.
This British band emerged in the early 2000's with a series of wistful and luscious indie pop singles and later went on to create more layered orchestral pop in later years. Imagine the laid-back melodies of Galaxie 500 with the lyrical details of British life a la the Kinks. Start with the early collection of singles, Suburban Light, and move on to the more ornate Strange Geometry.
This modern-day Scottish twee pop band's songs contain witty lyrics and ballads about heartbreak in a similar vein to Belle and Sebastian, but the principal songwriter Tracyanne Campbell manages to distinguish herself from the imitators. The band reached their peak on their third and fourth albums, Let's Get Out of This Country and My Maudlin Career. My Maudlin Career represents their most diverse effort with everything from Motown to country-rock styles making an appearance on the album.
This Swedish pop singer-songwriter, in addition to being funny and bittersweet, manages to deftly combine sampling and orchestral arrangements in a completely original manner. While the influence from Belle and Sebastian may be present, Lekman's romantic vocals and musical craftsmanship allow him to stand on his own. Make sure to start with his EP and singles collection Oh You're So Silent Jens, and don't forget his ambitious and whimsical second album Night Falls Over Korteda.