Label: Rough Trade
Belle and Sebastian come back strong after a four-year break, with group leader Stuart Murdoch continuing to be one of the finest pop craftsmen of his generation. He pushes up the drums and keyboards to an even level with the guitars, balancing personal insight, dry wit and an eye for detail with an omnivorous love of music's past while wisely sidestepping popular '80s touchstones. As a bonus, Murdoch's deft melodicism makes his thin voice more flexible than it has any right to be. The impressive guest roster includes Norah Jones, actress Carey Mulligan and string and horn sections.