I've got to thank Pitchfork for a second. I watched their recent Pitchfork Classic documentary on Belle & Sebastian's definitely classic 1996 album If You're Feeling Sinister, and was really impressed. I've only seen a handful of documentaries on musicians and bands, but it was one of the best. I'll embed it at the bottom of this page because I would recommend everyone watch it, whether or not you've heard this classic album yet. And if you've never heard If You're Feeling Sinister before, well your life has been missing something all this time.
The documentary made me fall in love with this album all over again, and I realized that it's been a couple of years since I'd listened to it. It's interesting, as I watched the documentary, and lead singer Stuart Murdoch was talking about how the album is very nostalgic for him and brings him back to a simpler time and place in the band's career, I found that it was also very nostalgic for me. It takes me back to the summer before my junior year of college when I first heard the album and became obsessed with it. It was the only thing I listened to for a long time. I'd never heard songwriting that good. The songs and stories on If You're Feeling Sinister are so detailed and complex that it requires multiple listens to really take in everything. And really, every listen yields something new even after you've heard the album many, many times.
It's hard to pick any one song to talk about from this album as they are all perfect and the album is incredible when listened to from front to back. But, there is one that's always been my favorite, and the favorite of a lot of Belle & Sebastian fans, "Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying". I firmly believe this is one of the best pop songs ever written. It's so catchy, so powerful, so unique. In the song, Murdoch is basically singing about himself and Belle & Sebastian, but it's also so much deeper and more complex than that. He's singing about himself, his songwriting, the band's unique relationship with the music industry, the music industry's perception of the band, the band's perception of themselves, and much, much more. He's both very serious and poking fun at the same time, in a way only he can. "Nobody writes 'em like they used to, so it may as well be me."
I've always related to this song and loved it more than all the others. Like Murdoch, I'm a loner who likes to be in his own head-space, and like him, I am very romantically minded. "I'll settle down with some old story about a boy who's just like me/ thought there was love in everything and everyone, you're so naive!" This described me so well back in junior year of college, and it still does really, but I've matured a lot in my thinking. I feel like this song has matured with me though. I relate to it even more now, almost 5 years later. I heard once that a good songwriter is someone who can write specifically about his own experiences and make it sound like he's talking about the whole human race. If that's the case, then Stuart Murdoch is one of the best songwriters of all time, and nowhere is it more evident than on this masterpiece of an album.