Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch comes back strong with new project God Help the Girl

Soundtrack for a musical reimagines B&S as a girl group

Gold Help the Girl

God Help the Girl

It's not quite true that this is just a Belle & Sebastian album with more girl voices, but it is true that the songs are by B&S main guy Stuart Murdoch, the accompaniment is largely provided by his bandmates, and the vocals are mostly courtesy of some chic chicas he recruited. But it is all in the service of a larger concept, a movie musical about Scottish slackers that Murdoch may or may not ever actually get around to making.

If you try hard, you can discern outlines of a narrative in some of the song titles and lyrics, but really, who cares? The good news is that Murdoch's considerable gifts for lilting melody and DIY orchestration seem reinvigorated by the project. The reference points are '60s pop, as always—sometimes via girl groups, sometimes in the British soul manner of Dusty Springfield, sometimes in the twee-romantic vein. And the songs are pretty much dud-free: tuneful, wistful, and with more good grooves than you might expect. A few of them have appeared previously on Belle & Sebastian records, but even those—"Funny Little Frog," in particular—sound better here.

At this point it is hard to say whether this album will end up as a precursor to something more fully realized, or as an artifact of an abortive ambition. Either way, it is entirely welcome.