Belle and Sebastian How to Solve Our Human Problems: Part 1

Belle and Sebastian How to Solve Our Human Problems: Part 1

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In Belle and Sebastian's revered early days, the Scottish indie-pop troupe released string of beloved EPs, so their choice to issue an EP trilogy rather than a new full-length is a clear invocation of those formative years. That's where the similarities to their '90s work end, though; How to Solve Our Human Problems: Part 1 is a continuation of the sparkling pop of recent albums rather than a throwback to their fragile folk of old.
 
"We Were Beautiful" and "The Girl Doesn't Get It" touch on the catchy synth leanings of 2015's Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. They're the clear standouts on the EP, not only because they're the most upbeat tracks, but also because they're the ones on which frontman Stuart Murdoch takes centre stage. The group falter when adopting a more democratic approach: guitarist Stevie Jackson sings the lion's share of far-too-long opener "Sweet Dew Lee," violinist Sarah Martin leads the sleepy ballad "Fickle Season" and closer "Everything Is Now" is a largely instrumental jam that's pleasant but directionless.
 
Despite the EP's virtues, that's a lot of excess fluff for a collection with just five tracks. (Matador)