Belle and Sebastian
The big music news this week comes from the inaugural edition of Sundance Mountain Music
on Wednesday, June 20. Headlined by Scottish twee-pop icons Belle and Sebastian with support from Korean-American New Wave shoegaze songstress Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast, Mountain Music is distinctly different from Sundance’s low-key Bluebird Café and Sounds of Summer concert series. Like so much of Salt Lake City booking agency Sartain & Saunders’ shows (see Ogden Twilight, Urban Lounge, Kilby Court, etc.), it feels both attuned to old-school indie rock revelry and focused on the future of popular music.
Belle and Sebastian first emerged from Glasgow in the mid ‘90s with a prolific take on Brit-pop inspired by founder Stuart Murdoch’s longtime battle with myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome. Once he overcame the disease, he and his bandmates—some departed, like Stuart David and Isobel Campbell, while some still in the fold, like guitarist Stevie Jackson, drummer Richard Colburn, keyboardist Chris Geddes and violinist/vocalist Sarah Martin—took the success of their band seriously, releasing seven critically acclaimed full-lengths in 10 years.
Balancing love, desire and isolation with subtle strains of political strife, the intimacy of Belle and Sebastian’s nostalgia-streaked sound has waxed and waned over the years. In 2006, at the height of their indie popularity, they played a sold-out show to 18,000 fans with the Los Angeles Philharmonic; in 2010, they collaborated with modern jazz superstar Norah Jones for Belle and Sebastian Write About Love
; in 2013, Pitchfork TV crystallized the band’s reputation with an hour-long documentary.
Belle and Sebastian’s romanticism has shown signs of evolution. In 2015, the world had a rosy enough outlook that they could release Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
; by 2018, the band demonstrated its shock and concern for the global turn of events by releasing three EPs under the How to Solve Our Human Problems
heading. Belle and Sebastian have partnered with PLUS1 so that $1 from every ticket sold will go to support the White Helmets, volunteer rescue workers who risk their lives to help those affected by the conflict in Syria, regardless of their religion or politics. Most importantly, Sarah Martin has gathered strength as a singer and songwriter, balancing Stuart Murdoch’s male gaze and elevating the long-time female perspective of Belle and Sebastian to equal footing.
That suits the outlook of Japanese Breakfast well. Michelle Zauner has written records about struggling with her mother’s death and using the cosmos as a blueprint for life on Earth, mixing ruminations on sexuality, power, appropriation, and racism. She’s called 2017 full-length Soft Sounds from Another Planet
a rebuff to modern society’s “new religion” of technology, toying on lead single “Machinist” with the implications of humans becoming “a muted channel, a cold shell, a hologram, an abyss.” Another single, “Diving Woman,” earned oodles of praise, sympathizing with the matriarchal society of South Korean island Jeju, where female free divers serve as breadwinners and heads of households.
Last winter, Zauner took Japanese Breakfast to her native South Korea for the first time. Earlier this month, she released the soundtrack for new adventure video game Sable. She doesn’t slow down—like Belle and Sebastian, she doesn’t compromise, either. As Zauner told Out Magazine
last year, “I create my own experiences and communities that are largely rooted with queer people, women, non-binary people, all different races.” Amen. (More info on the Sundance Mountain Music, which kicks off at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, here
A few more quick notes:
• Although folk-punk troubadour Frank Turner
had to cancel his Tuesday, June 19 performance at The Complex to fly home to England for an uncle’s funeral, the stacked co-bill featuring Lucero
and The Menzingers Gospel Choir
means the show will still go on at a new venue (Metro Music Hall) and a new link for reduced ticket
($27 presale, $30 day of show), with all Frank Turner tickets receiving a refund at point of purchase.
• Tickets are still available for Dispatch
’s Tuesday, June 19 show at Red Butte Garden with Nahko and Medicine for the People and Raye Zaragoza. This is one of the few Red Butte Garden Outdoor Concert Series shows that didn’t instantly sell out, and Dispatch are still bringing a positive message to the people, 20+ years after “The General” became a college rock anthem, so get on it
• Fans of local rock, rejoice: Nods Presents
returns to The Urban Lounge on Wednesday, June 20th, with the garage-punk favorites The Nods curating a show featuring two gems from the Salt Lake City scene, Opaline and Eleventh Door, along with The Heartlights from California. Best of all, this one is free
, so every extra dollar in your pocket can go straight to the bands (#supportlocalmusic).