It may not be mentioned as much as it should that a “comforting” album can be every bit as fantastic as one that’s unsettling or truly innovative. Built to Spill’s later efforts, for instance, may be championed for their sonically expansive palettes, but There’s Nothing Wrong With Love is the one that many listeners connected to personally; it was the one that tugged at the heartstrings and never let go. Just as that album made indie pop into a musically interesting equivalent of a security blanket and macaroni and cheese, the debut effort by The Boy Least Likely To is a Sunday morning pajamas and hot chocolate pop record. But I must preface that I hesitate to use the word “twee” on a band like this; some people get sensitive about that sort of thing.
The Boy Least Likely To, unlike Badly Drawn Boy, isn’t one guy, but two: the duo known individually as Pete and Jof. However, like Badly Drawn Boy, Pete and Jof play smart, playful folk-inflected British pop that inevitably makes you feel good. It has an inherent childlike quality, straight down to The Best Party Ever‘s fuzzy animal birthday party cover art. BLLT’s choice of instrumentation exudes their youthful glee— harmonicas, glockenspiel, acoustic guitars, banjos—it’s as if Belle and Sebastian had put together some sort of storytime jamboree.
Jof warns us immediately that he’s fragile in “Be Gentle With Me,” pleading, “my heart gets broken so easily/so just be gentle/be gentle with me.” But aside from the heart-on-sleeve sentiment, the song is a celebration, a big, disco-folk anthem that should appeal to anyone with a weakness for sensitive boys with angelic voices. Likewise, “Fur Soft as Fur” is more than just a grin-inducing title, it’s a bouncy, super-fun tune that will take up residence in your unconscious. But “Monsters” reveals a slightly darker side (as does the odd “Sleeping With A Gun”), as Jof confesses his fears of adulthood, or perhaps what people ultimately turn into:
“The thing that really frightens me
is that the people that I used to love
are turning into monsters
getting married having babies
telling me how great their life is
and how happy I would be
if I could just be more like them”
The Wilco-like “Paper Cuts” is one of the most wonderful tracks on the record, sweetly ending each verse with a refrain of “I’ve Always Been in Love With You.” And for another love-mix staple, look no further than the goofily gleeful “I’m Glad I Hitched My Apple Wagon to Your Star.” The song’s rhythm is one such that you can almost picture these chaps rolling along on said wagon in time with the beat. Try not to smile when you picture that! I dare ya!
The Best Party Ever is fraught with fears and frailty, but The Boy Least Likely To are a band you find yourself rooting for. In spite of the spiders and heartbreak that plague the band, they make feelgood music that wraps you up like flannel sheets in winter, and give you a feeling of security and warmth. Should the monsters and spiders come creeping out from the closet and you find yourself hiding beneath a blanket, The Best Party Ever is just the motivation you’ll need to be lured back out again.
Belle and Sebastian – The Boy With the Arab Strap
Badly Drawn Boy – The Hour of Bewilderbeast
Kings of Convenience – Quiet is the New Loud
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.