God Help the Girl

You could fill an entire review with what God Help the Girl might be. The album shares a title with an as-yet-unshot film by Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch. The booklet contains the beginning of a short story and the album itself is billed not as a soundtrack or concept album, but a “musical narrative.” How it relates to all of those projects isn’t clear and won’t be at least until the film emerges.

What God Help the Girl might be hardly matters, though, in the face of what it is. Murdoch has once again crafted a collection of pop gems that pays tribute to the greats of AM radio, from girl groups to acoustic folk. This time, though, he’s largely given the vocal duties to a bevy of ringers, from relative unknown Catherine Ireton to Smoosh’s Asya. Hearing Murdoch’s melodies without his typically fey delivery is off-putting at first, but once the shock wears off, it’s a revelation. Ireton’s measured, carefully enunciated delivery matches Murdoch’s crisp production, while Brittany Stallings brings a confidence and — dare I say it — sass to “Funny Little Frog” (one of two tunes borrowed from Belle and Sebastian’s 2006 The Life Pursuit) that reveals a soulful underpinning not obvious in the original. “I’ll Have to Dance with Cassie” and “Come Monday Night” are both showstoppers, sounding like radio hits from a bygone era.

If and when Murdoch’s film emerges, it might be worthwhile to re-examine God Help the Girl. Until then, it’s safe to ignore what this album might be and just enjoy it for what it is — another stab at sunny pop perfection from one of the most consistent songwriters going.

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