Belle and Sebastian The Life Pursuit (Rough Trade) Following the same progression as 2003's Dear Catastrophe Waitress, Belle and Sebastian's latest offering sees Stuart Murdoch & Co return with a bigger, more richly layered sound. Which is not to say the band have strayed from their roots: underneath the expanded production and proliferation of influences, from glam rock to Motown, The Life Pursuit essentially embraces the same brand of witty and literate songwriting in which the Glasgow band excelled. Much of the credit for this new sound can be attributed to producer Tony Hoffer. As the man behind the likes of Beck's Guero and Midnight Vultures, Air's 10,000Hz Legend and Idlewild's Warnings/Promises, Hoffer has built a reputation for broadening his charges' sonic horizons while remaining true to their essence, and this is no exception. The first track to grab the attention is White Collar Boy which throws shades of Queen and Status Quo into the pot with a Marc Bolan bassline to surprisingly successful effect. The Blues are Still Blue sounds like Transformer-era Lou Reed, while Sukie in the Graveyard is a playful slice of 1970s pop. The Belle of Sebastian of old, however, has not been discarded completely as the soft urban folk of Act of the Apostle and Dress Up in You would have fitted snugly on any of the band's previous albums, while the rainy-day country of Mornington Crescent wears the band's hallmarks proudly on its sleeve. Perhaps the clearest example of the band's transition comes in the form of The Price of a Cup of Tea, all jangling percussion and Bee Gees-esque falsettos, with the melodic refrain of its chorus rippling on irrepressibly where before it would have made way for a wistfully melancholic instrumental outro.