Song of the Week – The Fox in the Snow, Belle and Sebastian

Ignored            Obscured             Restored

Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes chose If You’re Feeling Sinister as his Last Night a Record Changed My Life selection in a recent issue of MOJO.

If You’re Feeling Sinister (1996) was the second album released by the Scottish indie band Belle and Sebastian.  Many fans, besides Oberst, consider this to be Belle andSebastian’s best album out of a catelog that is very good.

One song on the album that captures me is the beautiful and melancholy “The Fox in the Snow.”

Fox in the snow, where do you go
To find something you could eat?
Cause the word out on the street is you are starving
Don’t let yourself grow hungry now
Don’t let yourself grow cold
Fox in the snow

Girl in the snow, where do you go
To find someone who will do?
To tell someone all the truth before it kills you
They listen to your crazy laugh
Before you hang a right
And disappear from sight
What do they know anyway?
You’ll read it in a book
What do they know anyway?
You’ll read it in a book tonight

Boy on the bike, what are you like
As you cycle round the town?
You’re going up, you’re going down
You’re going nowhere
It’s not as if they’re paying you
It’s not as if it’s fun
At least not anymore
When your legs are black and blue
It’s time to take a break
When your legs are black and blue
It’s time to take a holiday

Kid in the snow, way to go
It only happens once a year
It only happens once a lifetime
Make the most of it
Second just to being born
Second to dying too
What else would you do?

In the first verse, the fox stands as a metaphor for loneliness.  The loneliness theme is expanded in the second and third verses.  The girl in the snow takes solace in books, and the boy on the bike rides endlessly and aimlessly – like Forrest Gump on wheels.  Both are living their lives and going about their business nearly invisible to the rest of the world around them.  But in the last verse, the tone shifts.  The kid playing in the snow is joyous for the experience of something that may only happen once a year or once a lifetime.  His/her youth and naivete allow the kid to delight in the simplicity of frolicking in the snow.  There is hope!

The music complements the lyrics.  It starts with a very softly played piano and a fragile vocal by Stuart Murdoch.  Then comes a gentle acoustic guitar and a little later, drums.  By the end of the second verse, Isobel Campbell’s cello (and a violin), and quiet harmony vocal on key lines, take the song to the next level.

If You’re Feeling Sinister has earned many accolades over the years.  It is often cited in “best of” lists, including its place at #481 in the 2020 Rolling Stone survey of the Top 500 Albums of All Time.

Enjoy… until next week.

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