The early days of Belle & Sebastian are the stuff of pop-culture myth: a sickly Scottish songwriting savant named Stuart Murdoch emerged from a prolonged period of illness and ennui in the mid-1990s to realize a rare and glorious musical vision at once delicate and epic. With the help of an unlikely group of like-minded collaborators for a musical marketing project at a local college, the group’s 1996 debut, Tigermilk, was born.
Now Pitchfork is running a lovely documentary on the origins of Belle & Sebastian and, more specifically, the making of the group’s 1996 masterpiece If You’re Feeling Sinister. For Gen-Xers who fell under the band’s spell during the 1990s, it’s a nostalgic, affectionate, and surprisingly moving visit back to the group’s glory days that is characterized by great music and wry, understated humor. The documentary also provides fascinating insight into Murdoch’s mindset at the time of the group’s founding and particularly the way he fetishized what he saw as the everyday lives of the people around him because their lives differed so greatly from his own.