Apparently the final incarnation of a project that Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch has been working on for upward of a decade, the soundtrack to his film God Help the Girl is a grand piece of personal mythology. It’s a fictionalized version of how his own band began, filtered through the persona of Eve, one of the fragile young women whose stories Murdoch loves to invent.
Murdoch has talked about how the song “God Help the Girl” came to him in 2003, and how he built a movie’s plot around it. A few years later, he put together a new group, also called God Help the Girl, to record the songs he’d written for the story; their 2009 album, also called God Help the Girl, featured that material (with Catherine Ireton singing the role of Eve), as well as a couple of Belle and Sebastian remakes. (GHTG subsequently released an additional EP and a few singles.)
The God Help the Girl film finally debuted this year, starring Emily Browning as Eve; the story involves her starting a band called, you guessed it, God Help the Girl. This soundtrack is almost entirely new versions of familiar material (it’s the third Murdoch-associated album to start with “Act of the Apostle”), featuring vocals by Browning and the film’s other actors. There are also three new songlets — “I’m Not Rich” (which doesn’t appear in the film) is a brief parody of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It,” and “I Dumped You First” and “Pretty When the Wind Blows” are just barely long enough to communicate the jerkiness and vulnerability, respectively, of the two characters who sing them.
The soundtrack also includes a pair of Belle and Sebastian oldies — notably 2006′s “Dress Up in You,” which here seems like Murdoch’s position statement about the character he’s created. In the context of Murdoch’s career, it’s a remarkably baroque, romanticized vision of his youth, made odder by his games with persona and by putting its sentiments in other singers’ voices — but that’s also what he’s been doing, one way or another, since the beginning of Belle and Sebastian.