“Party Line,” the first single released from Belle & Sebastian’s forthcoming album Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, was upbeat, heavy on the synthesizer, and “positively danceable,” according to Slate’s Courtney Duckworth. But a Belle & Sebastian album wouldn’t be a Belle & Sebastian album without a few contemplative-bordering-on-depressing ballads—and today the Scottish pop band released another song from Girls in Peacetime that fits that bill, a down-tempo track called “The Cat With the Cream.”
With a sound evocative of “I Fought in a War” from the band’s 2000 album Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant, “The Cat With the Cream” layers dramatic violin strains over quiet guitar strumming and undulates between major and minor chords. The lyrics touch on themes familiar from Belle & Sebastian’s past work: youthful alienation, religious yearning, ambivalent nostalgia for simpler times. “In days of old, when knights were bold, they’d settle it with swords and shields,” sings Stuart Murdoch, as Sarah Martin lends her voice in ethereal high harmonies. The sound of this new single suggests that Girls in Peacetime will have something for every Belle & Sebastian fan when it’s released on Jan. 20.