Belle and Sebastian have always exuded a type of high-class elegance. Thus, it should come as no surprise that they have compiled a second collection of songs for the Late Night Tales collection. This collection is what I would imagine plays at a party with Belle and Sebastian themselves: jazzy, intricate, and every so slightly obscure. In all, it’s a fantastic collection of songs for a late night in or even just for relaxing after a rough day. But, it leaves a bit to be desired as a mix of songs. The flow of the songs is usually excellent, but in a few rare cases, it can be jarring. The combination of instrumentals by the Pop Group and Stan Tracey in the middle of the album is one of the few flaws in the collection. Both songs are fine by themselves, but in the setting of Late Night Tales, they are a bit off. Both are slightly menacing and dark, attitudes that contrast with the rest of the compilation. These two tracks provide a shift in the collection that is unwelcome – it is especially surprising considering that the track that follows, the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Darling Be Home Soon” is the poppiest and happiest track on the record. It is the one biggest problem with the track listing, but it is not the only one.
The tracks that comprise the collection are also all lovingly put together, but the order feels slightly haphazard. There doesn’t feel to be an order to the collection, but rather feels more like it’s a collection of tunes that Belle and Sebastian just want people to hear. In that respect, that is an admirable goal, but it makes the listener somewhat disoriented. The ambient twinkling of Remember Remember’s “Scottish Widows” doesn’t fit in with Ce’cile’s dance-oriented “Rude Bwoy Thug Life” – there is really no way of working the two tracks to be next to one another in the track listing. Yet, they do follow one another in Late Night Tales, against what common sense may tell the listener.
Of course, it isn’t much criticism to say that the only flaw is a problem with the track listing. Late Night Tales Volume 2 in general does what it sets out to do: it’s a good collection to play late at night, preferably at a party with a few friends. Unfortunately, it is the idea of a compilation that also detracts from Late Night Tales: it doesn’t quite flow as an album should (even if it is themed) and has flaws as a whole. As a listener, one appreciates an album that is greater than its sum of parts; Late Night Tales is the opposite: it is less than its sum of parts. In particular, the post-punk interlude as mentioned before limits the enjoyment of the album by ruining what flow that the album had. There are situations when this is the perfect album to play, but it is limited in its scope.