Softhearted Scottish indie pop legends Belle and Sebastian released three four-song EPs between their breakthrough 1996 album If You're Feeling Sinister and the equally monumental Boy with the Arab Strap in 1998, all shuffling in and out of print before being gathered together on 2000's mini-box set Lazy Line Painter Jane and then again with later EP tracks on the epic 2005 compilation Push Barman to Open Old Wounds. Whatever form these tunes take, when gathered together they coagulate into an album's worth of material that ranks with the best of their early output, with some tracks even more exciting than those that made it onto proper albums. Highlights here are rampant, with the spoken word storytelling of "A Century of Elvis" being the only tune that falls short of the brilliant hot streak the band had going in its earliest days. The other 11 tracks soar in ways that echo the best moments of the two proper albums that came before them, from the crushing melancholia of "You Made Me Forget My Dreams" to the breezy pseudo bossa nova guitar chords of "Beautiful" and the Velvets-meets-Turtles pop bounce of "Lazy Line Painter Jane." Stylistic diversions like the Morricone-inspired spaghetti Western touches of "Dog on Wheels" and the surf guitar/chamber pop/French go-go mashup of "Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie" fill in some of the blanks between Sinister's sad-hearted pop tones and the more adventurous arrangements of Boy with the Arab Strap. Much as the spare tracks and lost sessions that came between the Velvet Underground's self-titled 1969 album and 1970's Loaded produced some of their most-loved tunes and could have easily been released as stand-alone albums, the EPs collected on Lazy Line Painter Jane show Belle and Sebastian at the peak of their early powers and are essential listening for even the most casual fan.