Friday, July 07, 2006

Camera Obscura- bring on the heartache

Pity poor Tracyanne Campbell. Every time her band Camera Obscura is mentioned, another more famous Glasgow band must be mentioned alongside- Belle & Sebastian. Other than the geographic similarity, it's true that there have also been musical (and romantic?) exchanges between the groups but that shouldn't diminish Campbell's gifts. How can you not love an indie pop band that calls one its albums Underachievers Please Try Harder?

Their latest release, Let's Get Out of This Country (Merge), begins perfectly, maybe too perfectly. "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken" is one of the sweetest, tenderest (and yes, heart breaking) songs you're likely to hear in '06. Soaring strings, twangy guitar float around Campbell's delicate voice and you're immediately entranced. It captures the look of the album cover with her hands supporting her chin in the ultimate forlorn gesture as she stares off into space, sitting in front of flower wallpaper.

You're also scared to hear the rest of the album 'cause you're worried that there isn't going to be anything else there that's this wonderful and moving. And well... there isn't really though several songs come close, with everything bathed in a deliciously dream 60's pop glow that isn't retro. If I was programming the album, I wouldn't follow-up with something low-key like "Tears for Affair"- maybe something grand like "Come Back Margaret," the guitar-hooked girl-group tribute "If Looks Could Kill" or the bouncy, wistful title track would do the trick while saving more laconic fare like "Dory Previn" for later in the record.

Which is just to say that it's a good record that maybe could have been a great one. Campbell has a give for articulating the lovesick blues that should be the envy of any Nashville neo-trad and here's hoping that her band eventually overcome the B&S comparisons.


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