Thursday, April 30, 2009

Camera Obscura... My Maudlin Career

Camera Obscura is a band that hasn’t changed much since 1996 and for once, that’s a good thing. From their echoing guitar riffs to their whimsical string arrangements, they’ve managed to keep their chipper soda pop shop melodies bound tightly to singer Tracyanne Campbell’s lyrics, which are full of calamitous heartbreak. After all these years and with the release of their fourth album on 4AD, their ironic tunes have yet to get monotonous.

The music on this album was a little predictable, but still is very haunting. The jangly guitar of Kenny McKeeve and the consistency of Lee Thomson’s drums keep the energy up through out the album. Carey Lander adds her piano, organ, and backup vocals on most tracks, which gives the album a ‘60s vibe. Sadly, Gavin Dunbar’s bass gets lost within some tracks due to things like Nigel Baillie’s trumpet and extra percussion.

It’s obvious that most of Campbell’s songs are about heartache, but she comes up with clever ways to express this without being cliché. Her voice executes her wispy feelings of love in “My Maudlin Career,” when she sings how a past kiss on the forehead is now giving her a concussion. In the upbeat single “French Navy,” Campbell takes listeners on a journey from seeing someone in a dusty library to being with them on a silvery lake only within the first verse of the song, showing how quickly she falls in love.

The rest of the 10 tracks have an early Sunday morning feel to them, but it’s hard to see the individuality between certain songs. The tracks that have a country vibe to them, like the song “Swans,” allow Campbell to become more like a modern day Patsy Cline with the sliding guitar in the background.

While hopeless romantic fans probably play Camera Obscura alone in their bedrooms, they depend on Campbell never to find her true love so the band won’t lose their morose charm they are known for.

My Maudlin Career
is an album that couldn’t have come out at a better time than now. While spring pushes up life from dirt, Camera Obscura does the same thing; they make simple pop music, put some life into it, and make rich catchy songs.

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