Two doses of shimmering Scottish pop in one year? What have we done to deserve such a blessing? Hard on the heels of Belle & Sebastian’s The Life Pursuit and following in their same musical footsteps comes Let’s Get Out Of This Country, the third full-length release from Glasgow’s Camera Obscura. Sharing more than a hometown with B&S, Camera Obscura prove with their latest release that they’re real contenders for the
But don’t be fooled into thinking that Let’s Get Out Of This Country is as sugary sweet as the “twee” designation may suggest. Also note that I don’t use the term “twee” in a disparaging way; it’s just my way of pleasing the genre gods. These tracks are more bittersweet than anything. Ten sordid tales of love disguised with sunny melodies and Tracyanne Campbell’s mellifluous vocals. Campbell demonstrates a real knack for biting yet heartfelt lyrics that often have a longer lasting impact than the abundant hooks and harmonies of her band’s music (which is saying a lot, because these tunes are catchy). With minor folk undertones and a subtle country flair, Camera Obscura’s latest provides a snapshot of a band destined for full color glory.
Opener “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken” bears no pretense to its somber underpinnings but may fool most listeners with its memorable guitar hooks and chamber-pop violins. “Tears For Affairs” steals the organ from Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” while adding accordion and trumpet flourishes. The dusty slide guitar of “Dory Previn” finds Campbell testing her twang and brushing the dirt from her shoulders and a broken relationship. While Campbell isn’t necessarily treading into new territory as far as her lyrical content is concerned, it’s the way in which she visits it with such sincerity and honest heartbreak that sets it apart from her contemporaries. She focuses on the part of love we like to fool ourselves into thinking we can avoid; the despair and uncertainty that follows loss. But as far as break-up albums are concerned, I’ve never heard one more upbeat and full of pop playfulness.
The slow dance “Country Mile” showcases Campbell’s achingly beautiful voice as it echoes alongside sweeping violins and lonely reverb. A bashful crescendo that never quite climaxes mirrors Campbell’s morose sentiments: “I don’t believe in true love anyway/ Who’s being pessimistic now?” The one-two-three waltz of “The False Contender” finds the unlikely pairing of an acrobatic accordion and reverberating organ as sleigh bells and brushed drums keep the beat. “Razzle Dazzle Rose” ends things on a more subdued note as ghostly trumpets blare from the impending fade-out.
While not as well known as their fellow Glaswegians Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura lack none of their musical sophistication, or heart, for that matter. But I can’t help but wonder what we’ll hear next from Scotland’s best pop bands. Whatever it is, I hope it involves bagpipes.
Belle & Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress
Acid House Kings – Sing Along With The Acid House Kings
Okkervil River – Down The River Of Golden Dreams