Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

Something seems to exist in the Glaswegian waters these days, as more and more substantial music sets sail for America via Scotland. The newest album, My Maudlin Career, from Camera Obscura is just another example of a country that is pushing out superb tune after superb tune.

Long has the band been haunted by their kinship to Belle and Sebastian, but here we see them completing the step away from such association, much as they did on their last album, Let’s Get Out of This Country.  They’ve stepped away from the modest pop stylings of their earlier days, immersing themselves instead in a history of 60s soul and R&B.  This time around, the band has gradually drifted into the perfect dance halls from historic days long gone.

Tracyanne Campbell is the focal point of this entire album, as it should be.  Her delivery, especially in songs such as “French Navy” is nearly perfect, spinning masterful webs of melody at every turn.  She finally seems comfortable in the limelight, and that confidence shows through and through.   But, she’s not the only vocal presence here, as there are some carefully placed “oohs” and “ahhs” visiting the landscape of this album (see The Sweetest Thing).

Musically, the album is quite close to its predecessor. It’s as if the music was crafted carefully in the Motown studios; all the arrangements are done with such precision that you’d be hard pressed to find a point in this record when anything seems off-kilter.  One thing that might be lacking for some listeners, however, is that the music doesn’t have the pace, or some of the urgency, that went with the last album.  Sure, songs like “Swans” and  “My Maudlin Career” have a sligth pace, and a certain vibrance, but there is no “Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken.” But, this serves the album sufficiently well, as the album comes across with a lot more balance than the previous effort.  Its nostalgia is fitting, and the album is the most even output in the band’s history.

Through and through, the album comes across with moments of meandering melody and a whispering sense of longing, which, afterall, seems to be the lyrical focus of the album.  The very mention of “maudlin” recalls a certain sense of emotional sentimentality, as if you’re looking back with a sense of longing.  It’s no mistake that the lyrics match this focus; the music seems to further the intent as well.  And of course, the ever present ideal of love, and loves past, present and future.

Listeners be sure to make it all the way until the end of the album, as “Honey in the Sun” is one of the most rewarding songs on the album.  It’s the bookend that sums up the thematic elements of the lyrics, and adds further detail to the growth of this very talented group of musicians from Glasgow.  Nicely done Camera Obscura.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/11-honey-in-the-sun.mp3]

Download: Camera Obscura – Honey in the Sun [MP3]

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