2009 Top 50 Albums

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Creating a Top 50 Albums list is never easy.  You have to battle with what you think the world believes, and what you truly believe in your heart, to be solid jams.  We have even more trouble because we have to three writers, all who have different ideas, and we have to make those ideas fit into a neat box.  Well, we got it done, and honestly, our criteria was based on two things: how great we thought the album was, artistically speaking, and how long we listened to it without getting bored.  That’s it. It’s fool proof; you might not like it, but it’s our list, so here it is… Read more

FT5: Albums of the Year (So Far)

0529top5coverAs we see it, we’re about midway through the year as far as record releases go, seeing as how no one really puts albums out in December for fear of being left off year-end lists. Since we’ve hit the half-way mark, we thought we would throw out a list of our Top 5 Records so far this year. Keep in mind, this list is subject to change, should something mind altering come our way, or should we just get bored with one of the following records.

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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]

FT5: Anticipated SXSW Artists Releases

0313top5cover1While we were roaming around town last week, we started thinking about some of the upcoming releases that have got us peeing our pants in anticipation this year. Then we saw some of these artists during SXSW and got even more excited for what’s to come. For today’s Top 5, we wanted to take a look at some of theses new releases and rank them in order of just how excited we are about them. Some big names who were in town (Decemberists, Dan Auerbach, etc.) have already put out some solid releases this year, so we’re hoping that these won’t let us down. Follow the jump for our full Top 5 of anticipated releases from SXSW artists.
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New Tunes from Camera Obscura

cameraThe newest Camera Obscura record, set to come out via 4AD Records on April 20th, has to be my most anticipated album of the year. Lets’ Get Out of This Country is still one of the greats of recent time, so I’m happy to present you with the first single of the forthcoming album, My Maudlin Career

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/my_maudlin_career.mp3]

Download:  Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career [MP3]