Album Review: Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career

Camera Obscura don’t have it as easy as you think people who make beautiful folk-pop music might.  Firstly, there’s the problem of a second band named Camera Obscura.  Granted the other lot are a load of rubbish, but there must be a limit to how many times they can tolerate saying “no, we are the other Camera Obscura” when someone asks why everyone speaks in such high terms about something that sounds like a cheese grater running against your brain.

Then there is trying to step out of the shadow of fellow Scots and occasional-producer-of-their-tracks Belle and Sebastian. The comparison is both a compliment and entirely warranted in their early work. But both have diverted away from that twee Scotpop sound of the late 1990s and have embraced different influences.

Camera Obscura have adopted a country and western sound, with bottlenecked guitar notes, slow and steady drum beats and the luscious voice of Tracyanne Campbell pouring out lyrics of love and loss. My Maudlin Career is their latest work and comes three years after their last album Let’s Get Out Of This Country. In truth the sound is little different, but that is no bad thing. 

Opening title, and most recent single, French Navy is a barn storming introduction. Tracyanne Campbell’s voice erupts while their archetypical strings drive hard. Tracks such as You Told a Lie and James demonstrate the band’s ability to construct songs that let you drift along while still captivating the attention.But the send off Honey in The Sun injects some jazz into the proceedings, while simultaneously echoing sounds of lolling in the summer in carefree times. The brass adds an extra dimension while the increase in tempo makes this a dance floor classic for any twee pop night out and is sure to be a holiday hit if they decide to follow up French Navy with this.

Fans will love the album, and those ensnared by the more mature sounds of Let’s Get Out…will continue the affair.  Whether this bears enough of an individual mark to grab others is doubtful, but that lot can go listen to the other Camera Obscura and watch their ears melt.

Words: Peter Truman