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Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career

Released on 4AD, 4/21/09

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Once in a while a band comes along that catches you dead in your tracks. You stop, listen and take in the sound emanating from your speakers. For a moment it’s just you and the sound, existing harmoniously (no pun intended) in the ebb and flow of the universe. This sound is true genius at work. Often bands that have a knack for this said genius have a few things in common: they prove that they have a solid grasp on their craft and they can consistently deliver a great sound. Camera Obscura, the little indie pop band out of Scotland is definitely one of those bands. With a sweet, 60s vintage sound and catchy pop hooks, it’s hard not to enjoy the lull of love-stricken, heart-breaking lyrics.

My Maudlin Career has proven to be a great jump-off point for (now) lead vocalist Tracyanne Campbell, who has refined her style from the sort of deadpan, background voice of early Camera Obscura days to a dreamy, emotion-filled lead forging through each song with a brilliant execution.

Campbell’s expressive vocal quality is the vary thing that makes each song believable. You follow her pining, lust and heartbreak almost chronologically through the album, starting with “French Navy”, an upbeat, unapologetic ode to a French sailor. From there, the album subtly tapers in its tempo, gradually moving into a slower, more calculating pace. On “Careless”, the band really comes together in the tight delivery of a big band era style, making the weighty orch-pop sound airy and catchy enough to keep humming throughout the day. However, the wit and irony on “Swans” is enough to make even the biggest CO cynic smirk.

Relying on a balance of emotion, humor and brilliant musical execution, Camera Obscura has not only successfully managed to write a solid album, but has also carved out their own niche -- bringing together character and duality in a seemingly simple form, proving that complexity doesn’t necessarily mean being serious.