Camera Obscura
My Maudlin Career


4.5
superb

Review

by timbo8 USER (42 Reviews)
May 5th, 2009 | 25 replies | 6,693 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A case in point if you think the best pop songs are sad ones.

1 of 1 thought this review was well written

Clearly love has been tragically fickle for Tracyanne Campbell. The lead singer and songwriter for Glasgow’s Camera Obscura, Campbell is admittedly a glass-is-half-empty kind of girl, as is well known for those familiar with the band’s four-album catalog of bittersweet indie pop. But nevertheless, her graceful sketches of heartbreak and dashed hopes for love still ring with naked honesty and heart-on-sleeve emotion. Camera Obscura’s latest and best record My Maudlin Career has Campbell reaching new depths of introspection and the rest of the band supporting with gorgeous orchestral flourishes and dreamy pop atmospherics.

The band builds off of the success of 2006’s Let’s Get Out of This Country (further leaving comparisons to Belle and Sebastian in the dust) and moves from countrified folk pop to a more full-bodied chamber pop sound. The band weaves rich, dense string arrangements and orchestral horns in and out of songs with expert elegance; the added atmospherics always sound fitting and never overdone. A prime example of this is the album’s opener “French Navy,” whose pounding drumbeat and soaring orchestral chorus lend the song a resounding, winning quality. But the bombast is lyrically bittersweet, as Campbell chronicles the quick rise and even quicker fall of her “sailor mate” fling.

Through much of the album, the strings and horns don’t simply accent the songs, such as the beautifully subtle additions of violin on “Away With Murder,” but they carry the action with gusto and intelligence. Swirling string sections drive the happily bubbling “The Sweetest Thing,” the guarded start-and-stop of “You Told a Lie,” and the wistfully melodramatic “Careless Love.” In recalling elements of ‘60s pop, the music of Camera Obscura consistently retains a charmingly familiar quality, such as with the wholesomely innocent toy piano melody of “Swans.” On “James,” delicate guitar and low bass swirl softly and beautifully around a heartbroken Campbell, who sings, “Oh James, you broke me, I thought I knew you well.”

Gracing the instrumentation’s warmth and vigor is Campbell’s tight-lipped croon. Simply put, Campbell has a beautiful voice, expressing both biting wit and tender candidness all at once. While occasionally draped lightly in a dreamy fog, her voice resounds with clear, unbridled melodicism that reflects well her impressive songwriting talents. Campbell’s recollections of brief crushes bring lines of eye-rolling sarcasm, such as “So you want to be a writer. Fantastic idea!” from “Swans” and her taking note of her date’s “dietary restrictions” on “French Navy.” Elsewhere on the album she delivers shots of gutting heartbreak and disarming innocence, as on the breathtaking, soaring title track (“You kissed me on the forehead / Now this kiss is giving me a concussion”) and the sparse and delicate “Other Towns and Cities” (“When my pupils dilated could you tell that I liked you?”). Campbell’s lyrics are rich in defensive wit and intimate gloom, illustrating herself with a rugged exterior shielding an underlying vulnerability.

Although her lyrics are rife with dark irony and somber tones, they never feel juxtaposed alongside the generally more upbeat, poppy music of the band, but rather the words and music blend well into a gentle listen that is charming for its melancholy. The intimate lyrics make for a particularly endearing album, as the sometimes-subtle experiences and common emotions that Campbell picks up on are universal and strikingly familiar to anyone deeply in or out of love.

The album’s closer “Honey in the Sun” is a supremely catchy number high on energy and an exhilarating horn section. In it, Campbell sings, “I wish my heart was cold, but it’s warmer than before,” suggesting that perhaps she’s not quite ready for a new love, but sure enough, someone new and exciting has caught her attention, and she’s gonna go for it. I can’t help but wonder: is this the beginning of yet another cycle ending in heartbreak for our protagonist? I prefer not to delve too deep into My Maudlin Career’s parting shot to think so; I say, you really never know what the future holds. Instead, I’ll take it as a triumphantly hopeful conclusion to an outstanding record.



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When you're lucid you're the sweetest thing / I would give my mother to hear you sing"...

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Comments:Add a Comment 
jrowa001
May 5th 2009



8750 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

im trying to decide if this is a 3.5 or a 4. also i kind of like her last album more

Kiran
Emeritus
May 6th 2009



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yay for this getting reviewed. Really fun album.

kingsoby1
Emeritus
May 6th 2009



4940 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

this is no higher than a 3.5 for me... definitely some pretty little tunes, but still lacks depth. Reminds me of She & Him.

Gyromania
May 6th 2009



15199 Comments


I have got to get this! Excellent review btw. I hope nobody reviews any of their older stuff because I'm looking to do so. This band is truly amazing.

kingsoby1
Emeritus
May 6th 2009



4940 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Although her lyrics are rife with dark irony and somber tones, they never feel juxtaposed alongside the generally more upbeat, poppy music of the band, but rather the words and music blend well into a gentle listen that is charming for its melancholy.


what does this mean? i think you're looking for a different word than juxtaposed.

Kiran
Emeritus
May 6th 2009



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

edit - i tried to offer help then realized i was using the word wrongly. This Message Edited On 05.06.09

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
May 6th 2009



17920 Comments


i think he meant superimposed

BallsToTheWall
May 6th 2009



44164 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Cool review. I think I need this.

kitsch
May 6th 2009



5107 Comments


saw this on pitchfork sounds good tho

Kiran
Emeritus
May 6th 2009



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is so good to listen to those times you can't decide what you want to play. It's just really superficial (in a good way), enjoyable pop music.

thebhoy
Emeritus
May 6th 2009



4459 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Imma gunna get this.

timbo8
May 6th 2009



618 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

What I am trying to say there is that there doesn't seem to be a conflict between the upbeat music and the darker lyrics, if that makes sense. The two elements of the album blend well together, rather than sounding disjointed and awkward.

Willie
Moderator
May 6th 2009



15877 Comments


Great review. You had me sold with the summary.

Digging: Emperor - In The Nightside Eclipse - 20th Year Anniversary

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
May 6th 2009



15727 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

definitely a cool record, but like I said in my soundoff, I never listen to this. My Maudlin Career and French Navy are really good songs

Digging: Joyce Manor - Never Hungover Again

MrGlass
May 12th 2009



326 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

123

those two plus Honey in the Sun, my personal favorite. album lacks some consistency, but the best songs really are awesome.

timbo8
June 1st 2009



618 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

gyromania1, if you wanna review their older stuff, don't wait too long, I'm eyeing them too

thebhoy
Emeritus
June 1st 2009



4459 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is a cool record. Nice and summery.

AggravatedYeti
June 8th 2009



7684 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I love this record.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
June 8th 2009



14986 Comments


actually the record isnt that amazing (it's quite good) but french navy is so good

BallsToTheWall
July 20th 2009



44164 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Love this.



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