Articles tagged with Camera Obscura

A roundup of published works

Camera Obscura - The Blizzard/Swans
Please excuse this self-indulgent entry, but I thought I’d give a quick roundup of some recently published works.

I haven’t posted many show reviews in the past month because most of the concerts I’ve covered lately have been published elsewhere. For Exclaim!, I reviewed Metric, Dinosaur Jr., Billy Bragg and Julian Casablancas. For the November issue of BeatRoute, I covered Starfucker and Chad VanGaalen.

Also for BeatRoute, I interviewed Arkells, Hannah Georgas and Prairie Cat. They also republished my You Say Party! We Say Die! cover story.

Speaking of Prairie Cat, I reviewed his new album for the Georgia Straight. I also wrote about the new Language-Arts album.

Lastly, I wrote a show-preview-profile-type-thing on Billy Bragg for The Tyee.

It’s less than a month until Christmas, which means it’s time to start listening to holiday tunes. Camera Obscura has released a new single to usher in the season, a cover of Jim Reeves‘s “The Blizzard,” first released in 1964. It’s the usual melancholy, countrified beauty from the Scottish pop icons. It’s backed with “Swans,” from this year’s My Maudlin Career.

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Saxophones and honey in the sun for you

Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career
Camera Obscura albums have an unfortunate tendency to run out of steam after the first track. It’s not because the subsequent songs are bad—it’s just that track one is so brilliant that everything after it seems like a letdown in comparison. The group’s 2006 breakthrough Let’s Get Out of This Country had plenty of good songs, but all of them paled in comparison to “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken,” which kicked off the album with an orchestral splendor that single-handedly eclipsed the rest of the album.

The group’s latest, My Maudlin Career, suffers a similar fate with its gorgeous opener “French Navy.” Thematically, the song is pure Glaswegian twee, describing a failing relationship with bookish lyrical references to dusty libraries and dietary restrictions. But the arrangement is majestic chamber pop, with sweeping swings and triumphant horns that buoy up singer Tracyanne Campbell’s characteristically deadpan vocals.

Nothing else on My Maudlin Career even comes close to matching the glory of the first track, but that’s not to suggest that the album doesn’t have its share of good tunes. The orchestral instrumentation is even grander than on the band’s previous offerings, transforming the humble retro pop of “The Sweetest Thing” into a cinematic anthem. But despite the instrumental largesse, the tone is almost always melancholic; on the country-tinged “Forest and Sands,” Campbell poignantly signs “I pretend that my heart and my head are well / But if the blood pumping through my veins could freeze / Like a river into Toronto then I’d be pleased.”

The album ends with the joyous “Honey in the Sun,” its majestically rising horns set to a thundering drum beat. Lyrically, it’s the near opposite to the rest of the album—Campbell attempts to will herself into depression, but is ultimately unable deny her own happiness: “I wish my heart was as cold as the morning dew / But it’s as warm as saxophones and honey in the sun for you.” The euphoria is impossible to deny, and its placement as the closer is perfect, almost making you forget that you spent most of the album fighting the urge to skip back to “French Navy.”

My Maudlin Career is out now via 4AD.
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Spend a week in a dusty library

Camera Obscura will probably never top the genius that was “Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken.” It’s a near-impossible precedent to live up to, but the group’s new single, “French Nevy,” isn’t far off. It’s everything that Glaswegian twee-pop should be, with dewey-eyed strings, shimmering guitars, and wistfully romantic lyrics (“You with your dietary restriction / Said you loved with me a load of conviction”). Like the best moments of 2006′s Let’s Get Out of This Country, the song is pounding and anthemic, but its grandeur is kept in check by Tracyanne Campell’s ever-restrained vocals.

What really cements the song’s brilliance is the music video, which hit the net today via Pitchfork. Interspersed with band performance clips, the video portrays a whirlwind holiday romance with quick-cut clips, coming off like a series of idyllic holiday snapshots. The video follows the couple from first kiss to last, and despite having only three minutes to show the full romantic arc, it’s surprisingly understated; there’s no big blow-out, just subtle body language to show the lovers’ emotions. In terms of sheer poignancy, “French Navy” takes the medium of the three-minute music video about as far as it can go.

Check out the video here courtesy of Pitchfork.

“French Navy” will be released on 7″ and CD single on April 13. The full-length, My Maudlin Career, will follow a week later (April 20/21) via 4AD.
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