It seems to me that Camera Obscura sure as hell know how to call a spade a spade. How else can you explain the Scottish indie-pop outfit so accurately self-labeling themselves as weakly sentimental by titling their fourth studio album My Maudlin Career?
I’ve been a fairly heavy follower of Glasgow’s Camera Obscura, named for the early pinhole-like cameras, since their debut LP Biggest Bluest Hi Fi dropped on Andmoresound Records in late 2001. Two full-lengths and a handful of difficult to forget (“Let’s Get Out of This Country“, “Suspended From Class“, “Lloyd I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken“) tracks later Camera Obscura are ready to drop a highly anticipated fourth studio album.
To me a new album is successful if it both retains the “original” sound that made you like the band in the first place and shows a sign of growth/experimentation/maturation. It’s a hard wire to walk, but My Maudlin Career does so expertly.
Lead singer Tracyanne Campbell‘s staple vocals are identical to records past, as are her somewhat juvenile lyrics and airy melodies. But the whole record just seems to dive deeper into Camera Obscura’s musical abilities. Rhythms are tighter, backing instrumentation pleasanter, and diversity of style wider.
The album opens on “French Navy”, the first single for obvious reasons – this thing is upbeat, catchy, and hosts one hell of a string section. “The Sweetest Thing” follows closely behind, recalling a Beach Boys-esque sixties-pop sound. Tracyanne swoons and croons through “You Told A Lie” and echoes over synths and toms on the slow-paced and uber-melancholy “Away With Murder”.
I can’t force myself to say anything positive about “Swans”, which can be blamed entirely on an intro that sounds like it belongs in some childrens song. I’m almost as uninterested in the slow, acoustic “James”, but am quickly reassured of this albums greatness by “careless love” which is slow and beautiful.
The standout track for this album is definitely title track “My Maudlin Career”. A killer piano riff (played on ABBA‘s piano!), classic Camera Obscura lyrics, and chorus you can’t forget will make this your favorite. Or, you might love that it sounds crazily like a downtempo “If Looks Could Kill” (is that just me?).
“Forests and Sands” brings in an unfamiliar but welcome alt-country sound with piercing electric riffs. “Other Towns and Cities” is slow and emo with hazy vocals that’re good for helping you fall asleep (or, putting you to sleep as the case may be). Don’t nod off before you miss the closing track, “Honey In The Sun” which hits you immediately with its brass intro and upbeat chorus. It’s one of the strongest songs on the album and a lovely way to end your imaginary adventures in Scotland.
My Maudlin Career drops April 13 on 4AD records. North Carolinians can catch Camera Obscura June 20th at Cat’s Cradle (the June schedule at the Cradle is unbelievable, by the way). Stream the single and album opener, “French Navy” below.
*1. French Navy
*2. The Sweetest Thing
*3. You Told A Lie
4. Away With Murder
7. Careless Love
*8. My Maudlin Career [SOT]
*9. Forests and Sands
10. Other Sounds and Cities
*11. Honey In The Sun