Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Camera Obscura - "Let's Get Out of This Country" (LP Review)

"Let's Get Out of This Country", the 2006 LP by Camera Obscura, reaches the potential hinted at by their first two LPs: 2001's "Biggest Bluest Hi Fi" and 2003's "Underachievers Please Try Harder". Those were good, solid LPs that featured a handful of good songs. However, it all comes together for the band in LGOOTC: the production, the song writing & variety, the lyrics and the singing -- just the right combination of cleverness, earnestness, maturity, and detachment. An indie pop masterpiece.

The ease in which the band executes different styles is one of the features that separates this record from their others. Aside from the perfected indie pop sound, they also nail a smoky, downbeat country song ("Dory Previn"), a waltz ("The False Contender") and punk ("If Looks Could Kill"). The songs are slow ("Country Mile"), "vast" ("Razzle Dazzle Rose"), up-tempo ("Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken") and mid-tempo ("Come Back Margaret") and everything in between.

As many people have now read, "Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken" is an "answer" to Lloyd Cole and the Commotions' 1984 single "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?" from the LP "Rattlesnakes" -- "Hey Lloyd, I'm ready to be hearbroken / 'cause I can't see further than my own nose at this moment". That's a pretty obscure pull and you have to respect that. Ditto the homage to Dory Previn with the lyrics: "How I adore you Dory Previn / I turned you up to eleven for the band’s ears to bleed".

The weakest song is "I Need All the Friends I Can Get". It's not really a bad song, but it also suffers from placement immediately after the "If Looks Could Kill", which is easily my favorite song. Sometimes I'll skip the preceding song, "Country Mile", just to hurry up and get to "If Looks Could Kill".

Although it is a band effort, the star of the show is definitely the dour, never-smiling Tracyanne Campell. She writes all the songs, sings and is one of the two guitarists. Producer Jari Haapalainen does a great job of capturing the band's lush yet lo-fi sound, but especially so in capturing the tension of vulnerability and strength in Campell's voice. You owe it to yourself to give this LP a listen.

Standout tracks: "Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken", "Tears for Affairs", "Come Back Margaret", "Dory Previn", "Let's Get Out of This Country", "If Looks Could Kill".

Skip 'em tracks: none.

Final Score: 10/10.

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