[CD Review] Camera Obscura, 'My Maudlin Career' (4AD)

Will somebody please hug Tracyanne Campbell? The girl cannot stop falling for no-goodnik heartbreakers. You’d think the front woman of Camera Obscura would lighten up this time around, what with the success of 2006’s Let’s Get Out of This Country, but My Maudlin Career is decidedly mopey (right down to the sickly looking lady with yellow bags under her eyes on the cover).

Which is not to say the Glasgow band stray from their usual formula of head-bop-friendly chamber pop. There are plenty of soaring strings and cheery horns here, and Campbell’s voice sounds as milky-smooth and happy-go-lucky as ever. But pay close attention, and you know she’s hurting bad: “You kissed me on the forehead/Now this kiss is giving me a concussion/We were love at first sight/Now this crush/It’s crushing,” Campbell laments on the title track. She goes on dates to forget him (“The Sweetest Thing”), writes notes she never sends (“Away With Murder”) and drinks herself into a numbing stupor (“Other Towns and Cities”). In less able hands, this woe-is-me stuff could get old and cloying very quickly, but when Campbell sings about being unlucky in love, she comes off convincing and witty—at least for a little while. (After 11 songs, you kinda want to shake her.)

Musically, it’s all a bit predictable but never less than catchy. “French Navy” pulses with the energy of a new (and doomed) romance, and “Honey in the Sun” does a sweet little Belle & Sebastian thing, all peppy beats and jangly guitars. Despite the dreary lyrics, the title track works even better, with a great wall of fuzzy sound punctured by staccato keys and Campbell repeating with conviction, “My maudlin career has come to an end/I don’t want to be sad again.” Don’t take her word for it.


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