It seems that Tracyanne Campbell is everyone on the Internet’s “secret” crush. Who knew cute vulnerability communicated through melodic pop could do it for so many people? Listening to any of Camera Obscura, new album included, it’s actually really easy to see why. She’s got this kind of lovable confusion that everyone in their 20s can relate to — and she expresses it in shades of sweet harmony that makes any eager consumer of characteristic UK chamber pop flutter with excitement.
Let’s Get Out of This Country is Camera Obscura’s third album, the previous two both reaching the US in a double-wallop in 2004 after respective original release dates of 2002 and 2003 back in the UK. I guess all the rave reviews those two albums garnered in the States made an impact, because now we get to hear the new stuff just a day after it’s released back home.
Jari Haapalainen, the man behind the Concretes and Nick Harcourt, produced the album, and the sound of both of those artists can be heard on Let’s Get Out of This Country. Well, it’s more of a suggestion than anything overt, because Campbell’s songs still trill along with the same infectious sound, her lyrics still swell with the same vulnerability and sentiment. Her voice is country-tinged, with a charming accent and a sweet penchant for melody, and she wallows in the falls and swoops of her tunes, taking obvious pleasure in their pleasant arcs. On the best songs, these melodies are delicious — the folky “Razzle Dazzle Rose”, which closes the album, is a notable example, as Campbell’s vocal line “Rose, I’m feeling older” echoes the French Horn line. At the end of the song, the instruments take over again, and the whole thing ascends into a shimmering tremble of sound.
These leisurely melodic lines communicate great confidence in the songwriting process, and show us a band that, if not changing their sound, is at least extremely comfortable with its craft. Contrast that with the regret and uncertainty of these songs’ lyrics, and you get a Jens Lekman-type feeling of calm. That calm swirls around the center of “Country Mile”; the melody at the song’s heart is full of space and emptiness. “I Need All the Friends I Can Get” is even more reminiscent of Lekman, with its throw-it-all-at-the-mic pop sensibility.
Still, tracks like folk-waltz “The False Contender” and the whispered bossa nova “Tears for Affairs” don’t hit quite as hard as the songs that, as soon as you hear them, you know are going to be firm favourites. The most obvious of these is the title track, with its peppy pop melody and chugging guitars — one listen and you’re hooked. It’s an almost perfect pop ditty, with the kind of sentiment (“What does this city have to offer me? / I just can’t see”) that most of us who have lived in large cities can easily relate to.
From the moment the organs swirl around the opening of “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken” you know what to expect from Let’s Get Out of This Country: more of the sunny melodies of Camera Obscura’s previous efforts. The collection of ten songs on this album are mostly solid, with some real pearlers and a few that pass you by — but the band is so easy to listen to that you don’t need to be an established fan. It’s not difficult at all — just listen to Tracyanne, and let her persuade you:
Let’s hit the road dear friend of mine
Wave goodbye to our thankless jobs
We’ll drive for miles maybe never turn off
We’ll find a cathedral city
You can be handsome, I’ll be pretty