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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Camera Obscura
My Maudlin Career
4AD

Rating: 8.3/10 ?


May 18, 2009
Back in 2006, Camera Obscura's Tracyanne Campbell asserted her readiness to be heartbroken and her shortsightedness in surrendering to the whim of her "Lloyd." Fast-forward three years and it seems the perpetually disappointed chamber-pop ensemble have remained in the same state of preemptive self-sabotage. With their latest release, My Maudlin Career, the crew from Glasgow channel folksy, countryside bluntness and dreamy-sounding, gold-tinged Americana, cranking out a few more melancholic assertions along the way.

Finally stepping out from the shadow of fellow Scots, Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura has amassed their own distinctions with their previous album Let's Get Out Of This Country which was released to much acclaim. The now-quintet (exit by percussionist Nigel Baillie due to, ironically, a successful marriage and the related familial obligations) boldly leaves the doleful, sweet-voiced Campbell solely at the forefront--and thankfully, her confessional divulgences are still poignant.

According to Maudlin Career, the sound of unrequited love is a faux lo-fi fuzz-pop mix of beachy guitar, brushed snare, and miles-long strains of violin. The dusty, echoing "Forest and Sands" feature a bend of guitar strings and the lonely bop of a western ballad. With their sometimes-delicate approach, it might seem Camera Obscura is doing shtick: the Scots who imitate 1960s-era Nashville-style country. Rather, it is a very organic progression and, as much as they emulate decades-old Americana, their downhome Anglo cheekiness pervades. Consider Campbell to be Jenny Lewis' European counterpart, inasmuch as both have a dry, cutting wit and some battle scars.

Upon hearing its first few notes, title track "My Maudlin Career" could easily be mistaken for Jesus and Mary Chain's classic drone, "Just Like Honey." That's about as avant-garde as Camera Obscura extends itself and before reverting to luxurious chamber pop. In a sunny midtempo swing, "Honey in the Sun" recalls a failure to give the proper shake-off due to a regrettably warm heart; fortunately, there are backing vocals to commiserate. The bittersweet nostalgia continues with "Other Towns and Cities," where bell-toned guitar accompanies a reminiscent Campbell in stream of thought. On the other hand, amidst the twee xylophoning and tambourining of "You Told a Lie" and "The Sweetest Thing," the strings really soar.

More of a lateral move from Let's Get Out--which is not a bad thing, considering the caliber of the album--Maudlin Career isn't set at a crossroads; essentially, it picks up where the pieces were left. Charmingly self-depreciating with a youthful appeal, Campbell and company wear defeatism like a bouquet-swinging Morrissey: deliberately. But like the Moz, Camera Obscura doesn't churn out heartbreak music for the broken hearted. Though it toes the line of embarrassingly candid self-indulgence, it never reaches a point of desperation; in fact, what is perceived to be their collective weakness--heartache and loneliness--is actually thinly veiled coyness. Like on the previous record's "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken," their signature wedding organ tauntingly interjects each of Campbell's pleading choruses. It's this kind of subtle tongue-in-cheek humor that puts Camera Obscura at the giving end rather than the receiving end of the joke.

Clever, catchy, and moody, Maudlin Career is what contemporary pop music should be. It is wholly as satisfying as Campbell is unsatisfied. Like a true underdog, we want and expect Camera Obscura to be slightly battered, but triumphant in the end. Although they come out only mildly scathed, it is not for certain who the victor really is. If, between sobs, you catch a smile on Campbell's face, you'll know she won.

Reviewed by Lara Longo
Lara Longo is a writer and photographer from Brooklyn, NY. In 1989, Lara received her first CD player and album, Appetite for Destruction; ever since, music is something she has fawned over, hated on, and played loudly. Her work has also appeared in Relix and New York Cool. Laras interests include sharks, European television, and the Hammond B3 organ.

See other reviews by Lara Longo

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