Camera Obscura's Sweet melodies Hide a Dark Side

Camera Obscura, My Maudlin Career (4AD)

If Phil Spector’s descent into madness has cast a shadow over your old Crystals records, it might be time to take solace in the next best thing. Scottish indie-pop veterans Camera Obscura convincingly took up the torch for the wall of sound on their third album, 2006’s Let’s Get Out of This Country, and they’ve crafted an even tighter collection of pristine pop nuggets on My Maudlin Career. Much like Spector himself, though, singer/songwriter Tracyanne Campbell’s sweet melodies hide a formidable dark side. (It’s far from murderous, though; she’s much too adorable for that.) But for every apparently silly love song like “French Navy,” Campbell lives up to her reputation as Miss Melancholy, with plenty of brutally heartbreaking ballads delivered in her trademark yearning yet coolly detached Glaswegian coo. The title track, for example, is a dreamy, piano-tinkling number that grew out of Campbell’s own analysis of her “maudlin career” (a play on the term “modeling career”), in which she’s turned her misery into a commodity. Standout track “Away With Murder,” meanwhile, employs a sad fiddle and ghostly harmonies to communicate Campbell’s anguish over a self-centered ex-lover. Based on the title, Phil Spector could only wish that particularly tune was about him.

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