Camera Obscura – Let’s Get Out of This Country

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

I’m a big fan of bands referencing other bands in their songs. Not like when Pavement did it in “Range Life” or Edwyn Collins in “North of Heaven“ or Skynyrd in “Sweet Home Alabama” – taking shots at other artists in a song is not cool. I mean when an artist pays tribute to another, through their shared medium. Beulah did this with the Magnetic Fields (as discussed in that post). So props to Camera Obscura for calling back to Lloyd Cole’s 1984 song “Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken” some 22 years later. 

What I Think of This Album

On Camera Obscura’s third album, they consolidate their sound, in part due to the departure of drummer/vocalist John Henderson. Now the band is truly Tracyanne Campbell’s, and her tales of regret, longing, and sadness have never sounded sweeter. While not lyrically upbeat, there is a bit more color and life to this release than on Underachievers.

Classic response song “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken” skips along, with a heavy organ presence and swelling strings (arranged by Björn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn, and John). The organ again dominates on the lachrymose “Tears for Affairs,” which has to be a pun; the percussion on this bossa nova track is divine. “Came Back Margaret” is a peppy, string-driven song (with a nice handclap interlude) to an ex’s ex, driving home the point that no one is happy.

Campbell uses the music of “Dory Previn” to get over heartbreak, finding solace in “turn[ing] you up to eleven for the band’s ears to bleed.” An accordion colors the knowing waltz of  “The False Contender.” The title track is a glorious mix of nimble guitar, robust strings, and forceful drumming, while Campbell spins lines like “I drowned my sorrows and slept around / When not in body at least in mind” and “”We’ll find a cathedral city / You can convince me I’m pretty.”

The weepy ballad “Country Mile” is perhaps a tad long, but even so, Campbell’s voice is a revelation. She expertly draws you in and charms you with her phrasing, tone, and modulated emotion. This is someone who knows how to ask for a hug. The band legitimately rocks out on the charging “If Looks Could Kill,” which must be great as a live number. Also notable is the bouncy, self-aware “I Need All the Friends I Can Get.” Finally, a lovely trumpet gilds the rolling “Razzle Dazzle Rose.”

There is a heavy Scandinavian presence on this album, produced by Jari Haapalainen and featuring several Nordic session players, as well as guest vocals by Victoria Bergsman of the Concretes (who is also credited with giving the entire band haircuts). Among the people the band thanks are Francis MacDonald (Teenage Fanclub) and Stephen Pastel (the Pastels).

The Best Thing About This Album

Just try and resist “Let’s Get Out of This Country” – I dare you.

Release Date

June, 2006

The Cover Art

This wallpaper makes me want to kill myself – which is probably exactly what the cover model is thinking. Everything about this art depresses me (I’m not even sure what that mess on the right margin is), and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the point.

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