Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2006: Number 5

An embodiment of the music - cheer up, 60s girl, it might never happen

If the world knew Camera Obscura for anything before this year, it's for their slavish devotion to the ways of Belle & Sebastian. Yet here we are at the end of 2006 glossing over the singularly disappointing The Life Pursuit and lionising this superb third album from their younger sibling band. What gives? Well, not much, apart from now Tracyanne Campbell has solely taken over as lead singer after John Henderson's departure there seems a feeling surrounding the record that it's time to cast off lo-fi, Glasgow Scene trappings and embrace the Wall Of Sound beyond. Concretes producer Jari Haapalainen brings with him the skewed pop melodies and uplifting qualities of that band's breakthrough work allied with Campbell's lyrical ideas of doomed romance and self-absorption. Is it twee? To an extent, yes. But it's also shooting for the stars.

You'll find fewer better, fist-pumping in solidarity songs at all in this year's catalogue than Lloyd I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken, beginning with a wedding organ in solitude before launching into an indefatigably bittersweet pop song laced with soaring strings, hooks to die for and Traceyanne throwing herself headfirst into future possibilities. It may actually be physically impossible not to be singing along with the two line chorus before the end. It's this form of overlaying the upbeat with the desperate and downtrodden that the band have always aimed for and finally hit at this moment, the pull of the track matched by the rush of the emotionally cracked title track ("I drowned my sorrows and slept around/when not in body, at least in mind") and the Beach Boys-meets-Ronettes revenge fantasy swing of If Looks Could Kill. While there's always been an element of the Spector about their sound - also see here Come Back Margaret and I Need All The Friends I Can Get with layers of percussion, girl group strings, heady midsection swoon on the former, choral outro on the latter allied to that lyrical twist - the palette is expanding to reflect the subconscious desire to make something of the escape from indie parochialism. Tears For Affairs could be from the Jimmy Webb songbook while Glen Campbell country rock stalks Dory Previn as Campbell attempts to escape an old flame, declaring in a corking opening line that she's "fed up of girls in pretty dresses, with boys who want to teach them a lesson". Razzle Dazzle Rose extends itself for a closer with faint hints of rockabilly and country, twanging guitars and West Coast horns that turn mariachi over the shimmering haze of a cymbal heavy ending, closing a gloriously infectious album, an idea of immediacy laden but still largely slow burning pop that, much like we wrote about Scritti Politti yesterday but in a more directly tangible sense, is at once alongside and alien to the actual modern meaning of the term, an album that runs like clockwork on higher levels of melody and calming sustainability without ever letting itself get really comfy with the idea.

LISTEN ON: Come Back Margaret
WATCH ON: Newly minted If Looks Could Kill video; Lloyd I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken live in LA
READ ON: Pitchfork discuss Glasgow, John Peel, honesty and Lloyd Cole with Traceyanne

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