Top 10 2006; 6

Camera Obscura
Let’s Get Out Of This Country
I Need All the Friends I Can Get (removed. contact me for a copy.)

This album came out of left field and smacked me in the face. I’d never listened to any Camera Obscura; never mind that they’ve been around ten years, I’d never even heard of them; and I don’t even listen to Scottish bands (unless you count that one song by Big Country), so “sounds like Belle & Sebastian” is a meaningless term. Sure, the blogs have been all over “Let’s Get Out” for months, but I’m slow on the uptake. But what makes this album so ultra-consumable? In spite of its uber-confessionalism, everyone’s put it on their year-end lists. And in a world where indie bloggers are male and early twenties, it surprises me. What does everyone like so much about this album?

Here’s my working theory. Number one, Tracyanne Campbell’s beautiful but accessible voice. You can imagine her coming into your place, plopping down on your couch, and telling you all about the rough night she just had. She’s your friend. She’s good-looking, but in an approachable way. Number two, the music is what it says it is. No having to dig through it trying to find out what it all meeeeans. This is music for anyone who wants to break up with a girl or boyfriend; with a job; with their parents; with their rent; with life. It’s a simple theme, but it resonates deeply with the listener, who is likely disaffected in some way (if you’re perfectly happy, feel free to put your head on your desk till I’m done talking).

Number three, every song on the album is a variation on the theme — you know the theme. It’s the title of the album. So I took one line from each song (10 total) and mixed them up and made my own Camera Obscura song. Now I just have to get Campbell to sing it for me:

Tell me where it all went wrong
Oh let’s not pretend I needed the lesson that you taught me well
I can tell you this for nothing / you won’t win
You can’t see that she’s just the same as all the stupid people you hate

I’ll admit I am bored with me
I like it my way with no limitation
I’ve got my life of complication here to sort out
Do you think it’s time I put it out of my mind
Expecting softness can lead to foolishness
Who’s being pessimistic now?

It’s deceptively easy music; you think to yourself, but why did she need to write ten songs about the same thing? Well, my answer would be that it’s in human nature to rehash your complaints. This album is the girl friend that calls you up every night to ask you why her man left her, what did she do wrong, next time she won’t make that mistake, he was a jerk anyway. Or the guy who comes in every day and says, “Today I’m definitely finding a new job. I can’t work with these people anymore.” We work through our problems that way, rethinking the problem in order to solve it.



  1. James’s avatar

    I don’t even listen to Scottish bands

    Scottish bands? You must listen to Mogwai. Now. Like immediately. And I think you might think that Bis are fun and Teenage Fanclub… dude!

  2. Leaving Liverpoo’s avatar

    i stumbled on this band while i was here in azerbaijan about three months ago. i think they’re awesome. i only managed to download three songs from this album, because downloading a single song can take half an hour, but this band makes music with a feel that’s hard to beat. not musically savy enough to describe what it is, but its good.

  3. Leaving Liverpoo’s avatar

    yes i realize that i tagged my self wrong in the last post. now grow up! haha

  4. Leaving Liverpool’s avatar

    ach! did it again! what a disaster!

  5. zara’s avatar

    hehehehe Liverpoo

  6. Matthew’s avatar

    Looking at the stuff you seem to like, I am a little surprised you don’t. Scotland really punch above their weight in terms of excellent bands per head of population.

    If you ever feel like giving some of them a try, you might start with: The Delgados, My Latest Novel, King Creosote, James Yorkston, The Fratellis, Aberfeldy, The Associates, Sons & Daughters, or the Trash Can Sinatras.

  7. zara’s avatar

    It’s entirely because of my lameness. Having finally discovered the true awesomeness of Canada, I can move on to northern Europe. !! So thank you for the good recommendations, it’s good to have somewhere to start.

  8. Matthew’s avatar

    You’re entirely welcome. Also try the Fence Collective – – there are loads of different groups under that banner and they try to avoid the mainstream music label stuff by doing it all themselves. There’s a lot to get through, but it can be worth it. Their myspace page is a good place to start, actually, as most of their ‘top friends’ are Fencers.

    Any Canadian recommendations, besides the most obvious? I am a pretend Canadian (I have the passport but never lived there) so I’m always interested in new stuff from my Dad’s homeland!

  9. Icka’s avatar

    What? You don’t listen to Franz Ferdinand? wtf?

  10. Matthew’s avatar

    Whoops, sorry yes, they can be excellent too. I must confess I do think they do some rubbish too, but when they are good they take some beating.

    I can’t believe I forgot them! I didn’t mention Teenage Fanclub either – they’re iconic Scots, but I am not that much of a fan.

  11. zara’s avatar

    Ugh, I hate Franz Ferdinand. Someone should assassinate them (ha ha). So wtf yourself.

    Canadian bands! Hmmmmmmm … this is really my friend James’s territory, but let’s see.

    -Justin Rutledge
    -I know James would say anything under the Arts & Crafts label, although they are all incestuous permutations of Stars. I’m liking Young Galaxy though.
    -Lots of people like Destroyer, though they aren’t really my cup of tea. And incestuous permutations of the New Pornographers, like Swan Lake.
    -Cadence Weapon
    -Feist, o’course

  12. Matthew’s avatar

    Thanks a lot – I’ll look ’em up. Good luck with the Scots!

  13. juliette’s avatar

    franz pbbbbbth….

    also i don’t really like trashcan sinatras but hey maybe that’s because of MY lameness.

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