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4.5 out of 5 stars
My Maudlin Career
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2009
Format: Audio CD
After their last album "Let's Get Out Of The Country" achieved breakthrough-of-sorts status thanks to an exceptional lead single, "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken", the Glasgow indie band now finds itself on the legendary, seminal 4AD label.
The renowned Swedish producer Jari Haapalainen - whose past credits - Peter Bjorn And John, The Concretes, Ed Harcourt - give one an idea of the richly textured soundscapes he can co-create - is back for his second outing with the band, building on the dense production introduced on their third album, which is purely and simply about love.
It starts in a resolutely non-maudlin mode. The upbeat Phil Spector-esque "French Navy", the opening track, is 60s pop with strings, and a vocal echo that lends itself so well to Tracyanne Campbell's voice, sending it ethereal. At times it reminds me of Canadian Jann Arden and American Natalie Merchant of 10,00 Maniacs. The bittersweet song is typical of Campbell's oeuvre in that it's unspeakably lovely, but so delicate it doesn't live long in the memory. Her soft Glaswegian accent and soft, nasal tones suit the fragility and juvenility of a 'he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not' sentimentality.
Elsewhere, there's a blissful summery quality to "The Sweetest Thing", while the country-ish "Away With Murder" showcases the singer's fondness for kitchen-sink realism.
"How many times have you told me you want to die?" she sings. "How many times have you told me that you've tried?". Rarely have lines as sombre been wrapped in a package as pretty.
The Glaswegian outfit deliver their finest outing, with seductive songs such as "Careless Love", sweeping strings and Tracyanne Campbell evoking the spirit of The Shangri-Las over thumping drums on the title track.
"Other Towns And Cities" sounds so authentically vintage it is tempting to blow the dust off to savour the ethereal guitar. The overall feeling of "My Maudlin Career" is one far sunnier that its title may imply. With a collection of eleven heartbreak symphonies and affectingly lilting arrangements, the album offers a nice surprising departure, moving further away from jaunty folk pop and embracing lush balladry.
It feels like a breakthrough, more polished and poised: the result of continuous artistic evolution, without compromising their cuteness or charm.
The album will please the existing fans, but those coming to the band for the first time will find plenty to enjoy.
My favourite tracks: "French Navy", "My Maudlin Career", "The Sweetest Thing", "Other Towns And Cities" and "Honey In The Sun".
Living Thing
Until Tomorrow Then- The Best of Ed Harcourt (2 CDs)
The Concretes
Uncover Me
MTV Unplugged
Let's Get Out of This Country
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2009
Format: Audio CD
An eagerly anticipated album for those of us who have overdone it listening to Let's Get out of This Country. More uptempo than its predecessor, maybe a bit more of a Country flavor here and there. Eloquent, sometimes playful songs of heartache, loss and lonliness. A nostalgic and dreamlike musical atmosphere brought about in part by classic use of reverb and a warm, retro organ sound. Wonderful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Camera Obscura is good at what they do. Fans of the band and even casual listeners can easily attest to this after the magnum opus that was 06's Let's Get Out Of This Country, where frontwoman Tracyanne Campbell and fellow Scots bandmates gave themselves over to Lloyd Cole and looked very much like the successors to Belle & Sebastian's eminently catchy brand of twee-pop. It becomes clear right out of the gate that, with My Maudlin Career, their success has in no way put a damper on their talents - Campbell still has that slightly accented purr down pat, a sexy and sweet mix between Jenny Lewis and Victoria Bergsman, and the band's orchestrated `60s pop/folk keeps chugging cheerfully along no matter how downcast Campbell sounds.

And make no mistake about it; My Maudlin Career is a darker record than Country, although you wouldn't know it from the delightful opener and first single "French Navy." Where countrymen Belle & Sebastian made their mark via clever turns of phrase and sly, smart lyrical conventions, Camera Obscura are romantics at heart, using a bouncy string-backed beat to frame convictions of love like "I was waiting to be struck by lightning / waiting for somebody exciting" before bursting into a four-on-the-floor chorus replete with arching, ascending strings as a yearning Campbell sings "I wanted to control it / but love, I couldn't hold it." It's the catchiest, most straightforward song on the record, the band's corollary to Country's excellent "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken." Obscura's well-toned pop hooks are sunk even deeper on the following "The Sweetest Thing," where the contrast between Campbell's heartsick lyrics and the upbeat, sing-a-long chorus is highlighted and makes a deceptively simple song into a thing of tragic beauty.

The band pumps the brakes a bit on the following tunes, starting with the country-flavored question of "You Told A Lie" and continuing with the atmospheric melancholy balladry of "Away With Murder." Campbell is alternately scathing and self-deprecating, asking "are my eyes the coldest blue?" and then singing worriedly "I don't know what I'll do / cause I'm stuck with them / and they're stuck on you" on the former. "Away With Murder," meanwhile, coats itself in layers of echoes and gentle acoustic accompaniment while Campbell bemoans "I've been lonely too, like you / I'm just like you" along a tale of hard touring.

While songs like the jangly pop of "Swans" and the elegant guitar-vocal interplay of closer "Honey In The Sun" prove that the band long ago knew how to craft a brilliant hook and that the production is generally spot-on, it's songs like the understated "Away With Murder" and the powerful emotion of "James" that truly make My Maudlin Career shine. Camera Obscura are at their best when Campbell is using the full range of her vocals, evoking a variety of feelings while carrying the melody while the band's arrangements take a back seat. Even when the lyrics don't match the strength of the music, such as on the tear-in-your-beer country misery of "Forest and Sands," it's Campbell's ability to carry a tune and connect that make up for any missteps.

Occasionally the band drop a dud that even Campbell can't save, like the inadvisable faux-acapella of "Other Towns & Cities," a sparse combo of dreamy guitar and reverb-soaked vocals that goes nowhere and stays there. And while songs like the title track, where Campbell croons "this maudlin career has come to an island / I don't want to be sad again" might make one think she's had enough of all this singing about heartbreak, it only takes one listen to the expertly crafted layers of "Honey In The Sun" and its bombastic, joyous horn section to put one at ease. Despite all of Campbell's attempts to "become as cold as ice," Camera Obscura is still a band reveling in the ability of bright, warm chamber-pop to dispel away the gloom.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: MP3 MusicVerified Purchase
Camera Obscura are back. Working again with producer Jari Haapalainen. Picking up pretty much where they left off. Single "French Navy" starts in a dusty library, where Tracyanne Campbell sings "I was waiting to be struck by lightning/Waiting for somebody exciting/Like you." In the world of Camera Obscura, of course, love is impossible to control and you don't have to be called Lloyd to break somebody's heart. "The Sweetest Thing" is a girl-group ballad with a Scottish accent. Title track "My Maudlin Career" sounds like a throwback ("I'm not a child I know/We're not going steady...") to the classic "Teenager" from breakout album "Underachievers Please Try Harder" ("You're not a teenager/So don't act like one..."). It seems perhaps MY MAUDLIN CAREER is not about reflecting sentimentally on the career of global twee-pop superstars. It's about the folly of wishing and hoping in dusty libraries -- and the after effects of being struck by romantic lightning. Of course, being an international recording artist might come into play too. "Let's Get Out of the Country" may have been a great career move. But it means that former lovers are left behind in "Other Towns & Cities." Hotel rooms make a great place to get truly maudlin ("Drinking whisky reminds me of you... Who's holding you tonight?") The sun comes up again (in Mexico City) on bouncy final track "Honey in the Sun." If you enjoyed getting out of the country with these Glaswegians last time around, you'll be delighted to rejoin the band on its musical journey.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: MP3 Music
When I first discovered with Camera Obscura with "If Looks Could Kill," I was like most that had heard the album; enchanted. Enter "My Maudlin Career" a strangely titled album that is as enchanting and lite as its predecessors are. The album starts with the sound that I've come to love from the band in "French Navy," which coincidentally is the highlight and first single of the album. It's a lovely and enchanting piece of bliss that even comes out catchy in the end. The same goes for "The Sweetest Thing," which transitions nicely from `Navy.'

From track 3 on, the album starts drifting into a melodic glaze of emotions and sentimentality, floating on mid-tempo, unmemorable, but still good, lite pop tracks. It's not that they're bad; it's just that by themselves, the songs don't hold up, but they sound great while going through the album. Either this will win admiration, or the skip button, depending on your tastes as it makes up the vast majority of the album. In fact, it could be said that the first two tracks were a bone thrown to fans of their earlier work.

Highlights Include:
French Navy
The Sweetest Thing
Honey in the Sun

Overall, one of the finer indie releases of the year, but the turn that the album takes for most of its journey will throw off most. Call it melodic, call it enchanting, engaging, poppy, or call it bliss, just call it Camera Obscura and call it good.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Veteran Scottish band Camera Obscura issued its best album with its 2006 release "Let's Get Out Of This Country" and then after a lot of touring and the inevitable and necessary time off fter that, the band now finally comes back with its new album.

"My Maudlin Career" (11 tracks; 46 min.) starts off with the immediately catchy "French Navy" and it becomes immediately clear that, despite having changed record labels since its previous album, the band is continuing on the musical groove of its previous album. The songs roll along gently, and I never tire of lead singer's Tracyanne Caombells' voice. It's hard to pinpoint highlights as such as the album presents itself as one cohesive unit (in other words: a true album), but my personal favorite tracks (besides the already mentioned "French Nacy") include "Away With Murder", the gentle but irresitble "Swans", the ballad "Careless Love", and the hauntingly beautiful "Other Towns & Cities".

In all, "My Maudlin Career" is a fine album, but for me just a tad too closely in musical texture to the band's previous album. Finally, if you wonder where you can here these guys, check out internet-only WOXY (BAM! The Future of Rock and Roll), which brings the best indie-music in the country, bar none.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2009
Format: Audio CD
I fell in love with this album just a few days ago. It's a gem. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that "French Navy" makes tears well up in my eyes. Each song shoots straight at my heart with a arrow dipped in a warm, sharp, bittersweet pool of magical poison. The sense of acoustic/physical space and the 'wall of sound' harken less to indie rock then to huge Phil Spector productions of the 1960s and 1970s. I'm especially reminded of George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass." Take the mixed tempos, gorgeous tones, and beautiful melodies, emotively sung and with just the right ornament over the just the right harmony, and you have pop music perfection.

BUT THIS RECORDING RIGHT NOW!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2009
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
This is a terrific album, brimming with lovely, poppy melodies and poignant lyrics. Lead singer Tracyanne Campbell is blessed with a voice you're sure to fall in love with, but your heart will ache for her, as the songs (all written by Ms. Campbell) portray a distressing inability to find lasting love. With each listen, I find myself in a deeper melancholy trance. Through it all, the band displays its talents, with memorable guitar licks and superb, understated keyboards. This album deserves heavy airplay.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2009
Format: Audio CD
I've been a fan for some time and seen them live but I find the this and last CD a bit too depressingly toned for my taste. Also I am not loving the country influences and bear in mind I like Neko Case and her country vibes.

I do like the warm tones of the guitars and slight echo effects in the vocals and that is an improvement over their last CD.

It really is a personal taste issue so take this review with a grain of salt.

I loved their CD single from a few years ago called "I love my Jean" but that was the last time I _really_ liked what they were doing. YMMV.
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Format: Audio CD
MY MAUDLIN CAREER, released in 2009, was the fourth album by Glasgow-based band Camera Obscura. They are again produced by Jari Haapalainen, which gives the music an electric warmth very far removed from the more low-fi (and rather effete) sound of their earliest albums. Carey Lander's retro keyboards are a big part of the sound, but I was struck here by how much Kenny McKeeve's guitars silkily assert themselves instead of being mere background for the lyrical delivery.

Camera Obscura had become fond of beautifully produced 1960s acts like the Supremes, mid-century country music, and string arrangements, though the result is clearly something post-millennial. Most of the songs are about love and relationships, but they are filled with novel metaphors and witty turns of phrase, and a sort of self-deprecation and underdog perspective. The band's lead singer and songwriter Traceyanne Campbell has clearly been through a lot of heartbreak. Campbell also has a real obsession with the North American landscape, which gives "Swans" and "Forest and Sands" a geographical ambition one might not expect from a Scottish twee pop band.

Not all of the songs are equally strong, but nothing here feels like filler, and virtually all of them got stuck in my head for days afterward. Any band that can so consistently produce earworms demands praise, and giving MY MAUDLIN CAREER anything less than a squarely positive review would not reflect the hours and hours I listened to this album with enjoyment. That said, I would rate this album a little lower than its predecessor, Let's Get Out Of This Country or its successor Desire Lines, due to the vocal approach Traceyanne Campbell uses on this album. She delivers so many lines with little vocal flourishes that can sound awfully childish and drag her off pitch at times, and I miss the more restrained (though powerful) Pasty Cline-ish singing of the surrounding albums. Still, this is a band worth checking out, and I'm pleased to own this.
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Let's Get Out of This Country
Let's Get Out of This Country by Camera Obscura (Audio CD - 2006)

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Underachievers Please Try Harder
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