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Camera Obscura

Look To The East, Look To The West

    Look to the East, Look to the West, the new album by Camera Obscura, is a revelation. The Tracyanne Campbell-led outfit, reuniting with producer Jari Haapalainen (Let’s Get Out of This Country, My Maudlin Career), have crafted an album that simultaneously recalls why longtime fans have ferociously loved them for decades while also being their most sophisticated effort to date.

    It is also the most hard-fought album of Camera Obscura’s career. Following the 2015 passing of founding keyboardist and friend Carey Lander (to whom the penultimate track “Sugar Almond” is addressed), the band went into an extended hiatus. They remained in contact, but their status was uncertain until they announced their return, having been invited to perform as part of Belle & Sebastian’s 2019 Boaty Weekender cruise festival, along with a pair of sold-out warm-up shows in Glasgow. Donna Maciocia (keys and vocals) joined founding members Kenny McKeeve (guitar and vocals), Gavin Dunbar (bass), and Lee Thomson (drums and percussion) for those shows and has since become a regular songwriting partner of Campbell’s.

    Recorded in the same room where Queen wrote “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Look to the East, Look to the West feels big, a widescreen reframing of Camera Obscura’s sound that, paradoxically, saw the band go back to basics there are no string or brass arrangements, with more emphasis placed on piano, synthesizers, Hammond organ, and drum machines, and, perhaps most strikingly, the group have dropped the veil of reverb that characterized their previous albums. The tinges of country and soul that give Camera Obscura’s baroque take on pop music its bittersweet edge have never been more apparent guitars shimmer into the distance, keys haunt, and Campbell’s voice searches for the heart, reflecting on love, loss, and the passage of time.

    Lead single “Big Love” relishes in the space between country rock and prog, a pining break-up anthem featuring the soaring pedal steel of Tim Davidson. It’s a Nashville Sound heartbreaker, tackling the complexity of wanting to rekindle a bad relationship with Campbell’s uncanny ability to render the past: “It was a big love, she said / That’s why it took ten years to get her out of her head,” she begins.

    “We’re Going to Make It in a Man’s World” was co-written with Maciocia for filmmaker Margaret Salmon’s 2021 film Icarus (After Amelia). (Salmon, in turn, shot Look to the East, Look to the West’s cover photography featuring Fiona Morrison, who was on the cover of Camera Obscura’s debut, Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi.). Ironic and sincere, the two navigate the reality of being women in the music industry, somehow floating over Davidson’s pedal steel and Maciocia’s keys. “The Light Nights” is a swooning song propelled by a western shuffle and killer guitar, striking a balance between a particularly good honky-tonk joint’s jukebox and a lost gem of California pop music waiting to be discovered in a 7” bin.

    Look to the East, Look to the West is the sound of a band that has grown more confident in its sound and purpose than ever. It is Camera Obscura at their best and most evocative, an album that completely rearranges the listener’s emotional core, leaving them sad and exhilarated at the same time. Camera Obscura’s catalog is replete with songs people point to as life-changing, songs that will stick with them all their lives. Look to the East, Look to the West has 11 of them; take your pick. 


    Barry says: Camera Obscura return! After the sad passing of Carey Lander, it's hard to imagine how the band could continue but 'Look To The East...' takes all of the latent melodicism and swooning choruses and strips them back to a fairly minimalist backbone. There are moments of the cinematic intensity and wistful grandiosity of their previous work but it's a much more emotionally wrought, fickle affair, and all the more beautiful for it.


    1. Liberty Print
    2. We’re Going To Make It In A Man’s World
    3. Big Love
    4. Only A Dream
    5. The Light Nights
    6. Sleepwalking
    7. Baby Huey (Hard Times)
    8. Denon
    9. Pop Goes Pop
    10. Sugar Almond
    11. Look To The East, Look To The West.

    Camera Obscura

    Let's Get Out Of This Country - 2023 Reissue

      "Let's Get Out Of This Country" is the album of maturity, the album of a group that has a solid international position and a third album that will immortalize them. It was recorded in Sweden and produced by Jari Haapalainen (Ed Harcourt, The Concretes), and with it, Tracyanne Campbell and company made the definitive leap with their arrangements, energy, harmonies and composition. Some of the musicians that recorded the strings had recently toured with Brian Wilson and Arthur Lee & Love. The album's collaborators incl- ude Victoria Bergsman from The Concretes, Britta Persson and members of Swedish groups like The Tourettes, Laakso and Speedmarket Avenue. And we get "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken", "Tears For Affairs", "Razzle Dazzle Rose" and "Let's Get Out Of This Country" to confirm this. And of course, they toured the entire world, were heard on "Grey's Anatomy", and then signed to 4AD.


      01 Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken
      02 Tears For Affairs
      03 Come Back Margaret
      04 Dory Previn
      05 The False Contender
      06 Let’s Get Out Of This Country
      07 Country Mile
      08 If Looks Could Kill
      09 I Need All The Friends I Can Get
      10 Razzle Dazzle Rose

      Camera Obscura

      Underachievers Please Try Harder - 2023 Reissue

        "Underachievers Please Try Harder" is the album on which Stuart Murdoch continued showing his support for the band with the cover photo; the album produced by Geoff Allan (Mogwai, Teenage Fanclub, The Delgados, Arab Strap And Belle & Sebastian); the album that quickly surpassed 100,000 copies sold, a number that causes a bit of vertigo nowadays; the album that put them at the top of indie lists in the United States, and that was included on an episode of our beloved "Gilmore Girls".


        01 Suspended From Class
        02 Keep It Clean
        03 A Sisters Social Agony
        04 Teenager
        05 Before You Cry
        06 Your Picture
        07 Number One Son
        08 Let Me Go Home
        09 Books Written For Girls
        10 Knee Deep At The National Pop League
        11 Lunar Sea

        Camera Obscura

        Desire Lines

          ‘Desire Lines’ - an album born of life and experience; a record with something to prove. This time Camera Obscura decamped to Portland, Oregon to work with producer Tucker Martine, who has added so much to the music of R.E.M., The Decemberists and Sufjan Stevens previously. The band also brought in Neko Case and Jim James from My Morning Jacket to contribute vocals. The result is a big, gorgeous pop record that sounds like it means it.

          You'd be hard-pushed to find an album with as many well-crafted, supremely catchy pop songs as this. Original yet soothingly familiar, these tunes manage to break your heart and take you to the top in equal measure. They're written and sung by Tracyanne Campbell and there can't be a sweeter, more believable voice in pop right now. It's like she's your best friend, singing in your ear, but what she's singing is the pages of her diary! This is actually Camera Obscura’s 4th album, but the others just led up to this one; this is the one where they’ve distilled their thing. The production’s perfect too: Concrete’s producer Jari Haapalainen perfectly capturing the old-school indie classicist vibe. Every song's a gem, there's not one duffer, but the gorgeous slowie "James" and the euphoric, horn-driven "Honey In The Sun" deserve a special mention. Mancunian legend Paul Morley's a massive fan too: that's good enough for me!


          1. French Navy
          2. The Sweetest Thing
          3. You Told A Lie
          4. Away With Murder
          5. Swans
          6. James
          7. Careless Love
          8. My Maudlin Career
          9. Forests And Sands
          10. Other Towns And Cities
          11. Honey In The Sun

          Camera Obscura

          Let's Get Out Of This Country

          "Let's Get Out Of This Country" is a master class in intelligent, melodic 'retro-modern pop'. Producer Jari Happalainen (The Concretes, Ed Harcourt) has shaped a cohesive collection of classic songs which are, at turns upbeat ("If Looks Could Kill"), downbeat ("Country Mile"), hooky ("I Need All The Friends I Can Get") and epic ("Razzle Dazzle Rose").

          Camera Obscura

          Under Achievers Please Try Harder

          Camera Obscura are a seven piece from Glasgow, who started releasing records in the late 90s on the Andmoresound label. Afer a year of touring and recording, they've now released the follow-up to their Geoff Allen (Arab Strap, Mogwai, Teenage Fanclub, Belle & Sebastian) produced debut album, and the single "Eighties Fan" which was produced by Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian. On "Underachievers, Please Try Harder" they've broadened their sound by bringing in new organs and a Fender Rhodes piano, and trying out 12-string acoustic, banjo and autoharp on some tracks, even utilising a Stylophone.

          Black Sun Ensemble

          Hymn Of The Master

            These Texans were really amongst the first bands to explore the stoner rock ethos by mixing largely instrumental tracks with drugged up, spaced out, psychedelic dope anthems. Jesus Acedo's guitar playing is a major highlight (Hendrix / Page / McLaughlin blurred with Ravi Shankar). Zepplinesque rhythms, phasing and mescaline visions where layered ghost voices meet monstrously drugged riffs offset against giant peals of progressive keyboard while submerged vocals fight to grope their way through.

            The Goblin Market


              New project from Jeff Kelly, songwriter of cult psych prog outfit Green Pajamas, joined here by new member Laura Weller. Goblin Market continues Jeff's fascination with pre-Raphaelite painters, poets and Victorian writer Christina Rossetti and the music is an inspired blend of acoustic acid folk with winsome prog-psychedelic elements and utilises as lyrics the poetry of Lizzie Siddal, Rossetti and Emily Bronte.

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