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Camera Obscura bring sweetness, sentimentality to World Cafe Live

Camera Obscura | Photo by Kate Bracaglia | underwaterexplosions.blogspot.com
Camera Obscura | Photo by Kate Bracaglia | underwaterexplosions.blogspot.com

It was a beautiful night Saturday night: moderate, breezy, low-humidity—and Camera Obscura—the long-running, Scottish twee act—proved the perfect digestif, their similarly breezy melodies closing out a perfect evening. The band regaled fans with an hour-and-a-half-long set at World Café Live, imbued with sweetness, sentimentality, wistful vocals, and warm, candy-coated harmonies.

The past year has been a busy one for the band, due to two, new, Camera Obscura babies [both front woman Tracyanne Campbell and bassist Gavin Dunbar welcomed sons]; as a result, the band is hitting the States just now in support of their 2013 LP, Desire Lines. But if the new material feels stale to them by now, they certainly didn’t show it, running through half the record with energy and workman-like charm: bouncing in place to “Do It Again,” then dialing it down slightly for calypso-tinged slow groove “Cri du Couer.” Normally a five-piece, the band numbered seven Saturday night, with the addition of a trumpeter and a second percussionist.

Camera Obscura | Photo by Kate Bracaglia | underwaterexplosions.blogspot.com
Camera Obscura | Photo by Kate Bracaglia | underwaterexplosions.blogspot.com

And while the whole band was on-point, it was front woman Tracyanne Campbell who really shone, and whose gorgeous, gauzy vocals—which can convey both sadness and euphoria in a single note—are a large part of what makes Camera Obscura so magical. Live, Campbell was just as mesmerizing as on record, her nuanced intonation lending the songs depth and breadth.

When I spoke to keyboardist Carey Lander the other week before the show, she revealed that it’s impossible to fully give in to the pain behind the songs night after night without burning out; instead, she explained, “You have to make it a song you perform for other people to enjoy.” Still, Campbell did such a good job replicating songs’ emotional highs and lows, I felt like I was experiencing everything for the first time, and left feeling strangely cleansed.

With so many earnest, summery tunes, it’s hard to pick faves—but I felt particularly exhilarated during joyous, summer anthem “Honey in the Sun”—and thrilled during swirling, twee standby “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken.”

The band closed its set with a trio of old songs—“Come Back Margaret,” “Books Written for Girls,” and “Razzle Dazzle Rose”—but I swear I could’ve listened to them for another hour easily. Camera Obscura’s reality is warm, inviting, and invigorating; bathed in their tunes, I felt simply invincible.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Spank Rock at Underground Arts, Ceremony at First Unitarian Church, Chelsea Reed and Fairweather Five at Ardmore Music Hall

Spank Rock | Photo by John Vettese
Spank Rock | Photo by John Vettese

Philadelphia via Baltimore hiphop artist Spank Rock (aka Naeem Juwan) will be playing Underground Arts this Saturday. Last year, Spank Rock teamed up with longtime collaborator Amanda Black for their club track “We Can Go All Night”. He also played alongside the Walkmen, Sun Ra Arkestra and Sharon Van Etten at the Rail Park Benefit at Union Transfer. He recently released another single, “Gully” which promptly got remixed by Brodinski. In addition he made a mixtape for Jump Philly with DJ Sylo. Listen to the remix of “Gully” below. Get more details about the show at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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Interview: Camera Obscura on family, emotional memory, and how the Glasgow scene has supported and shaped them

Camera Obscura (photo via Facebook)
Camera Obscura (photo via Facebook)

For nearly 20 years now, Scottish rockers Camera Obscura have delighted and enchanted fans with breezy, candy-coated gems that come alive thanks to front woman Tracyanne Campbell’s gorgeous, gauzy vocals, and an undercurrent of unease. The band first made a splash in 2001, with the Stuart Murdoch-produced, John Peel-acclaimed Biggest Bluest Hi Fi—then continued to churn out albums, while at the same time refining their orchestral, summer pop.

2013 saw the release of their fifth LP, Desire Lines, as well as the birth of Campbell’s first child, Gene. Now one year later, they’re headed to the States in support of Desire Lines, and will stop by World Café Live on July 19. In advance of their show, we rung up long-time keyboard player and vocalist Carey Lander—to talk family, emotional memory, and how the Glasgow scene has supported and shaped them.

The Key: I hear that Tracyanne is bringing along baby Gene on tour. What has that been like?

Carey Lander: Well, we’re partially finding out still. We did a weekend in the UK with him, and that went fine, which is reassuring. The baby will be on the bus for the tour though, so that will be interesting. But hopefully it will be ok.

TK: Are you worried you won’t be able to have as much fun with a baby on board? Do you like to go out and party a lot when you’re on tour?

CL: Not really. We are actually very boring. Our ideal night is to stay in, get room service, and watch TV—basically to be as boring as possible. We’re not too wild.

The band
The band

TK: That actually sounds pretty nice! So to me, one of most striking things about Camera Obscura is that you guys write these beautiful pop songs, but with an undercurrent of sadness. The juxtaposition is part of what makes them so great. Is this deliberate?

CL: The misery is in our songs is always hidden because I think we’re a little bit embarrassed to reveal our pain too much. So we try and make something that sounds lovely no matter what is behind the songs. Today we were talking about what a miserable album [2009’s] My Maudlin Career is. You might not realize it if you’re just casually listening, but there’s a lot of pain in those lyrics. It’s not all downhill though. Continue reading →

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Listen / Download: “Fifth in Line to the Throne,” a new song from Camera Obscura (opening for She and Him and The Mann Center in July)

187Scottish melancholy pop five-piece Camera Obscura released another new single today from their fourthcoming 4AD Records offering Desire Lines. Unlike the jaunty lead single “Do It Again,” this one is a haunting, heartrending waltz with delicate and reverbed-out vocal harmonies a la Neko Case. From Camera Obscura singer Tracyanne Campbell:

Fifth In Line To The Throne” is a song about someone in a seemingly perfect relationship but there is a dark underside to it. We wanted to sound menacing and give folk the creeps. I believe Princess Beatrice is fifth in line by the way.

Desire Lines is out June 4th on 4AD; Camera Obscura will be in Philadelphia on July 7th opening for She and Him and the Mann Center. You can stream and download “Fifth in Line to the Throne” below.

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Just Announced: She & Him playing at The Mann Center in July

Folk pop duo She & Him – that’s M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel – are back in action this spring with Volume 3, the project’s third full length (no kidding) that’s due out on Merge Records on May 7. As of last Friday, the album was a wrap, according to M. Ward’s Twitter, and the band is promising “tempo shifts, disco grooves, string arrangements on multiple tracks, and horn flourishes” on the new material. She & Him will support the album with a spring tour that stops at The Mann Center for the Performing Arts in July, and it’s equally exciting for the opening act – Scotland indiepop band Camera Obscura, who are due for some new music themselves (their last offering was 2009′s My Maudlin Career). Tickets to the show go on sale Friday, February 15th, at noon. When She & Him was last in Philadelphia back in 2010, they recorded a session for World Cafe with David Dye. Listen back to the interview and performance here (via the WXPN media player).