This is simply one of the loveliest albums you will ever hope to hear. Tracyanne Campbell and her band mates in Camera Obscura have labored under the shadow of their fellow Glasgow musicians Belle and Sebastian. It doesn't help that like Belle and Sebastian their songs are more softly edged and lyrical than most other rock bands. But although there is a superficial resemblance between the two bands, especially when Imogen Campbell takes the vocals instead of Murdoch, there are also significant differences. Campbell is a far more delicate songwriter than Stuart Murdoch and her compositions are far more delicate. She lacks his brilliant quirkiness and astonishing gift for melody, though her songs frequently feature very fine melodies. But Murdoch is probably the finest melodist in music today, so the comparison is unfair to her. On the other hand, most of Campbell's lyrics express emotions that I can relate to far more easily than Murdoch's. He may be the greater artist, but she lives pretty much where I do.
Camera Obscura turned out two very good albums before this one, but this is easily their best effort yet. All of the songs are consistently excellent and Campbell's lovely voice graces everyone. She is a remarkably subtle singer, very gifted in her phrasing and expression. But as fine as she is as a singer, she is better as a songwriter. I like a lot of the cuts on this disc, in particular "I Need All the Friends I Can Get" and the truly sad "Dory Previn," about the young Mia Farrow breaking up her and Andre Previn's marriage. But my favorite cut by far is the extraordinary "Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken," named for one of Lloyd Cole's best songs on his classic album RATTLESNAKES, "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?"
All in all, this is one of my favorite albums of the year so far. I think it will appeal strongly to anyone who loves Belle and Sebastian, but also to people who are drawn to Mazzy Star. The album possesses much of the same wistfulness and longing found on their albums. Basically, if you love wonderfully subtle and magnificently fragile music, this is going to win your heart.