I first heard Camera Obscura on an indiepop compilation, from which I made the often-drawn comparison with that other Glasgow-based band, Belle & Sebastian. At their indiepoppiest, both bands really did sound like his-and-hers counterparts, both keeping their tunes small, soft, and contained without losing the catchy sweet melodies that define the genre. From those beginnings, Camera Obscura has stretched outside their chamber pop roots, adding sweeping folk-rock and country twang to their repertoire in subsequent albums.

Their latest album, My Maudlin Career, which is out on April 20 on 4AD, may kick off with ‘French Navy’, a song as danceable as anything Camera Obscura has produced in the past, but by the middle of the record we find singer/songwriter Tracyanne Campbell at her most melancholy. From the spare folk of ‘James’ to the country ballad ‘Forest and Sands’, Campbell appears to be in no short supply of ways to lament lost loves. At first, this put me off of My Maudlin Career, since I’ve always been a bigger fan of the poppier side of the band and found the transition between the few upbeat songs and more mournful tracks jarring. After a few listens, I grew to appreciate Campbell’s sincerely wistful ballads, if only for the fact that they show yet another facet to the band’s ability to skip genres while maintaining a unified sound, one that distinguishes Camera Obscura from Belle & Sebastian.

I would probably still play Let’s Get Out of This Country or another earlier Camera Obscura album if I was in the mood for an indiepop fix, but I can appreciate listening to their latest outing in a more, well, maudlin moment.

Camera Obscura – French Navy
Camera Obscura – Forest and Sands

Bonus round: Is she saying “like a river in Toronto” in the chorus of ‘Forest and Sands’? If so, there’s a Canadian connection!

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— , April 1, 2009    9 Comments
Comments:

I think I’m with you. Let’s Get Out of This Country is definitely their most concise and accomplished album to date, but the best singles are all on the first couple of albums.

Daniel, April 1, 2009

i just saw them in Brooklyn, and Tracy Anne said Forest and Sand is about touring, so it’s quite possible that she is referring to Toronto in there.

— Alex, April 1, 2009

I wonder if she’s revering to the Don River or the Humber River… or possibly the Rouge River

— Trevor, April 1, 2009

*referring, that is. haha, whoops.

— Trevor, April 1, 2009

I was just listening to the song, for the first time, yesterday night and could have sworn I heard her say ‘Toronto’, but though to myself that it wasn’t possible. HOWEVER, I vaguely remember Tracy Anne saying something about having written a new track during their stay, last time I saw them at the Opera House (I think it was there…). Either way, I’m going to pretend that she says Toronto.

Of what I’ve heard, I don’t feel that there’s been as much growth between Let’s Get Out and Maudlin Career as there was between Underachievers and Let’s Get Out… but either way, you can’t beat these sweet pop sounds.

— Sal, April 1, 2009

i am so excited to see them live this summer. yay!

— dona, April 1, 2009

I found this post by Googling “river in Toronto” while trying to find lyrics for this song.. glad to hear I’m not alone. :)

Looking forward to the show on my birthday!

— Derek, April 3, 2009

I was wondering about the Toronto reference too and came here :)

colene, April 14, 2009

I hope I’ve got it right.. Some lines are a bit hard to figure out.. TracyAnne paying tribute to Liz Fraser on Camera’s 4AD debut, perhaps?

I’m in a van,
And you’re holding my hand
And you were travelling with me through forest and sands

I’ve been ever so needy learning your language
And you’ve been taking full advantage, haven’t you?
Oh, don’t say it’s true

I’ve been so afraid,
I’m a sadness again
And we kissed once, even that was the last

I know I need more than given
Moments and sentimental stories
Words only spoken seemingly
That I’m warming your heart that way

Oh, it feels like none of this is real
I’ll pretend that my heart and my head are well
But if the blood pumping through my veins could freeze,
Like a river in Toronto,
Then I’d bleed please,
You said I made you feel warm, said I made you feel warm inside

Oh, it feels like none of this is real
I’ll pretend that my heart and my head are well
But if the blood pumping through my veins could freeze,
Like a river in Toronto,
Then I’d bleed please,
You said I made you feel warm, said I made you feel warm inside

It feels like none of this is real
I’ll pretend that my heart and my head are well
But if the blood pumping through my veins could freeze,
Like a river in Toronto,
Then I’d bleed please,
You said I made you feel warm, said I made you feel warm inside

— fuzz, April 18, 2009