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“Look to the East, Look to the West” is yet another stunner from Scotland Camera Obscura


Camera Obscura have been one of my favorite bands for a long time now. My parents were into them and had a lot of their CDs, which became mine and stayed in heavy, heavy rotation throughout my late teens and early twenties. My Maudlin Career, Let’s Get Out of This Country, Biggest Blues Hi-Fi, and Underachievers Please Try Harder are some of my favorite records of all time and I revisit them frequently.

Songwriter and vocalist Tracyanne Campbell has one of my favorite voices, and she’s one of the best storytellers and writers about love that we’ve got, in my opinion. Look to the East, Look to the West, their fantastic new record out on Merge, sits right up there with their finest work. Tinged with their regular blend of rich, soulful pop, Look to the East, Look to the West is Camera Obscura at their best, reinvigorated after some time away from the spotlight and full of all of the hauntingly beautiful hooks, melodies, and musings on life and love that fans have come to ardently adore.

Libery Print” kicks things off, and wastes no time getting its hooks in you. It eases in overtop drums that sound like they’ve been programmed on a Roland before transitioning into a more rocking, undeniably Camera Obscura feel. It picks up the pace and becomes an anthemic banger. “We’re Gonna Make It In a Man’s World” is one of the catchiest earworms on the album, and perfectly showcases Campbell’s lyrical talent and penchant for crafting wonderfully rich pop vignettes, as she remarks upon the reality of navigating the music industry as a woman.

There’s a bit of a honky tonk, shuffling country feel to “The Light Nights,” and a twangy Nashville feel to a lot of the guitars. “Big Love” starts off as a stomper, with pedal steel guitar giving it an anthemic feel, before ending on a fun, jammy note. Gorgeous piano flurries punctuate “Only a Dream,” one of the more ballad-y songs on the record, alongside “Sleepwalking” and the emotional “Sugar Almond”. “Baby Huey,” “Denon,” and “Pop Goes Pop” all bring an upbeat energy, with “Pop Goes Pop” in particular being one of the highlights of the record.

Look to the East, Look to the West is just another confirmation that Campbell and Co. are true pop magicians still operating at the tip-top of their game. Camera Obscura have crafted a catalog of songs that their fans don’t just like; they love. Songs that soundtrack periods of your life, like they’ve done for me. They’ve been kind enough to give us 11 more, and for that, I’m thankful.

Photo by Robert Perry, courtesy of the artist

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