Dawn Chorus #5: Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career

Dawn Chorus #5: Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career

The last Dawn Chorus of this week is here to smooth your way into the weekend with a classic album from Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career.

Artist: Camera Obscura
Album: My Maudlin Career
Label: Camera Obscura My Maudlin Career album artwork4AD
Year of release: 2009
Genre: Indiepop

There is something of a perpetual summer dusk about this record despite having lived, as it has, in our hearts for a decade now. The fourth album from Scottish indiepop royalty Camera Obscura it gives off a haze; mellow without being lazy, easy to listen to without being Easy Listening. It is, perhaps, among their finest work.

For it is a record which hears the band step up their mix of lo-fi indie and orchestrated pop with string sections, brass and more all thrown in across tracks, underlining the subtleties in the melody and lyrics below. But like felt-tip illumination of teenage diary entries these additions make innocence of the earnest nature of the record and raise the endearment you’ll feel for subject and band, rather than come across as a heavy-handed mechanism with which to steer your emotions.

As with the whole record the turning up of these elements feels carefully curated. The songs are breathlessly effortless in their listening, catchy hooks which will swim around your head for days (for years, perhaps), with an added strength to Traceyanne Campbell’s delicate vocal. But they are anything but effortless when you get to know them. These are carefully observed and catalogued moments; romances and heartache pinned like butterflies to be held in time and returned to, colour fresh feelings even as the body turns to dust beneath the gaze.

Lyrically this is most evident – the staggering mix of love and longing, cynicism and romance, is shot through every track. On ‘Honey in the Sun’ we get “When I said I didn’t love you I told a lie / For there is no-one above you / Though I try”, on ‘French Navy’ it’s “I was waiting to be struck by lightning / Waiting for someone exciting / Like you” and on both the melody punctuates these deep-felt innocent statements in a way you can’t help but be brought to pause about.

Each punchily delivered sweep of indiepop-dressed emotion is balanced by gentle ballads (‘Away With Murder’, ‘James’, ‘Forests and Sands’) to give an ebb and flow across the record to reflect the meandering of memory, the swell of feeling and the expanse of longing. Country-tinged refrains creep in to give a more down to earth tone to the grandeur of the orchestration; songs which are both huge displays and intimate portraits.

This is an album which found the band becoming comfortable with their sound, and more confident in their delivery, leaving the most lo-fi moments behind. It is long afternoons where the warmth of the sun stays in you long after it has set and after 10 years the bittersweet nature of the album has only deepened, a timeless quality to the music and the feelings it wraps itself around making it as beautiful a listen now its familiar as when it hit you for the first time.

Dawn Chorus is a week day feature sharing an album to listen to on your morning commute, the school run, or at other times with the intention of surfacing classics you might not have given time to yet, indulging in old favourites, and helping you discover the best of new releases. If you’d like to suggest an album for the feature, or contribute a guest write up on an album you think more people should hear, get in touch

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Sarah Lay

Sarah Lay is editor of Popoptica.
A long-standing music journalist she's also co-founder of independent record label Reckless Yes, an author of novels, and when not messing around with words and music, a digital strategist.
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