Monday, May 4, 2009

Phil Spector's Ghost In the Machine

My Maudlin Career
Camera Obscura

Music takes time to digest. Great music often hits you as less-than-stellar the first time around. Many of my favourite albums were cast aside on cursory listening, because, well, it just takes a while. Because I am not actually a music critic, I do not get advances, and so I can only stay so current without jumping the gun on making a decision. I've leapt the queue a bit to bring you this review of Camera Obscura's latest, which just came out in the last week or two. I'm a bit hesitant to "cast judgment" on it as it is now, but I think I have a fair grasp of my feelings.

First of all, what a fabulous name for a band. I wanted to say that. And what a fabulous name for an album. Okay, we've at least established that this is a band which possess a way with titles. Moving on.

The sound they've created, lifted straight from Phil Spector's Guide to Production, is nothing if not expert. It's a pastiche of the 1960's, and the sound is so fully formed that it could carry a lackluster record all on its own; it doesn't quite have to do that here. I wouldn't go so far as to say My Maudlin Career is a great record, but it has its moments. Opening song "French Navy" is one of the best things I've heard this year, and the lesser moments are carried through by that sound. The problem comes when hooks pop up that you could have sworn you've heard before. Not ones that are eerily familiar, and feel like they've always been around; that's a hallmark of greatness. No, I mean hooks that seem to show up twice within the same album. If they don't, they come too close to redundancy for comfort. The unfortunate side-effect of having such a well-developed sound is your songs can get trapped within its confines. Camera Obscura have a great sound, but it's also a limiting one.

Grade: B+

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