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A dark sound with Camera Obscura

BY ERIC ANDERSEN | APRIL 01, 2010 7:30 AM

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mp3 sample: Camera Obscura

"My Maudlin Career"

The members of Camera Obscura make their living writing emotional songs about finding love, relationships gone wrong, and the fear of being alone.

You would think the Glasgow, Scotland, musicians would be a little happier after the critical success of 2006’s Let’s Get Out of This Country (which landed on Pitchfork Media’s almost the end of the decade list), but the recent follow-up album, My Maudlin Career, is arguably the band’s darkest yet.

Maybe it’s the weather.

“Glasgow is rainy, and people are kind of unfriendly until you talk to them,” keyboardist Carey Lander, 38, said in a soft accent. “Americans are much more instantly polite, but I think you find people who are like you all over the world.”

While the motivation behind the emotionally heavy music may be a mystery, Camera Obscura’s knack for creating its own blend of indie pop is not. The group is preparing to play festival shows for the first time in the United States, starting in Iowa City.

The band will play its melancholic music at the Blue Moose Tap House, 211 Iowa Ave., at 6 p.m. Saturday, in an all-ages show, with California rock act Princeton opening. The concert is a part of the Mission Creek Festival, which will draw to a close that same day.

The band maintains a steady following in America that is unmatched in the UK or, more specifically, its home, Scotland. Lander said she isn’t sure if it’s the message that better connects with audiences in the States or if it’s just the style of music, but the band sells here.

“I think the lead singer [Tracyanne Campbell] has a really pretty voice, and [the group members] have kind of a softer sound, but I feel like their music builds a lot too,” said UI student Amy Bernhard, 22. “They really fit any sort of mood.”

My Maudlin Career — which Lander said is a play on the words “my modeling career” — sees the band experimenting with its signature sound, which she thinks has become something more than just traditional indie-pop or a throwback music.

Even though the group’s sound often comes across as “quite bleak,” she said, the live shows are a bit more energetic.

“I think our music comes across as being depressing in the recordings, but live, it’s a little different,” Lander said. “We have to keep things, well, lively, or people won’t be as interested.”

The keyboardist said one way the band does this is through the clothes the members wear on stage, which have a stylish, retro feel to them — like something that might come out of the ’50s.

However, once the band gets off the stage, she said, there is not much glamour to be found at all. Maybe this helps keep the musicians in the mindset for the next album.

“We’re quite unsociable, generally. Everybody sort of tries to crawl back to her or his bit of personal space and read a book or go on the computer or whatever,” Lander said. “I suppose we have fun together once in a while.”


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