Maybe it's all the rain. Or perhaps I'm actually a melodramatic person. I suppose there's also the possibility that I have a Scottish cell or two in my bloodline. Whatever the truth may be, I can't stop listening to Camera Obscura's new album, My Maudlin Career. Songs like "The Sweetest Thing," and "Swans" are fantastic, four-minute synopses of emotional devastation. With lines like "When you're lucid you're the sweetest thing/I would trade my mother to hear you sing," it's clear that lead vocalist Tracyanne Campbell endows her lyrics with a peculiar Glaswegian sensibility, but it's the rest of the band that really elevates the music from mere pop to sheer poetry.
What I find most appealing about this quintet is that so many of their compositions involve a solitary journey: in pursuit of a feeling, to reunite with or escape from a person. Others lament being alone somewhere, or express a desire for another place, another time. We travel for lots of different reasons, reasons that occasionally change mid-trip. It's curious to me that the experience itself can often produce feelings we didn't expect to have at all.
A couple of years ago, towards the end of a ten-day trek through Thailand, I found myself standing on Hat Rai Leh underneath limestone cliffs and an inky night sky that seemed to stretch infinitely westward. The friends I was traveling with had gone to bed, tired after an afternoon spent fighting the Indian Ocean's tides. Our Asian holiday had been thoroughly enjoyable thus far, and yet as my mind drifted off with the sound of the surf breaking at my feet, I was overcome with an intense feeling of loneliness. Suddenly I longed to see the girl I'd been dating for the past six weeks. And the longer I stood there on the beach, the deeper the pit in my gut became.
I could have used Camera Obscura then. Something with swooping strings, a throbbing bass, a bright horn part, and plenty of jangly tambourine to drown my mood with noise. A song to tell me I'd been struck by lightning.