Camera Obscura Let’s Get Out of This Country

[Merge; 2004]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: indie pop, chamber pop
Others: Belle & Sebastian, The Concretes, The Clientele

Do you think reviews of this record have more references to Belle & Sebastian or more references to other reviews having references to Belle & Sebastian? (How meta was that?) That being said, when I heard The Life Pursuit was going to be more pop-y, I got pretty amped. I was never one for Belle & Sebastian's sad bastard music, and while "Your Cover's Blown" was choice, it did feel like a one-off. So I was hoping they'd build on the magic of that song and create what, in my head, was going to be one of the best albums of the year. Unfortunately, B&S dropped the ball and created a lackluster affair that sounded way too forced, at least to my ears. Thankfully, fellow-statesmen Camera Obscura were there to pick up the slack with Let's Get Out of This Country.

It'd be kind of stupid for me to say that it's a shame that Camera Obscura always have their records compared to Belle & Sebastian's, considering I just spent a paragraph doing exactly that. (And I'm about to do it some more.) But where previous reviews were usually along the lines of, "They're good, but they're no B&S," I'm saying that's a good thing after the disappointment of The Life Pursuit. Let's Get Out of This Country does what that record couldn't do and finds the perfect middle-ground between the pop and sad bastard tunes. Just listen to "Razzle Dazzle Rose" or "Country Mile" and you'll hear what I mean.

"Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken" is an effortless, breezy pop gem perfect for mid-day drives with the windows down and became one of my favorite jams of the summer the first time I heard it. And while "Lloyd..." and "If Looks Could Kill" (which approximates what Motown might sound like today, if it was still putting out relevant music) say, "Yeah, we can do this," the rest of the album says, "But we don't have to." Songs like "Come Back Margaret" and "I Need All the Friends I Can Get" pack just as much of a pop wallop as anything their contemporaries have put out, but they're helped by the restraint the band affords them. Really, that's the key to a good pop song. Almost anyone can create a gem that shoves its saccharine overload down your throat, but it takes skill to hold back and craft something the listener has to invest in, which ultimately creates a much more rewarding experience. Let's Get Out of This Country does just that; by not being as immediate as other "indie-pop," the listener has to give a little back to fully appreciate what the album has to offer.

I can't figure out a decent way to end this, so I'll go out like Reading Rainbow. If you're looking for a good pop record that, if you're willing to spend a little time with, will definitely work its way into steady rotation, pick up Let's Get Out of This Country. If you're just looking for a quick-fix, look somewhere else.

1. Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken
2. Tears for Affairs
3. Come Back Margaret
4. Dory Previn
5. The False Contender
6. Let's Get out of This Country
7. Country Mile
8. If Looks Could Kill
9. I Need All the Friends I Can Get
10. Razzle Dazzle Rose