No long-winded review this week. Lucky you. I’ve been busting my chops on a complex new screenplay so full of twists and plot mechanics it’s got me a little crazy. It’s spooky and dark and full of reflections on the past and history repeating itself, perhaps inevitably. As you can tell, not really summertime stuff.
Which is why tonight I’m tranquilizing my body and my nerves (but not my mind) with Tracyanne Campbell’s lilting brogue through the ten tracks of Let’s Get Out of this Country.
Few albums full of heartbreak, unrequited love, yearning, loss, and rueful ruminations on loneliness and aging are as joyous as this. With its full production by Swedish engineer Jari Haapalainen, you can hear every fluttering heartbeat, every swooning breast, every disappointed sigh in the melodious orchestral strings that situate and dress almost every track like the elegant salad propping up a lump of succulent crabmeat--always perfectly suited and never overwhelming, a visceral extension, rather than a showy augmentation, of the intent of each song.
The songs themselves have a charmingly retro feel, from 80s English pop to honky-tonk country to lush 60s-era teen-beat power pop courtesy of Lesley Gore, Skeeter Davis, or Francoise Hardy.
All the arrangements and sound design have a dense brown-hued, wood-panelled timbre, full of vibrato and buzzing reverb, as though played through the warm, crunchy amplifiers of a gymnasium sock-hop or American Bandstand performance stage. You can almost hear (and easily picture) the shy, bespectacled teenage girls swooning in their Mary Janes in the audience.
The lyrics by lead singer/belle dame Tracyanne Campbell, surely one of the very finest songwriters, male or female, making new music today, manage to be both deeply sincere and emotional naked, and also humorously sarcastic and knowing, even including a few responses to other songs by previous artists (to Lloyd Cole on the lead-off track, “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken” and to Dory Previn’s 1973 classic, “Beware of Young Girls” on the song “Dory Previn.”)
This is a summertime record, par excellence. Infectious, engaging, profound yet radiant in its sincerity, its emotion, its energy and its craft. Just buy it and listen for yourself. Or else put it on again from start to finish and time it so “Razzle Dazzle Rose,” the breathtaking, transcendent closer, comes on at sunset.
On that note, I have to tell you an interesting fact about this record I discovered with my good buddy, Chris Bean, formerly of San Francisco, currently of Austin and always of Chattanooga, Tennessee. By accident one late summer evening a couple of years ago, after several bottles of nice wine—can’t remember what now, but I know a Rose was involved-- we found that if you sync this record with the wondrous bird documentary Winged Migration, starting with Side B, not Side A, and beginning the music just as the first duck pads down the runway, you have one of the most perfect, perfectly delightful soundtracks in cinema history. It must be experienced to be understood. "Razzle Dazzle Rose" never reached such heights, literally.
Give it a try. And if you’re in Austin, buy Chris a beer on the 28th. And if things get real lively and you get him good and sauced (not an easy task), sit him down in front of a big TV, cue up Winged Migration and start this album at track #6.
Make sure you play it as loud as possible, too. With all the windows wide open.
CAMERA OBSCURA LET'S GET OUT OF THIS COUNTRY, 2006, Merge Records