Camera Obscura

Underachievers Please Try Harder (Merge)

The warm-and-fuzzy Glaswegian band Camera Obscura probably inspires lots of memories of lazy summers spent strolling through sunflower fields in the burnt-out survivors of the 1960s. Like their mates Belle & Sebastian (whose front man Stuart Murdoch helped produce the band's 2001 debut, Biggest Blue Hi-Fi), they strum guitars gingerly and sing softly about the quiet vagaries of love, encasing their sensitive sounds in a sweet haze of reverb and organ ooze. Since my parents couldn't stroll through sunflower fields in the '60s without their parents' permission, Underachievers Please Try Harder reminds me of more recent times: my stint DJing at Northwestern University's well-respected WNUR, a station where any record featuring someone wearing a cardigan sweater or a woolen overcoat on the cover was rewarded with serious airtime. The slight-but-pleasant songs here fall firmly in the cozy indie-pop tradition those seven-inch sleeves implied. "I love you, baby," singer/guitarist Tracyanne Campbell promises reassuringly in her everywimp alto in "Before You Cry." "Oh, please don't hate me." Then the distant whine of a slide guitar reasserts the music's cottony phantom power, taking you back five or 15 or 30 years, to wherever you need it to. "You're feeling a little sad tonight, but you'll be all right."

 
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