Camera Obscura – Let’s Get Out of This Country

Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country (2006)

Camera Obscura – Let’s Get Out of This Country (2006)

Let’s Get Out of This Country was one of the last albums I picked up based on personalized recommendations before I abandoned my paid subscription to LastFM about two years ago in favor of independent radio. I remember it was a time when I was merely starting to realize the vast unexplored territory ahead of me, thanks to bands like Camera Obscura and The Postmarks just to name a few. To this day I still regard this album as one of the first few albums that opened the door for me to new and exciting experiences.

I believe that the vintage sound of Camera Obscura has the advantage of becoming an instant nostalgic memory even if you’ve never heard it before. It’s not the only thing going on for them of course, but that being the trademark on their sound I wanted to get that out of the way first. For me it was a nice discovery in the middle of a sea of indie bands sounding pretty much the same (I was a newcomer back then and everything was pretty much the same for my uneducated ear), and even though some might argue that this kind of approach is just a gimmick I’m confident that the sound as a concept becomes secondary once you discover the real intentions and the meaning behind the music.

But beyond technicalities and sound discussions, I must confess that I wanted to talk about this album after all this time because I just love how honest and down to earth the songs are. The lyrics are never trying to drag you out of your mind and into bizarre and unknown worlds, they are actually pretty much ordinary and mundane stuff, and that honesty makes you really make an emotional connection based on your own experiences being mirrored on this enjoyable tunes. Let’s Get Out of This Country thus becomes a collection of mostly love and broken heart songs, and even though that might sound like a depressing formula to some folks, the interesting thing is that this album does that in a somewhat ironic yet surprisingly bright way… and those are some ingredients that you don’t usually see mixed every day.

And without much fanfare you end up being absorbed into this concept. The best part is that you realize you’re lost with no chance of going back once the songs start to cycle and instead of becoming something repetitive you discover you’re enjoying them even more than the last time. I have yet to discover a song that I really dislike from this album, and I’m starting to suspect that it is not going to happen, and even though a good amount of the tracks are discrete to say the least, each and every one contributes to create a solid experience. Sure, there are a few moments here and there that will caught your ear more than the rest, and yes, you can select one or two favorites and stay with them for the most part, but I’m sure you would be missing a lot if you just do that.

When you reach that moment when you believe you know this album inside out, I dare you to stop listening to it in the traditional way and start a whole new adventure by trying to discover new details and aspects you didn’t knew were there. I wouldn’t recommend that with many albums, since most of the time you just want to listen to your favorite tracks and listening the rest is an enormous sacrifice… Let’s Get Out of This Country is one of those cases where you can actually enjoy it from start to finish.


Vargo – Beauty

Vargo - Beauty (2004)

Vargo – Beauty (2004)

I don’t have a problem when an album tends to drift through a romantic note for the most part of it… Such albums are not my cup of tea, but this one had a little something going on, and certainly it is a major shock when said album comes from Germany. I always had a hard time trying to understand Vargo’s Beauty, simply because the last place you would expect an album with such characteristics would be Germany. Now, prejudice and bias aside, let me try to make it some justice, because I believe it deserves it.

Ok, maybe I’m being a little bit unfair here. It’s not like Germans don’t have a right to have an album charged with happy vibes and nice feelings, actually I’m still surprised at how good this album is, and the wide range of emotions it portrays. It worried me a little bit at the beginning the fact that 85% of the tracks (12 out of 14) are a mix of some sort, and it was not until some time later that I learned that Vargo had one successful hit (Get Back to Serenity), and then spend a couple of years assembling this compilation of songs that would of course include said track. That explains all of the bizarre mix titles, I guess…

The fact that this album is a compilation disrupts any kind of continuity you would expect in a normal studio album. One minute you are listening to some reggae /electronic influenced track, and the next you are busy with an ambient one. It isn’t as bad as it sounds though, is just that you might find yourself lacking that feeling of unity and cohesion that an album usually has. That being said, I don’t want you to believe that this album is a collage of completely unrelated songs, I just want you to expect a few subtle changes of pace through it.

Beauty never attempts to disguise its completely electronic nature. There are a few tweaks and some experimentation, thanks to the freedom a mix compilation gives you, but once you’ve heard the first couple of tracks you can be sure that the rest of the album won’t fall far away from that. Once you get past style conventions though, you will be greeted by some really warm and surprisingly refreshing moments, which is what caught me off guard at the beginning.

Maybe I’ve been exposed for far too long to the well-known electronic / chill out / ambient formula that it is a little bit difficult for me to accept the fact that there can be some really emotional moments buried under the formalities that the genre implies. Last time I experimented something like this was with a Worldwide Groove Corporation album, and even there I had some paradigms to break before fully embracing this approach to the genre. Once you overcome that, you stop thinking of albums such as Beauty as the same sound and formula recycled over and over again and you start to finally uncover the secrets that lies beneath.

My stint with Beauty wasn’t that long, probably less than a year since I got it, but it surely was more than enough to get myself used to it and feeling comfortable talking about it. Considering the fact that usually it takes me way, way longer than that before I can start thinking about talking about an album, I believe that it’s safe to say that we have some easy listening material in front of us. Not in a degrading way of course, just letting you know that whenever you want some chill out vibes with some nice female vocals on the side you can always pick this up and enjoy it right away. It won’t be a complicated and puzzling experience, that’s for sure, so you can just relax and enjoy it.


The Music Hideout: Now with more samples!

A good old friend of mine told me once that it would be a lot easier to understand my boring reviews if there were at least a couple of samples to listen every time there is a new review. I’m a little slow sometimes, and while I’m well aware of the extra job it represents, I’m doing an effort to upload a couple of samples for every review I do.

Nothing flashy, just a couple of tracks I enjoy from the album being reviewed. Also I’m planning on doing this backwards, which means uploading a couple of tracks for each one of the about 50+ reviews I’ve done during this adventure. It will take me some time to catch up on all of my past reviews, that’s for sure, but hopefully it will help to shed some light on those folks who are looking for some tunes that can go along with the reviews.

Thanks for reading… and now listening 🙂

Loquat – It’s Yours to Keep

Loquat - It's Yours To Keep (2005)

Loquat – It’s Yours To Keep (2005)

One of the earlier drafts of my review for this album included an odd comparison between Loquat and some sort of americanized version of Morcheeba. I wrote it ages ago, probably more than a year ago actually… and I discarded it immediately. It’s funny how much your impression of an album can change granted you give it enough time, and that’s pretty much what happened with It’s Yours to Keep.

It’s Yours to Keep blends pop, electronic and trip hop influences under a single package, and the end result is this trip hop / dream pop hybrid that combines the best of both worlds. I know, trip hop and dream pop are pretty much like siblings, and sometimes is difficult to tell one from the other, but think of this as a trip hop influenced dream pop album. It works better that way than the other way around, trust me.

At the beginning I was caught off guard, I honestly wasn’t expecting much of what I found here. And it was not an issue of expectations, the few tracks I’ve had listened before getting the full album were superb, but were going for a completely different attitude and tempo than the rest of tracks that were awaiting for me here. I was pretty much exposed only to the downtempo / trip hop dominant parts of their music, and wasn’t even aware of how versatile they can prove to be. It’s an awesome feeling, and certainly my intention is not to spoil this to everyone willing to listen to Loquat, I’m just trying to let anyone interested know that there’s more than a few melancholic trip hop songs here.

My surprise was even bigger when I found out that not only the music sounds good, the lyrics are awesome too. Sometimes we tend to focus too much on the execution of the idea that we forget to pay any attention to what should matter the most, and that is the idea itself. I’m still not sure if I fully get what Loquat’s music is all about (lyrically speaking), but it seems to me that there’s really a story behind most of the tracks, and even though I can’t say that I can see myself on all of them, my opinion of this album as a whole changed completely. Now these tracks seem more personal to me, and not personal in a sense of false self-appropriation, personal because I reckon they come from someone’s experiences, and to me they become just that… honest music, an honest attempt at recreate someone’s experiences through music we all can somehow relate.

Maybe all of the previous surprises made this album a little bit more difficult for me to understand, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes we want the experience to be as straightforward as possible, and we tend to discard those who aren’t… which in this case would have been truly a shame. I’m not suggesting that It’s Yours to Keep is a specially difficult album, it’s the complete opposite actually, it just doesn’t follow a linear path in order to deliver its cargo. And when it finally delivers it… I hope you’re ready.

I’ve noticed that I’ve grown fond of the San Francisco music scene in the past 3 or 4 years, thanks in no smaller part to the folks responsible for bringing SomaFM to the world. Loquat was one of the nicest discoveries I’ve made while exploring the always vast trip hop territory, and while not completely trip hop in nature, this album makes a very nice and subtle transition from electronic influenced pop and trip hop to a more elaborated dream pop experience.