Saturday, March 21, 2009

Camera Obscura's Unsmiling Leader

By Evan Rytlewski
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Tracyanne Campbell's small, melancholy vocals are so dwarfed by the bright, '60s-fixated orchestral arrangements on Camera Obscura's records that it's easy to underestimate her role in the band. In concert, though, she's the clear leader of the group, the one responsible for writing these lovely songs and for tying such massive arrangements together. She is the decider, and she seems burdened by that responsibility. Unsmiling, she conducted the band's note-perfect performance yesterday at an Under The Radar-sponsored day party with unwavering stoicism, and her humorlessness made for an odd juxtaposition with the festive music. Even during clap along moments that left the audience giddy with glee, she looked a little bit like Daria at a high school pep rally.

Opening was Jason Lytle, the former Grandaddy singer. As with his old band, his solo material hints at greatness without necessarily striving for it. His smart songs may be too understated for their own good, refusing to exploit would-be big moments.

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