The cover of Camera Obscura's third and best album, Let's Get Out of This Country, is the perfect embodiment of both the band's aesthetic and principal songwriter Tracyanne Campbell's lyrical bent. After all, it's a shot of a girl named Petra, a friend of the band, sitting in a green, V-cut dress, her elbows tucked under her chin and obscuring her bodice. A bouquet of flowers sits beneath her elbows. She's beautiful, a patrician elegance refined by traces of lipstick and blush, painting her ready for love. That calm beauty seems addled, though -- scared by something coming through the next frame, barely hidden from the audience. Such is the unsettling allure of Campbell and Camera Obscura.
The band makes gorgeous pop not far removed from that of Glasgow peers Belle & Sebastian, and it sports a Petralike, decades-old charm -- Phil Spector's swells, the Everly Brothers' ease, Swedish-pop likeability. But Campbell's voice and melodic gift perfectly convey Petra's complexity: immaculate, stunning, even quietly rapturous, but obviously anxious about the world's offering. It's a great gift, indeed -- she's one of the best popsmiths working today.