Camera Obscura, Georgie James | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Camera Obscura, Georgie James

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The wistful, skillfully orchestrated pop on Let's Get Out of This Country (Merge), the new disc from Scotland's CAMERA OBSCURA, would sound perfect through the green-glowing dashboard radio of a 1962 Impala--baroque but not overwrought, twee but not cutesy, it confidently appropriates vintage American sounds from Motown to Bacharach. The word "country" in the title works on a couple different levels: it refers to American country music, with its recurring theme of escape from dead-end small-town life, and the album's lyrics connect that theme to the rural ennui and stifling national culture of the band's own country. Though the songs are almost oversaturated with tasty sounds--"Tears for Affairs" hums with jazzy guitar, weepy accordion, a trickling keyboard line, and shivering castanets--the arrangements are rescued from preciousness by the vulnerable, breezily heartbroken voice of Tracyanne Campbell, who sounds like Petula Clark or a less sleepy Hope Sandoval. There are very few nods on This Country to fellow Glasgow indie heavyweights like Belle & Sebastian and Franz Ferdinand--to find a viable Scottish connection you have to go back to the tense Anglo R & B of early-80s Postcard Records acts like Orange Juice and Josef K, echoed here on the Detroit groove of "If Looks Could Kill." --J. Niimi

Q and Not U, everybody's favorite polemical D.C. disco punks, split just as they were hitting their stride, but postband projects have taken some of the sting out of the breakup--first Purple Blaze, the dreamy solo album guitarist Chris Richards cut as Ris Paul Ric, and now GEORGIE JAMES, a delightful new pop duo from drummer John Davis. On the self-released Demos at Dance Place, Davis shows off talents he's heretofore hidden under a bushel--pop songwriting chops, prowess on guitar and bass, and a plaintive, assured singing voice. The other half of Georgie James, keyboardist Laura Burhenn, sings like a more sultry Regina Spektor, and together she and Davis play an athletic, mod-leaning jangle tinged with the melodicism of English folk, their velveteen voices creating the kind of sweet harmonies you rarely hear in the indie-rock ghetto--think Ted Leo by way of Richard and Linda Thompson. Plus they add hand claps and a modest sprinkling of tambourine to the propulsive swing of Davis's drumming, cutting a path to freedom for everybody who's bored with the dance-punk scene but wants to keep dancing. Cale Parks (of Aloha and Cex) fills out the current touring lineup on drums. --Jessica Hopper

Camera Obscura headlines, Georgie James plays second, and Peter & the Wolf open. Fri 7/28, 8:30 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15. All ages.

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