Tracyanne Campbell works through the death of her Camera Obscura bandmate in a new duo with Danny Coughlan | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Tracyanne Campbell works through the death of her Camera Obscura bandmate in a new duo with Danny Coughlan

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Glaswegian Tracyanne Campbell understandably retreated from playing music after her best friend and longtime bandmate in Camera Obscura Carey Lander died from bone cancer in 2015 at the age of 33. The band has been on hiatus ever since, and it’s heartening to see Campbell reemerge on a new project with Bristol singer-songwriter and fellow pop auteur Danny Coughlan (who has performed under the name Crybaby). On their debut album, Tracyanne & Danny (Merge), which features crystalline production from veteran Britpop master Edwyn Collins, Campbell’s honeyed voice is as distinct and indelible as ever, projecting a blend of classic 60s girl-group sound and 50s dream-pop through a modern, Britpop filter. The record’s most poignant track is the strolling, pedal-steel-kissed single “Alabama,” a tribute to Lander that situates inconsolable sadness within sweet memories. “But I like travelling with you and you liked it best with me / With an old southern gothic novel in my hand / You’ll always be with me,” Campbell sings. The closing track, “O’Keeffe,” celebrates the titular painter’s love affair with the southwest, but most of the album’s irresistibly hooky, elegant tunes reflect on romantic travails: “Home & Dry” meditates on the struggle to maintain excitement and ardor amid the quotidian demands of parenthood, and “It Can’t be Love Unless it Hurts” addresses familiar, unrequited feelings of desire. Coughlan is a wholly competent, nuanced singer—he brings an affecting touch of Roy Orbison to “Jacqueline”—but Campbell’s easygoing delivery is so charming, infectious, and downright pretty it’s easy to overlook his role though they spend equal time at the mike. Still, there’s no missing their chemistry and the shared aesthetic that imbues their melodies with a glow that transcends any sort of retro fetishism. It’s good to have Campbell back.   v

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