tue 07/07/2020

Album: Isobel Campbell - There Is No Other | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Isobel Campbell - There Is No Other

Album: Isobel Campbell - There Is No Other

Too-deliberate return from former Belle & Sebastian mainstay and Mark Lanegan collaborator

Isobel Campbell’s 'There Is No Other': tasteful

There Is No Other’s third track “Vultures” is about Isobel Campbell’s adopted city Los Angeles and the music business. Instead of assuming a hard-edged tone the song is crystalline, reflecting on “vultures, circling round… tall trees reaching so high, guarded question… tall trees don’t fade away with your ego…  everybody got opinions.” Ironically, “Vultures” was recorded without knowing what was coming next.

The first solo album in 14 years from the former Belle & Sebastian mainstay and Mark Lanegan collaborator was completed after signing with a new label in 2014: an imprint which then shut down, after which it took three years to get the rights to issue There Is No Other. And, even more gallingly, in 2019 Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi issued an album with the same title.

Campbell’s acoustic-bedded, glistening There Is No Other does not say where she is now but instead is perhaps belatedly released evidence of coming into the light following 2013’s dissolution of the partnership with Lanegan. “The Heart of it All” (where she sings “We poison the ocean, we frack the earth”) is lilting gospel-edged country, while “Rainbow” draws from bossa nova. Overall, the effect is of Nick Drake merged with Bobbie Gentry. The exceptions are an electro-edged version of Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream” and moments of full-bore Aretha Franklin wailing on “Hey World”. Otherwise the atmosphere is wistful, with Campbell’s close-miked, intimate voice intertwined with Hammond organ, strings, vibes and the odd oboe.

As tasteful as this is, the songs do not linger. Many are built around repeatedly restated short melodies or guitar figures. In “Ant Life” and “Rainbow”, the very clipped acoustic guitar phrasing suggests it’s a loop rather than real-time playing. Ultimately, There Is No Other is too deliberate to hit home.

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