Isobel Campbell – There is No Other
Founding member of Glasgow twee indie pop outfit Belle & Sebastian, Isobel Campbell became better known for working with ex-Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan. Her gentle glowing vocals are the light and perfect foil to the dark gritty shade of Lanegan’s gruff vocal. There Is No There is her first solo release in 14 years.
The album kicks off with a paean to Campbell’s new hometown of LA in City of Angels. The song is a dusky homage, laden with strings and atmospheric oboe. It is not an out and out tribute to her love of the city, more a voyage of discovery. “I’d like to know you, maybe I will grow to”. On reaching its quiet climax, an unexpected synth heavy cover of Tom Petty’s Runnin’ Down a Dream takes over and is both surprising and delightful.
Campbell’s vocal is instantly recognisable, maintaining its delicate sylphlike quality throughout the album, creating a dreamlike state and hypnotising the listener. In certain places you go in life, you may hear music like this in the background, trying to create a calming ambiance in the space. I for one am not a fan of background music. If an artist has made the effort to record their music, it should be listened to front and centre, deserving of all your focus and attention. Even if that means that sometimes the music is so soothing it envelops you entirely, drawing you into a trance like state absorbed entirely by the unpretentious beauty of the music. Vultures & album closer Below Zero are perfect examples of those types of tunes.
For me though, the album’s highlights are slap bang in the middle. For someone who isn’t at all religious both The Heart of it All and Hey World had a strangely spiritual effect on me. The chiming guitars on The Heart of it All and the gloriously divine backing vocals may have something to do with it. Those heavenly backing vocals continue into Hey World, framing Campbell’s otherworldly voice perfectly, before layered instrumentation builds and rises with the intoxicating backing vocals to a vibrant crescendo.
A tender work of great beauty and peaceful elegance.
Isobel Campbell website