And the award for most-improved artist of 2006 goes to… Camera Obscura. For the longest time, the band couldn't release an album without getting compared to its fellow Glaswegian outfit Belle And Sebastian. And it didn't help that they sounded an awful lot like Belle And Sebastian with a female vocalist (or, more accurately, with a better Isobel Campbell) and dealt in the same '60s reference points. A decade is a long time to labor in the shadows, so maybe that's why the band—now a six-piece after losing a founding member—lit out for Sweden to record its aptly titled third album, Let's Get Out Of This Country, with producer Jari Haapalainen.
The change clearly did Camera Obscura good. It sounds looser, sharper, and more adventurous, rolling out the best horn-burnished retro-pop it's ever produced alongside curveballs like the country weeper "Dory Previn." Singer Tracyanne Campbell sounds more winning than ever, whether inviting romantic disaster on "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken" ("You can't stare at girls while holding a boy's hand") or turning an afternoon's escape into a personal referendum on the title track ("We'll find a cathedral where you can convince me that I'm pretty.") The name of Camera Obscura's last album: Underachievers Please Try Harder. Done.