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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Camera Obscura
Underachievers Please Try Harder
Merge Records

Rating: NR/10 ?


October 1, 2004
There are moments when you're really conscious of your own breathing - brief bursts that are either quickened or deep and very noticeable. That is to say, most of the time, you breathe without thinking. Camera Obscura's newest import is a lot like those oblivious times: it's there, and it's quietly wonderful, but most of the time you take it for granted.

While a Belle & Sebastian reference may only be a hop, skip and a jump away for these Scottish twee peddlers; I'd argue that a closer counterpart is found in the Cranberries, whose dulcet harmonies provide definite inspiration. What you will witness, however, is that the grandiose, enveloping ambiance captured in No Need to Argue is paired down immensely and traded for an early girl-group feel.

In fact, this disc is almost entirely out of time. Harkening to sugary 50s Wall of Sound pop, the most current the band allots for is in "Knee Deep at the National Pop League," which pins them around 1993, from Claire Danes's bedroom stereo in My So-Called Life.

"A Sisters Social Agony" echoes "Earth Angel" and "Sleepwalkin'" pitch for pitch, and "Number One Son" feels like a misplaced memory of Happy Days, if Pinky Tuscadero gave up her edge and went for Potsy instead of the Fonz. Much of the album is fey and pleasant, like old friends chatting on a cozy couch. It is light and melodic, and when lyrics like "fake a smile" creep in, they don't steer you astray: there is not a dark corner of the disc, it is covered in hospitality and muted shimmer.

The only jarring tracks are those that feature prominently male vocals, as in "Before You Cry" and "Your Picture", which come off as weird after such a soothing string of feminine comfort. Cross-gender relations do improve, though, on the closing "Lunar Sea," which features a shining interplay of strings and compatibility.

All in all, Underachievers Please Try Harder unfolds like a play-date or a slumber party: the simple thrill of staying up past your bedtime, sharing giggles and gossip, crushes and unsullied secrets. It doesn't move beyond its innocence, nor does it have to.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters

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