Isobel Campbell – There Is No Other
Isobel Campbell's first solo album in 14 years is a gentle masterpiece
There's a story behind Isobel Campbell's first solo material in 14 years: her record company closed and it took Campbell a year to take back the rights to her album, before another couple of years passed as she signed to Cooking Vinyl and waited for the legalities to be completed.
"It felt like I’d retired or was in prison," she has said. "But if you’re lucky to live long enough, there are always going to be peaks and troughs." There Is No Other is a career peak. A record full of shimmering indie folk and shaky synths, its wobbles lull you into a false sense of security that all is right in the world it was made. But, lean in closer, and you can hear the hard miles travelled in the making of this lilting and lullaby-dominated music. Standout song The Heart of It All is the country soul classic fans of her collaborations with Americana hero Mark Lanegan knew she had in her, with its perpetual motion and heavenly harmonies.
Those hard miles can also be heard in the clipped electric guitars and stacked Staples-esque vocals of Hey World, while The National Bird of India fades in on swooping string sounds, Campbell whispering her secrets in your ear. It's not all warm and tender love, however, as the taut and tough Below Zero reveals when Campbell sings 'Tired of all the bullshit / Playing nice / Shadow boxing / Skating on thin ice' over a twisted acoustic guitar figure and strings that bring to mind Beck's magnificent Morning Phase. There Is No Other is a similar, gentle masterpiece, but there's leather located behind the silk and the record packs an emotional punch.
'Behind every beautiful thing, there's been some kind of pain,' Bob Dylan sang on 1997's Not Dark Yet. He must have had an advanced copy of this record.
Listen to: The Heart of It All, Hey World, The National Bird of India