by Phil Scarisbrick
Despite the quality of her previous solo albums, Isobel Campbell has often been lazily defined by her collaborations – firstly as part of Scottish pop group, Belle & Sebastian, and latterly for the trio of albums she made with Mark Lanegan. While these works have been wonderful in their own right, the shadow that they have cast over her as a solo artist has often left it as a secondary thought. Now she is returning with There is No Other… – her first solo album in more than a decade – giving us a timely reminder that Campbell is much more than just a side act.
The record is dripping in spiritually enriching words. Its lullaby melodies accompany a brand of string-filled, folk-pop not too dissimilar to that we have become accustomed to on Father John Misty’s records – only not quite as ‘in your face’. In fact, Misty alumnus Elijah Thomson helped create the soundtrack along with multi-instrumentalist Nina Violet, Dave McGowan of Teenage Fanclub and Jim McCulloch of Soup Dragons. The results are a sweeping set of songs that do not outstay their welcome – each acting as a dreamy vignette that bleeds into the next.
Vultures is full of rich, finger-picked acoustic guitar strings, as Campbell’s hushed vocals set an evocative scene in tribute to her adopted home of Los Angeles, while The Heart of All’s swooning balladry has an infectious, gospel chorus that will stay locked in our head for days after hearing. Counting Fireflies swirls around another finger-picked guitar, with lap steel adding the subtle colour that illuminates another delicate vocal, before Below Zero builds an increased drama throughout its less than three minute length. The National Bird of India is awash with positive vibes and bright colours with gentle percussion driving the string-soaked melodies.
The bittersweet idealism of Tom Petty cover – Runnin’ Down A Dream – perfectly encapsulates the mood of the record. The melodies are rich and subtly infectious, but while not directly melancholic, there is a shadow of darkness that resides within the light. It is a record that demands repeated listens, and if you give in to these demands, the rewards are bountiful.
Secret Meeting score: 82