Album Review: Isobel Campbell – There is No Other

Isobel Campbell’s new album There is No Other is a hushed moment of calm serenity that seeks to make sense of the noise and confusion of the world we live in. The album has been stuck in record label hell for a while, so it’s good to finally have a chance to hear new music from one of Scottish music’s best talents.

I’d like to know you, the album begins on City of Angels. The album is an open door, inviting everyone inside. Campbell’s almost childlike voice sings an effortless melody backed by a strum of a guitar, a bird singing, an echo of strings – all flowing together with a breezy lightness of touch that conjures images of California, where she now lives.

A drum machine is used to glorious effect on her cover of Tom Petty’s ‘Running Down a Dream’, letting the understated vocals transform the song from the frenetic rush of the original to a leisurely sunset drive.

Vultures is a dreamy kaleidoscope, but with a looming darkness threatening to turn the world into a nightmare. It might be about the music industry, or LA or just the society we all live in. Ant Life takes this idea further, looking at the over populated world with a weary eye, contemplating moving to the countryside to escape from the fear and rush of such an existence. Rainbow then comes as a relief – the colour and the brightness are a glimpse of hope.

We then come to the centre of the album, The Heart of It All, a beautiful ballad about unity, love, and nature. The song reminds us that everyone needs to work together for a better world. It’s fitting that the backing vocals become more prominent on the song, giving her utopian musical vision a touch of gospel style. On Hey World this continues, with her voice almost a whisper in comparison with the soulful backing refrain.

The psychedelic sixties folk influence is best heard on the latter half of the album on songs like Just For Today and Counting Fireflies. One of the highlights of the album is The National Bird of India, a pensive ode to sorrow. See Your Face Again is almost just a vignette rather a song, a moment of contemplation that fades out as soon as it fades in. If you hear certain songs from this album in isolation they may not make an impact but immerse yourself in the album as a whole and an intricate tapestry emerges.

Don’t think that just because this album is quiet means it doesn’t have something to say. Introverts are the ones we should be paying more attention to, especially in a world full of idiots that won’t stop yelling at each other. There is No Other is a welcome sigh of musical relief.

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