tue 25/06/2024

Album: Isobel Campbell - Bow to Love | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Isobel Campbell - Bow to Love

Album: Isobel Campbell - Bow to Love

The Scottish singer's latest is woozy, ultra laidback and sometimes delicious

Heading down the kaleidoscope of mellowness

Isobel Campbell has maintained a consistent career on the fringes of popular music for three decades. She's made a home in the area where indie, folk, rock and BBC 6Music merge.

Aside from her 1990s involvement with Belle and Sebastian, she’s best-known for her trio of albums with the late Mark Lanegan, her gracefulness and crafted precision working well against his gruff world weariness. Following that, she was scuppered for a while by legal label entanglements, but since 2020 has been up and at ‘em again, following her own path. The best word for her latest album is “shimmering”; 13 head-songs of opiated float-music, smeared to an often delicious gentleness.

The Glaswegian singer-songwriter and cellist utilises a voice that’s almost not there, whispery yet intimate, enunciated clearly, up close to the mic. Around her and the revolving guitar patterns the production is crisp yet woozy. Even when she’s pondering Brexit on “Keep Calm Carry On”, or fiercely (for her) singing “Quit stepping on my heart, you son-of-a-bitch” on “Everything Falls Apart”, the tone is horizontal, late night, kind of blissed, even when it’s sad.

One stand-out is “You”, a truly lovely song, but much of the more interesting material plunges beyond sleepiness into a kind of dream state, as on the pulsing kosmische of “4316”, which focuses on our relationship with technology, or the humming tone-music round song “Take This Poison”. Another highlight is “Do or Die”, although I confess this may be because she takes Yoda’s gnomic “Do or do not – there is no try” and runs with it. For those who want to head further down this hippy avenue, there’s even a cut called “Om Shanti Om”.

Tonally, something about it recalls Lou Reed at his most laid back. Not sure why, as it sounds nothing like him. Campbell is closer to a hazed-out kin of Dot Allison or Beth Orton. Wherever she’s going, this is a quietly likeable addition to her canon.

Below: Listen to "Everything Falls Apart" by Isobel Campbell

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