Tracyanne & Danny’s eponymous debut album couples unblinking reflections on moments in life – and love – with a wonderfully timeless sound.
Tracyanne & Danny brings together Tracyanne Campbell and Danny Coughlan. Campbell is the singer and songwriter from the much loved Glaswegian band Camera Obscura. Bristol-based Coughlan is known for his work as Crybaby and has been likened to acts such as The Smiths and Lloyd Cole. This collaboration had been on the cards since before Camera Obscura released 2013’s ‘Desire Lines’, but they didn’t properly revisit the idea until some time had passed following the death of Camera Obscura keyboardist Carey Lander. Tracyanne & Danny’s eponymous debut album (released on 25 May via Merge Records) proves that theirs is a perfect partnership of shared influences, musical styles (they’ve cited Serge Gainsbourg, The Style Council, Lou Reed, The Roches, and Dion) and masterful songwriting.
The album opens with nothing but Campbell’s distinctive honeyed vocals but, as the beat begins to tick along and the music swells underneath her, Coughlan’s voice becomes the perfect companion. ‘Home and Dry’ sets the tone for the rest of the album with its reflection on the inevitable changes that come with the passage of time and the impact this can have on a relationship. Campbell hints at the arrival of children with the lines “When all we had to think about was you and me/Before we bit the bullet and got company”.
‘It Can’t Be Love Unless It Hurts’ is the surprisingly uplifting soundtrack to a failing love – “Because the one you always want, always wanted someone else”. With its piano melody and soaring strings, it is reminiscent of a Burt Bacharach song and sounds like a contender for a film soundtrack. Richard Curtis may come calling for this one.
Lavish arrangements abound on this album but none are over-egged. It’s the lightest touches and flourishes on tracks like ‘Deep in the Night’ (sax) and ‘O’Keeffe’ (accordion) that are a testament to how well this album has been crafted. The shifting of lead vocals throughout the album also works – as they’ve said themselves, it’s not a duet album, rather a synergy.
The music and vocals may be sweet but the songwriting isn’t saccharine. Real-life experiences seem to be drawn from throughout. Campbell muses on bumping into an ex-boyfriend and his new wife while visiting a Scottish island on ‘The Honeymooners’. Coughlan sings about his adolescent infatuation with a co-worker at a plastics factory on ‘Cellophane Girl’ – “Forget tomorrow and love me tonight”.
The rawness of grief is used to best effect when it meets the swooning Americana melody on ‘2006’. The breathy repetition of “don’t” punctuating the track along with the lyrics that question the loss of a lover or friend to America results in a lump in my throat. We’ve all experienced that need for answers in order to heal that we know we may never get, despite our best efforts – “I said write to me or call me any time of the day/So insane”.
While ‘2006’ deals with grief, ‘Alabama’ is full of joy – despite coming out of loss – while retaining the vulnerability that permeates the whole album. This track is Campbell’s reflection on her late friend and bandmate Carey Lander and the warmth and love radiate out of every word and note – “I couldn’t hope for a better soul/When I’m an old lady I’ll still miss you like crazy”. Campbell calls out and responds to her own words while Edwyn Collins – who co-produced the album, which was recorded at his studio in the Scottish Highlands – provides the guest vocals. It’s a celebration of love in friendship and rejoices in precious moments shared.
This album is full-hearted and honest – both lyrically and musically. There is plenty of sentiment in the arrangements and the words but no sickly sentimentality. The reflections on life and love are often pragmatic but no less touching for that.
Time moves on, people – and relationships – move on but I hope that Tracyanne & Danny’s is a musical marriage that goes the distance.