Former Belle & Sebastian member Isobel Campbell's first album under her own name is very similar to the two albums she recorded as the Gentle Waves. The same autumnal melancholy pervades the songs, the same delicate beauty exists in the arrangements, the same tender emotions are on display lyrically, and Campbell's voice is still a fragile wisp barely able to stay afloat above the sad sawing of the strings. What has changed is the scale of the record: it is really quite grand, with a seeming cast of thousands helping to make the record achingly lush and romantic. The entire disc is flooded with cinematic strings, giving it the feel of a pastoral epic, much like Nick Drake if he were happy or Donovan if he were less happy. Very British and very good. The arrangements are always inventive and dramatic, and it sounds like she also has been listening to some jazz records, because many of the songs have a swinging continental jazz feeling with lots of groovy piano work and bubbling standup bass. Tracks like "Song for Baby" and "October's Sky" are for all intents and purposes straight-up chamber jazz. Good and inventive chamber jazz, even. Campbell also throws in a few surprises, like the wacky Dixieland of "The Cat's Pyjamas" and the Getz/Gilberto-sampling "The Breeze Whispered Your Name." At its best, on songs like "Monologue for an Old True Love" or the Nancy & Lee-styled orchestral country duet with Eugene Kelly, listening to Amorino provides nearly as many musical thrills as listening to a good B&S record. It definitely makes her decision to leave Belle & Sebastian less painful, as now the Belle & Sebastian-loving throng has something to play when it has worn out Dear Catastrophe Waitress.
by Tim Sendra