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Camera Obscura bring their act to the Warsaw

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Brooklyn’s “little Poland” will take on a Scottish accent on Jan. 24 when the Glasgow sextet Camera Obscura hit Polish National Home-cum-indie rock venue the Warsaw. This is the only New York stop on the American tour supporting the band’s 2006 release “Let’s Get Out of This Country” — and you won’t be able to catch them across the East River.

“We’re quite excited,” pianist/or­ganist/voc­alist Carey Lander told GO Brooklyn, adding that after three previous shows in New York City, this is the band’s first in Brooklyn. “[We wanted to] do something different so we weren’t playing the same venues again.”

And different it is. The Warsaw, a neighborhood institution for over 100 years, opened its doors to the public in 2001 and began lending its massive, bi-level ballroom to bands, DJs and parties. Now, local barflies and music aficionados crowd the space, enjoying the cheap drinks and fresh-made snacks like pierogi, kielbasa, blintzes and potato pancakes doled out from a table at the back of the room.

After 11 years together, Camera Obscura has come into its own on their new record, their third together, breaking away from long-time comparisons to fellow Glaswegians and rainy day demigods Belle and Sebastian.

“The two bands have certainly gone in different directions,” Lander said. “I think we’re making very different music from each other now, and that’s just a natural progression. We weren’t thinking about them when we were making our new record.”

Belle and Sebastian certainly opened the door for their fellow indie-pop Scots to the remainder of the world, and Camera Obscura remains graciously indebted. In fact, Stuart Murdoch, Belle and Sebastian’s lead singer, produced the Camera Obscura single “Eighties Fan” for their 2000 debut “Biggest Bluest Hi Fi.”

“We did about 14 songs in 10 days or so – it was really intense!” Lander says of recording “Let’s Get Out of This Country.” The end result is an album resonating with singer/songwriter Tracyanne Campbell’s ability to craft songs with a 1960s sentimentality reminiscent of the Supremes, harkening back to a time when music seemed more pure. From the infectious first track, “Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken,” which stretches out over organs and catchy guitar hooks, to the last, the 10 tracks showcase how Camera Obscura is much more than a twee soundtrack.

At first listen, “Let’s Get Out of This Country” gives a pristinely glossed feel of pop perfection, yet the underlying sadness shines through in Campbell’s lyrical pessimism, in odes to love gone sour (the haunting “Country Mile,” in which Campbell sings, “I won’t be seeing you for a long while/I hope it’s not as long as a country mile/I feel lost”).

The band seems to have matured considerably since its second full-length, and first stateside release, the critically acclaimed 2003 disc, “Underachie­vers Please Try Harder,” a sentimentally penned orchestra of teenage heartache. In contrast, the new record keeps a measured distance in examining everyday losses and an understated longing.

A favorite of legendary British DJ John Peel before his death in 2004, Camera Obscura was included in the Peel Festive 50 — a rundown of his listeners’ favorite tracks of the year — three times. With his artistic vision, Peel was able to see that the still fledgling band was capable of great things.

In its current incarnation, Camera Obscura’s line-up includes guitarist/vocalist Kenny McKeeve, bassist Gavin Dunbar, drummer Lee Thomson and trumpet player and percussionist Nigel Baillie. With such a substantial group — the band has even been seven strong in the past — it’s sometimes a challenge to keep the touring atmosphere universally positive.

“We get on pretty well. With six people there are [so many] different people to talk to, “ says Lander, adding slyly, “that’s the optimistic way of looking at it.” After the show at the Warsaw, Camera Obscura will continue their American tour, then will jet across the globe to Australia and New Zealand.

Perhaps this sense of perpetual motion influenced Campbell when she penned the lyrics to “Come Back Margaret”: “In dreams I try to take you far away/But you never stay.”

Camera Obscura plays at the Warsaw at the Polish National Home (261 Driggs Ave. between Eckford and Leonard streets in Greenpoint) on Jan. 24 at 8 pm. $15.50 in advance, $17 day of. For information, call (718) 387-0505.

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