Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan: Ballad of the Broken Seas


Sad music is my favorite music. Is that because I’m depressed? Maybe, but I’ll take early Leonard Cohen and bottle of single malt over the latest Arctic Monkeys-type record and a vodka Red Bull every time. That’s just me. And for people like me, Mark Lanegan’s whiskey-soaked growl has always been as reliable as a drunk friend.

After leaving grunge band the Screaming Trees, Lanegan released six mesmerizing, if overlooked, solo records—all gems. But as much as I loved those records, it always felt like something was missing. To my surprise, that something was Isobel Campbell, the angelic-voiced Scottish cellist. In a career move that seemed very questionable at the time, she quit Belle and Sebastian right as the band was reaching the upper echelons of indie-rock. But on their new record of collaborations, she plays the beauty to Lanegan's beast, and the place where they meet makes for a very satisfying listen.

The standout track on the album is “The False Husband,” a dark, beautifully arranged song that Tarantino would be proud of. If there’s a weakness, it’s that Campbell tendency to double her voice on too many tracks. Just one of her would suffice. Fans of Tom Waits, Nancy Sinatra, and film noir will relish this album. Fans of daylight, American Idol, and dancing should steer clear.

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by Rory Carroll
“Ballad of the Broken Seas” (Isobel Campbell, Mark Lanegan)