A Tribute to Carey Lander (Camera Obscura)
Over the weekend, some very sad news rippled through the British music industry, in the wake of Carey Lander’s death of osteosarcoma on the morning of Sunday 11th October. The keyboardist and backing vocalist for Glaswegian indie-poppers Camera Obscura was diagnosed with the rare form of bone cancer in 2011, and spent the last few months of her life campaigning to raise money for the charity Sarcoma UK. As part of a statement she posted on her JustGiving page, Lander wrote: “It’s probably too late to help me, but it would be great if we could find something in the future that means children don’t have to undergo such awful treatment and have a better chance of survival”.
The instability of the musician’s health over the past four years led to cancellations of several live dates in Camera Obscura’s tours, and she was forced to change her performance style. She was no longer able to sing live, was required to remain seated all through all shows, and called a halt to her musical career this summer in order to focus on her health and fundraising endeavours. Her private life must have been subject to countless blows since her diagnosis, and it’s incredibly upsetting to consider that she only lived to the age of 33. Her bandmates posted a statement this weekend to convey the news to the world, and tributes from famous fans and casual listeners alike have been flooding in on social media. Clearly, Lander’s story has touched a great many people.
Personally, I have loved the music of Camera Obscura since hearing the excellent single ‘Do it Again’ in 2013. I worked my way through their five-album catalogue in reverse order, tracing them backwards from the smooth edges of Desire Lines to the gentle guitar pop of 2001’s Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi. Most remarkable is the band’s consistency over this significant timespan; there is not a single dud to be found in their canon, and when they really succeed, Camera Obscura nail a sweet spot between yearning whimsy and homely wisdom. I’ve already written a specific tribute to 2009’s My Maudlin Career, but examining their career more broadly, Camera Obscura have always had charm and an intimate vulnerability to spare. Their musical prettiness has constantly been fuelled by the big, beating hearts behind the songwriting, and for this writer, that appeal has failed to wane even in the wake of countless replays.
Lander’s role in the band’s dynamic may not have been showy, but when tracing their catalogue with a keen ear, one can spot the arrangements of hers which help shape their parent songs into even more magical ventures. Her first outings in 2003’s Underachievers, Please Try Harder showcase a new musical confidence in the group, as the orchestration swelled slightly at Lander’s hand. She brought a supple melancholy to the likes of ‘Suspended from Class’, her simple piano chords drive forward the jaunty ‘Number One Son’, and the organs dusting ‘Knee Deep at the NPL’ complete the entrancing, romantic effect. From 2002 onwards, she brought greater texture and instrumental warmth to the group’s output, and together with Tracyanne Campbell, provided a gentle foil for the poker-faced Scotsmen also manning the stage. The two were side by side in many interviews, band videos, and of course, fronted the knick-knacky album cover of Underachievers… It was in such ways that Lander felt quietly indispensible, and her loss is a very sad one for the band, as well as for the wider world of indie music.
In the immediate aftermath of this upsetting news, there has been no word regarding the future of Camera Obscura as a band. There will be time for such updates in the coming months, but for now, it is well worth poring over their impressive catalogue and (re)appreciating Lander’s presence: both her musical contributions and her role in the group’s shifting line-up. Her untimely death was tragic and unjust, but one can only applaud her spirit through the final years of her life. She leaves behind a tremendous legacy: her Sarcoma UK fundraiser greatly surpassed her final target of £50,000, and donations can still be made via her JustGiving page. Hopefully her championing of this worthy cause will have a tremendous impact on fellow sufferers of bone cancer further down the line, and of course, that whole library of beautiful music to which she contributed will always be available. May she rest in peace.
Donate to Carey Lander’s JustGiving page here.
Posted on October 13, 2015, in The Music World and tagged Camera Obscura, Carey Lander, Desire Lines, Let's Get Out of This Country, Osteosarcoma, Sarcoma UK, Tracyanne Campbell, Tribute. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.