Camp Susannah is the musical alter ego of Susanna Blinkoff, who in other incarnations is an actor and screenwriter. And there’s something to that, I think, because she seems to approach her music like a professional rather than the starry-eyed diarist who typically inhabits the ground floor of the “singer/songwriter” genre. The songs on Happy Today, Camp Susannah’s debut, are slick, polished, and ready for a run at top-40 radio. This quality is the band’s strength and weakness all at once.
The album starts off with a neat backdrop of electronica on a remix of “Way OK.” A different version of the same song closes the album. The song has the kind of quirky, angular melody that marks most of the album, and its slippery atmospherics will remind you of Beth Orton. But where Orton likes to get into deeper and darker territory, Camp Susannah keeps things light and treacly. With that kind of mood set, the light touch of drum machines and bright keyboards make for a pleasant but somewhat undernourished whole.
Ms. Blinkoff is an accomplished vocalist, and her songs show off her voice to nice effect. Her band is made up of studio pros who have played with Liz Phair, Rufus Wainwright, and others, so this is no amateurish outing. But I wonder if maybe Happy Today could have benefitted from being a little rougher around the edges. Everything about this album is nice and bright and pretty, and catchy enough for pop or adult contemporary radio, but to me it seems painted by numbers.