In the 17 years since their inception, Glasgow’s Camera Obscura has released some of the most perfectly crafted pop songs that the indie world has been lucky enough to hear. “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken”, “Let’s Get Out Of This Country”, and “French Navy” are but a few examples. Four years after the release of My Maudlin Career comes Desire Lines which was recorded in Portland and features Neko Case back-up vocals on several tracks.
Camera Obscura continues to be a vehicle for the songs of lead vocalist Tracyanne Campbell. While seemingly guarded in interviews, Campbell’s ups/downs, fears and insecurities are always on full display within the songs of the band. “On a cold morning of you arriving, I was struggling for survival” and “you treat me like a queen but like a queen I don’t know if I’ll be slain” are themes many of us can relate to, but may not be able to say quite so eloquently.
Both “Troublemaker” and the fabulously named “Fifth In Line To The Throne” feature terrific guitar solos while Tracyanne tries to figure out a failing long-term relationship and just where she stands with her king respectively. “New Year’s Resolution” lists “writing something of value” as a goal while Corey Lander’s keyboard melody and Lee Thomson’s drumming add much colour to the country-tinged “Break It To You Gently”.
The overarching sadness of many of their tracks is what typically gets the most notice but there is also much humour to be found. The knowing “Every Weekday” line of “We’re going to make a record then sail around the world, we might not storm the charts completely but we’ll do our very best” is the band at its most charming. Elsewhere, 30+ year old listeners who no longer can make it out of the house every weekend will cast a smile to the apologizing sentiment of “I Missed Your Party”.
Desire Lines is the fifth album release for Camera Obscura and just might be their best. Campbell’s conversational lyrics are as poetic as ever and the band really shine throughout. Classic sounding without being retro and mature beyond their years, Camera Obscura are quickly becoming a Scottish National Treasure.
Review also found at UMFM.com