Camera Obscura – Desire Lines. 4AD, 2013.
Several years ago, a friend told me that I had to check out Camera Obscura. I believe he said, “You like Belle & Sebastian, right? Well, Camera Obscura do Belle & Sebastian better than Belle & Sebastian!” With that glowing recommendation, I picked up the then-newly-released Let’s Get Out of This Country and fell in love.
Two albums later, and I would no longer say that Camera Obscura are doing Belle & Sebastian. On Desire Lines, Tracyanne Campbell and co. have more than come into their own. Gone is much of the twee preciousness that brightened the surprisingly sad LGOoTC. Desire Lines still has that kind of late 1950s-early 1960s aesthetic that the band’s always had, but there’s a maturity here that goes beyond what the band had found on My Maudlin Career.
Not to overdo the Belle and Sebastian comparison, but while B&S became kind of, well, bland as they made more mature music (see: Write About Love), Camera Obscura seem to have found the right balance of melancholy pop melodies, nostalgia, and sophistication while still holding on to their identity. Even at their poppiest, such as on “Do it Again,” there’s nothing corny or cringeworthy on Desire Lines. The whole thing’s pretty solid.
As such, it’s hard to pick favorite tracks, though the aforementioned “Do it Again” would almost certainly be one of them. Other highlights would probably be the pensive “Fifth in Line to the Throne,” the (only) Belle & Sebastian-esque “This is Love(Feels Alright)” (though it might be more accurate to say that the newer B&S songs are Camera Obscura-esque), and the title track. Overall, though, Desire Lines probably works best as an album, with each track feeding off the emotion of the last.
With Desire Lines, Camera Obscura have either placed themselves as the genre-definer of twee-pop, or they have completely left it and are going their own thing. I haven’t decided which.
Desire Lines by Camera Obscura is available wherever money can be exchanged for music.