sat 15/06/2024

CD: Camera Obscura – Desire Lines | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Camera Obscura – Desire Lines

CD: Camera Obscura – Desire Lines

Wistful, sugary Scottish indie-popsters conjure up the spirit of '86

Picture this: music that wafts by like a beautiful summer breeze

It says something about the commodification of modern music that Scottish poppets Camera Obscura are probably best known for "French Navy" because it is used by wine company Echo Falls on the sponsored intros to Come Dine With Me. It is a brilliantly romantic rush of a song and I tweeted that it was a shame it was linked to selling booze.

Comedian/fan Josie Long, not one to condone corporate sell-outs, responded "I just think 'I hope this means you are funded enough to write your beautiful songs!'"

Well, maybe the cash-injection has helped, because the Glaswegian band has returned after four years with their fifth studio album and their muse is clearly uncompromised. Desire Lines is a thing of transcendental winsome beauty. Pop songs that shimmer and shine and evoke matelot tops and the spirit of Postcard Records, but also feel very contemporary. The Glaswegians may have taken money for booze but clearly adore pop.

Desire Lines is full of neat little nuggets. Tracyanne Campbell’s vocals dominate, managing to be both deadpan and emotionally charged. Only Tracey Thorn does this sort of thing better. "New Year's Resolution" hints at trying to keep romance alive, "Cri Du Coeur" is a heartbreak wrapped in a simple three-minute Spectoresque melody.

The album was partly recorded in Portland, with producer Tucker Martine, and if there is a development it is in the occasional Nashville twang. "Fifth in Line to the Throne" has a sleepy country swing to it, enhanced by backing vocals from Americana powerhouse Neko Case. "I Missed Your Party" has a woozy style too. There are further surprises. "Every Weekday" is Paul Simon's Graceland via Contra-era Vampire Weekend.

OK, this is not epochal stuff and if you've got the complete Belle & Sebastian back catalogue you may feel you can live without Camera Obscura. But that would be your loss. "Do It Again" – no relation to Steely Dan – shows that indie kids can be sexy and also rock out when the mood takes them, coming complete with a driving drumbeat and a quietly phallic guitar solo. I'll drink to that. 

Watch Camera Obscura perform "Do It Again"

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