Some bands we love because of they always surprise us, and some bands we love because they are consistent. Scottish indie-pop act Camera Obscura are definitely in the second group.
Simply put, if you do something well and people like it—and if the expression is right for you—then you don’t change it; you just make it better. That’s exactly what Camera Obscura have done with their latest, Desire Lines. They hit their stride with their third album Let’s Get Out Of This Country in 2006, and continued the momentum with 2009’s My Maudlin Career; with this third record, they are even more cohesive and polished—thanks in part to great production by Tucker Martine (Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists)—prompting some already to hail Desire Lines as a capstone on a trilogy of great records.
But bear in mind—this is a band who trades on consistency rather than experiment. A soft indie-pop sound, balancing between bouncy “upbeat” songs (almost too strong a word) and sentimental ballads, covered with the endearing no-vibrato forlorn vocals of Tracyanne Campbell as she ruminates about love lost—Camera Obscura have practically built a brand around twee, but it completely works for them. The lead single “Do It Again” is a delightful study in musical irony, as Campbell sings lyrics laden with lust and heartbreak over music that actually sounds…well…happy. Notables on the other side of the spectrum include the sorrowful “Cri Du Coeur” and the regret-laden “New Years Resolution,” in which Campbell laments: “A New Years resolution to write something of value…All I ever wanted was someone to rely on / All I ever wanted was somewhere to go home.”
In keeping with the band’s vibe, Desire Lines includes guest appearances by Neko Case (“Fifth In Line to the Throne”) and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James (“Troublemaker”); and as icing on the cake, the band are slated for opening tour slots this summer with She & Him. (I personally can’t think of a more suitable combination; indie-pop heaven.) All told, it seems that Camera Obscura have found a niche that works for them, and Desire Lines plays to that niche with maturity and elegance.