Album review: Camera Obscura, “Desire Lines” - Reverb

Album review: Camera Obscura, “Desire Lines”

The mellow, half-smiling “William’s Heart” and (relatively) rocking “Do It Again” paint “Desire Lines” as more ambitious than other Camera Obscura releases.

The mellow, half-smiling “William’s Heart” and (relatively) rocking “Do It Again” paint “Desire Lines” as more ambitious than other Camera Obscura releases.

Camera Obscura’s joy is always filtered through a smudged, foggy lens. It’s not that the Glaswegian indie-pop band is ashamed of the infectious melodies and girl-group harmonies that define its songs, or that they’re afraid to slather their compositions with rich string flourishes or upbeat percussion. It’s that they never allow themselves to get too excited or clear-eyed. And that’s not a bad thing.

With so many retro- and neo-soul acts crowding the scene, it’s always refreshing to hear the soft restraint in Tracyanne Campbell’s vocals, which on fifth album “Desire Lines” come off as more nuanced and confident for it. Easy opener “This Is Love (Feels Alright)” sounds like textbook Obscura, and it’s quickly followed by would-be single “Troublemaker,” which self-consciously updates ’80s-pop production touches with syrupy melodies.

The mellow, half-smiling “William’s Heart” and (relatively) rocking “Do It Again” also paint “Desire Lines” as more ambitious and varied than the band’s last couple releases. Some of this is at the risk of devolving into Natalie Merchantesque adult contemporary aural wallpaper (see “Cri Du Coeur”), but it’s a testament to Campbell’s assured approach that the high-octane backing vocals from Neko Case and Jim James of My Morning Jacket never outshine Campbell’s own.

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John Wenzel is an A&E reporter and the comedy critic for The Denver Post. Follow him @johntwenzel and @beardsandgum.

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