Good grief. Has it really been four years since My Maudlin Career drifted in from the ether and ingrained itself into our hearts and minds? I just listened to it last week, and it feels as fresh as ever. Desire Lines, Camera Obscura’s follow-up to one of the best albums of the past decade, has a lot to live up to when it hits shelves this Tuesday. Lucky for us the band is more than up to the task.
Rather than the exuberant smack in the face MMC kicks off with on “French Navy,” this time around the group is going for a more consistent sound. The peaks and valleys of their previous release are replaced by an expansive plateau of bittersweet pop. The focus is almost entirely directed on the voice of Tracyanne Campbell, and she definitely deserves the time in the spotlight. After a brief intro of lushly orchestrated strings, “This Is Love (Feels Alright) kicks into adult-themed twee-pop heaven with Campbell leading the way. She sings “Just give in to the night. This is love, feels alright. You’re a star on this free night.”Free from the 60’s affectations put on for Maudlin, Camera Obscura returns to the present and proves again why they are on of the great modern bands in the world.
Picking a favorite in this collection is a bit tough. There isn’t a ton separating each song other than the lyrics and a few shining moments of guitar and drums. For now, I think “New Year’s Resolution” and “Fifth In Line To The Throne” are neck and neck, along with “Do It Again.” The former two are both slower numbers, while the latter is the zenith of energy on the album. Lee Thomson really bangs it out on the drums and the lead guitar is fantastic but I’m not sure if its Campbell playing or Kenny McKeeve (probably McKeeve).
“Fifth In Line” probably has the best lyrics on Desire Lines. Campbell sings “You treat me like a queen, but like a queen I don’t know when I’m enslaved.” The band have always dealt heavily in heartache, and here they do it as well as they ever have. It does have a bit an old-timey feel, like The Wooden Sky’s “Take Me Out” or Rilo Kiley’s “Teenage Love Song,” but it definitely doesn’t sound played out.
After spending a few weeks dreading the release of Desire Lines, I’ve realized how stupid of me it was to doubt the abilities of Camera Obscura. Of course anyone looking for completely impartial reviews for CO records should probably look elsewhere. Even if this wasn’t one of the top ten records out so far this year, I’d still heap praise on them because I want everyone to check out their music. If you’ve never listened to them before, this is actually a pretty good jumping in point. Then you can work yourself back through their earlier stuff.
Desire Lines is out Tuesday June 4th, but you can stream it on NPR now. The band will be opening up for She & Him on their US tour, hitting Aragon Ballroom in Chicago June 29th. For more info and tour dates, hit up the bands website.