If you’ve ever wished that Camera Obscura would do away with their catchy hooks and up-tempo tunes then your prayers have been answered. Sort of. Here’s what singer Tracyanne Campbell told The Scotsman about the making of their new album, Desire Lines: “There are a couple of pop songs on the record but I was trying to fight the obvious poppy chorus and still be melodic and catchy. We were definitely going for the laid-back thing. We needed it to be less emotional. That was how we were feeling. The mood was sombre.”
So, yes, the new Camera Obscura album is a tad bit different than their previous four albums. But, fear not, it’s actually quite amazing. They might have been fighting the urge to create uber-catchy songs that grab you from the first time you hear them, but the fact of the matter is that there are still plenty of hooks on the new album. “New Year’s Resolution,” for example, is sonic bliss, a caressing song that gets to you like a kiss. “I’ve been cool with you,” Tracyanne sings, her voice ever so sweet and surrounded by gorgeous backing vocals. “The sooner you admit it, I will, too.” That lyric alone makes the album an instant classic. Who hasn’t sat around with someone they like and wanted to tell them they had romantic feelings for them but they were afraid to, so they sat there hoping the other person would confess to having feelings for them first? The suspense you feel during moments like that might be kind of scary but it’s also very exciting. During those moments you feel ALIVE. It’s priceless. And that’s what listening to this album for the first time is like. At least for those of us who know the band was trying not to do the things they did so marvelously on their first four records. But, you know what? They’re still crushing on their fans. Big time. And Desire Lines might scare you the first time you listen to it, but listen to it again and you’ll find it growing on you. And it gets better with each listen. In fact, it just might be their best record yet.
“Let’s do it again,” Tracyanne sings over and over again during “Do It Again.” And, yes, she’s talking about sex. So, again, they take us to one of life’s most precious moments. That moment when you’re lying in bed with someone you’ve just had sex with and you’re wondering if they want to do it again. You’re hoping that they do, but you’re afraid that they won’t. If they don’t, you’ll likely feel the sting of rejection. If they do, you’re elated and your brain is flooded with happy chemicals. As you lie there wondering if they’ll want you again you feel a whirlwind of emotions. You feel ALIVE. That’s what Desire Lines is all about. Those precious moments we all experience, at least if we’re lucky, as we go through life and love. “This is love, it’s all right,” Tracyanne sings during the album’s first song, “This Is Love (Feels Alright).” There’s a bit of melancholy in her voice — perhaps even a bit of trepidation — but it’s all right. They might have been feeling down when they were writing this record, but those feelings are OK, and they express them beautifully throughout the album, which is actually quite melodious and over-flowing with gorgeous harmonies and sunshiny synth.
For 17 years Camera Obscura wrote songs from the same perspective. Obviously not all of their songs were from the exact same perspective, but they were trying to write infectious tunes that people would immediately love and they focused on upbeat songs, writing music intended to elevate your mood. I’m not saying there weren’t some sad songs. Sure, there was the occasional melancholy but, mostly, they were writing songs from a happy place. Desire Lines is different because they were feeling differently when they wrote and made it. Instead of forcing themselves to write clever little indie pop songs they just followed their hearts and created music that suited their moods, that truly expressed what they were feeling at the time. And there’s something magical about a band doing that, especially when they’re so honest and open about what they’re feeling. Tracyanne’s heart is on her sleeve here. She’s an open book. She’s letting you read her journal. What more could you ask for? Some of you might be bothered by the fact that Desire Lines isn’t as immediately catchy as their previous albums but those of you who listen to the album over and over again will discover that it actually is pretty darn catchy and it’s pretty darn amazing. As I said above, it just might be their best record yet. It certainly seems to be becoming my favorite more and more with each listen. Give it a chance. You’ll be rewarded.