Friday 24 January 2020

Desire to lift talented Scots from obscurity

Camera Obscura
Camera Obscura
John Meagher

John Meagher

Camera Obscura Desire Lines (4AD) 4 STARS

Belle & Sebastian aren't the only twee Glasgow indie-rockers, you know. Over the course of four albums, Camera Obscura have also done a fine line in charmingly homespun songs that wear their intelligence lightly.

Their 2001 debut album, Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi, was produced by B&S mainman Stuart Murdock and since then both bands have shared a close affinity, although Camera Obscura remain obscure.

It's a surprise that their Lloyd Cole and the Commotions-referencing single, Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken, didn't "break" them back in 2006, and it's a shame that their last album, My Maudlin Career – their first for seminal label 4AD – didn't get more people talking about the Tracyanne Campbell-led outfit.

Maybe this fifth album – recorded in Portland with sometime Mudhoney and Decemberists producer Tucker Martine – will change their fortunes. It's not short of confidence or accomplishment and Campbell's apparent ease with melody is as clear as ever.

The jangle-pop that characterised their early work is present and correct throughout the album, not least on the pulse-quickening lead single, Do It Again.

It's as radio-friendly as you could wish for and Campbell's vocals have rarely sounded better.

The singer's keenness to avoid clichés is apparent on Fifth in Line to the Throne – a dark, twisted ballad exploring relationship woes. It features the backing vocals of Canadian singer-songwriter Neko Case, who's still, perhaps, best known as a member of The New Pornographers.

She's not the only guest: My Morning Jacket's Jim James also lends his distinctive growl to proceedings.

Long-term fans, concerned that the Martine-Portland escapade would usurp the band's distinctively Caledonian hue, need not be worried.

This is quintessential Camera Obscura.

Isn't it about time you made their acquaintance?

KEY TRACKS Fifth in Line to the Throne; Do It Again

Irish Independent

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