Album review: Camera Obscura – Desire LinesPublished by Jeff Becker, May 28, 2013 Release date: June 3, 2013
Tracyanne Campbell and Camera Obscura have no peer right now for their brand of indie twee pop. She makes charming music with an expression-less feel that makes you want to buy her an ice cream cone if it will cheer her up. The anomaly is both disarming and charming. She’s one of the most compelling yet frustratingly underrated songwriters on the indie pop planet.
In what is now over a decade into an adorable catalog of five albums, Campbell delivers an album of pure indie beauty. Grizzly Bear and Bon Iver be damned I say. The sum of all of Grizzly Iver’s parts don’t add up to this bliss. I’ll choose Camera Obscura to carry the torch for their brand of cuddly indie over the next 5-10 years. Desire Lines is sublime. An absolutely effortless glide from track to track with more hooks and harmonies than one can incur on a single listen. Anyone not placing this album into the year’s best is in need of heart surgery. Sometimes you don’t have to be strange, abstract and odd to be compelling. There’s still an enormous niche to be filled for perfect retro indie pop. And here you go.
Campbell and Camera Obscura have been compared to Belle and Sebastian for years and for too many distant reasons to ever want to list again. It’s time to forget it. Not only are they equal peers, the last three albums from Obscura have lifted the bar well beyond Stuart Murdoch’s brilliant, multiple projects. And a high bar of quality it is indeed. Take one listen to the ten minutes of glory from the back to back tracks ‘William’s Heart’ and ‘New Year’s Resolution’. This is genuine pop bliss on par with some of the greatest tracks of 2013 (i.e., ‘Baby Center Stage’ from Iron & Wine) and in the conversation for inclusion in the list of best back-to-back tracks in recent history (the modern day standard set by R.E.M.’s ‘Nightswimming’ and ‘Find the River’ come to mind). It’s a one-two punch from Campbell that is jaw-dropping and almost exceeds the amazing closers from their 2006 Let’s Get Out of This Country album (‘I Need All the Friends I Can Get’ and ‘Razzle Dazzle Rose’).
With both Jim James and Neko Case (equally outstanding in their own rite) joining in the background along the way, their additions are merely shadowy bookmarks and nothing to dissuade or distract the perfection of Campbell’s songwriting and delivery. The undercurrent melody of ‘Cri Du Coeur’ is dripping with delight even as you come down from the aforementioned 10-minute medley above. Where the Beatles wrote timeless melodies, Camera Obscura are producing timeless tracks. Songs that will sound as vibrant in 15 years just as they would have 15 years ago. Tracyanne Campbell and Camera Obscura are on the cusp of indie royalty while leaving their competitors in this genre far behind.