Three years after their polished and assured fourth effort, ‘My Maudlin Career’ troubled the Top 40, Camera Obscura return with their own brand of literate, swooning pop music in the shape of new long-player ‘Desire Lines’. In a gestation process fraught with difficulties – in a recent interview Campbell would only divulge ‘personal problems’ – they moved from their previous recording base and studio of choice in Sweden to America, with Campbell intoning the ensuing record has seen special care given to mixing and removing any unnecessary elements.
The effects of this diligence become apparent straight away, even from the instrumental opener ‘Intro’, with its cinematic, sumptuous strings. The feeling that Campbell & Co.’s efforts and care have been realised permeate throughout the record – it’s one that feels honed and constantly improved, yet retains an aura of warm contentment throughout. On slower, reflective moments such as the lilting ‘This Is Love (Feels Alright)’, ‘William’s Heart’ and the glorious ‘Cri De Coeur’ it feels equally at home in your living room at night and a hazy afternoon in the sun. That’s not to say that’s it’s only a party piece, though - irresistible floor-filler ‘Do It Again’, joyous quasi-calypso ‘Every Weekday’ and the AC/DC’s ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’-meets-Suzanne Vega’s ‘Luka’ of ‘Break It To You Gently’ show that they can still throw out an upbeat pop song in the vein of ‘French Navy’ or ‘Hey Lloyd….’ at will.
Despite being born into difficult circumstances, ‘Desire Lines’ presents perhaps their most consistent set of songs since 2006’s ‘Let’s Get Out Of This Country’. Throughout, the record oozes an elegant stream of sophistication and songwriting nous, backed up by a rich, clearly well-thought out and measured Tucker Martine production. Presenting it as a triumph against adversity may be simplistic and exaggerative, but what is certain is that in the record – assured, confident and cohesive as it is – Camera Obscura have come up trumps.
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