US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Listen: Desire Lines

By John Christman | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Camera Obscura (4AD, 2013)

Beauty is worth waiting for, as is joy. The Scottish band Camera Obscura’s magnificent album My Maudlin Career was released to critical acclaim in 2009. Since then fans have been pining for news of a follow-up. Their new album Desire Lines immediately assures that the wait has not been
in vain.

Camera Obscura, a five-piece indie-pop band, is shaped by romantic sentiment soaked in reverb and layered with a chorus of “oohs.” Its often dreamy sound is laced with a forlorn longing through the remarkable voice of its lead singer and lyricist Tracyanne Campbell. An elegantly expressed sadness seemed to be their aesthetic, but on Desire Lines the blue light of that melancholy has gently brightened, and a few brilliant rays of joy have broken through.

The increased tempo of many of these songs makes the joyous inclinations of “This Is Love (Feels Alright)” and “Do It Again” unmistakable. Not that heartbreak, sadness, or confusion have disappeared. They climb to the surface in the teary “Cri Du Coeur” and the slow swing of “Fifth In Line To The Throne.” The latter also showcases the band’s ability to evoke the past while imbuing it with freshness through that most rare of entities, a clever guitar solo.

On the titular track “Desire Lines,” Campbell isn’t content to let this heartbreak win the day. She counters it with upbeat self-affirmation on the keyboard-driven “Break It to You Gently” and by directing her attention to more fruitful relationships, like the friendship at the heart of “Every Weekday.”

The sense of longing remains on Desire Lines, but this time the beauty is tinged with a little more joy than sadness. On their previous album Campbell memorably sang, “I don’t want to be sad again,” and perhaps Desire Lines hints that her hopes are beginning to come true. The music, and the joy, is worth the wait.

This article appeared in the July 2013 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 78, No. 7, page 42).