Camera Obscura – Desire Lines album review



written by
J. P. Wickwire

J. P. Wickwire is a writer and singer/songwriter who adores bookish things, pop art, and discovering new bands so fresh they aren't even on Spotify yet.

“Desire Lines” by Scottish band, Camera Obscura, is a lush and echoing collection of soundscapes charmingly paired with melancholy lyrics. In fact, the best word to describe the album as a whole might be borrowed from one of their previous albums: “maudlin.” That being said, “Desire Lines” is far from being merely borrowed material. It’s so abstract in some ways that it’s kind of difficult to capture.

If “Desire Lines” were a painting, it would be a watercolor. Each song blends almost seamlessly with the next in rich tones that reverberate amongst themselves. Though the harmonies are not particularly earth-shattering, vocalist Tracyanne Campbell’s signature, unhurried style of singing compliments them well, and contributes to the dreamy quality of the record as a whole.

There’s a used bookstore not too far from where I live, and I can imagine them spinning “Desire Lines” on vinyl night, and it providing the best kind of meandering, soft-spoken melody for book browsing, or coffee drinking. While it’s not a jump-up-and-sing-along sort of record, it’s a good listen.

While I know it’s not really in their aesthetic, I wish you could hear Tracyanne’s vocals more clearly and succinctly, because some of her lyrics deserve to be at the forefront of the songs, instead of just another instrument lost in the soundscape. Take for instance the most indie-pop song on the album, “I Missed Your Party,” where she mentions Flash Dance, Billy Joel, and Walt Whitman in context to a guilt trip; or the title track, “Desire Lines” wherein she sings “We could send letters / Beautiful, let us? / I could illustrate for you my day to day / Would that mend us?”

Though the lyrics are not necessarily pretentious or overbearing, they aren’t the straightforward, summer pop that I’ve naively come to expect from a lot of summer album releases. It’s refreshing to hear something that dwells in the little minutia the lyrics in addition to the melodies themselves. Somehow it makes the record more organic, and more original.

Speaking of the melodies, “Desire Lines” really revels its own audio aesthetic, enjoying lush instrumentation with fairly simple instruments themselves. While I don’t think the band utilizes any sort of extravagant or odd musical instruments, they use what they have well. The result is a light amalgamation of unconventional sounds audible colors.

I keep comparing “Desire Lines” to art and paintings, but in the end, that’s really what it is: carefully planned, complex, easy listen.


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