May 31, 2013 Web Exclusive
Typically, Tracyanne Campbell writes Camera Obscura's lyrics from an omniscient narrator's perspective, but even when she gets more personal, there's still a bit of a guarded tone at play. It's not the kind of adorable, "aw-shucks-stare-down-at-my-argyle-socks" self-consciousness we typically associate with twee pop; it's an exercise in examining your own relationships in a more objective, thoughtful light, always resolving in a willingness to pick up and move on. It's not a new perspective for songwriting, but one that's sorely absent from a lot of indie pop, making Camera Obscura all the more refreshing in a subgenre littered with self-obsessed navelgazers.
Other people's self-analysis is always easier to stomach if it's tempered with insight that's not necessarily insular, and Desire Lines is full of that brand of wisdom. On this album, there's an openness to the way Camera Obscura analyzes relationships. "Do It Again" finds the band being more forward and exuberant than usual, shelving the hemming, hawing, and social acrobatics for a celebration of great sex, even if it means eventually suffering the aftermath of the relationship. Sadder songs get a hopeful touch, too: the excellent "Cri du Coeur" finds Tracyanne giving sage advice to herself—"You can't say what's on your mind/Just go for it, come on this time"—over a bossa nova beat, though it's clear she won't heed her own advice. Desire Lines also sounds richer than any of Camera Obscura's previous albums. The band hired acclaimed producer Tucker Martine for Desire Lines, and even fluffier tracks such as "I Missed Your Party" benefit from his touch, filled out with glimmering guitars and strategically employed horn sections.
More so than any other Camera Obscura record, Desire Lines taps into a girl group aesthetic—that is, lushly arranged songs about scorned lovers and keeping hope alive, always with a bit of advice thrown in, or at the very least a lesson learned. These are love songs for adults, even if the song's protagonists (and listeners) keep making the same mistakes. (www.camera-obscura.net)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 9/10