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Camera Obscura

Head West Child, Head West

Jul 17, 2013 Camera Obscura Bookmark and Share

“There’s a big misconception that I’m some sort of doomhead,” says Camera Obscura frontwoman Tracyanne Campbell, firing a preemptive shot against those tempted to compare the singer/songwriter to the characters of her bittersweet pop. “All pessimistic and negative. I don’t think that’s even remotely true.”

A few hours before her band’s set at Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, Campbell sits, seemingly melted into a hotel lobby chair her stripped shirt barely concealing her seven-month pregnant belly. She admits to being a bit tired in the city’s summer humidity—but overall, her spirits have remained high during the promotional cycle for her band’s fifth album, Desire Lines.

Avid travelers who seeming record everywhere but in their Glasgow, Scotland (their third album was aptly titled “Let’s Get Out of This Country”), the Scottish band used the recording of Desire Lines to return to the U.S. It’s a destination that Campbell admits has become one of her favorites.

“You don’t want to be in the studio and wondering when you get home if you’ve got anything in for dinner,” Campbell muses practically, before admitting to the novelty of removing making music from the day-to-day grind.

On a suggestion from M. Ward, Camera Obscura (which also includes Gavin Dunbar, Carey Lander, Kenny McKeeve, and Lee Thomson) decamped to Portland to record with producer Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens). America has long since been a creative force in the band’s brokenhearted chamber pop—from “Swans,” where characters go to visit redwoods, to the Beach Boy overtones of “A Sister’s Social Agony.” Under Martine’s watch, the band pushed the influence ever further, infusing their soft-spoken sensibilities with Don Henley-style synths on “Break it to You Gently,” and sitting in the sun for title track “Desire Lines.”

“It’s got quite an American feel,” says Campbell of the album’s lone acoustic track. “It has a California, 60s feel. Without going overboard I wanted it to have a ‘Seasons in the Sun’ slightly eerie sadness to it.”

Driving home Desire Line’s stars and stripes through line, the band invited two American musicians to provide guest vocals. While often stoic when discussing her work (“Sometimes it feels like a habit, sometimes it feels like a necessity, sometimes it feels like a calling” she says.) Campbell perks up when praising the contributions of Neko Case and Jim James, who appear on album tracks “Every Weekday” and “Troublemaker.”

“Sometimes, when I think about it now, I can’t believe that Jim and Neko are singing on my record,” she declares. “When you hear it you might like ‘Jesus Christ, Neko Case is going to sing on a Camera Obscura album?’ She’s going to blow us away. I was a bit worried about that.”

The musician is no less generous with her praise of Jim James’ elegant rasp. For a moment, Campbell forgets herself, nearly gushing.

“I would have just let him sing over every song if I could have let that happen,” she says emphatically. “But then it would have ended up being the Jim James show.”



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