Camera Obscura – 'Desire Lines' album review

The Glaswegians' fifth record is lovely, misty and wistful – with no surprises

Camera Obscura – 'Desire Lines'

  • Rated as: 3/5

Ask anyone to name a touchy-feely indie-pop band from Glasgow, and – assuming they don’t just give you a weird look – it’ll probably be Belle And Sebastian, Arab Strap or The Pastels. Whether it’s the perma-grey weather or the imposing Victorian architecture, something about Scotland’s biggest city seems to breed romantic, sensitive acts with a thing for catchy melodies, heartbreak, and lashings of string and woodwind.

Camera Obscura are one of those bands, and despite a couple of solid-gold past singles like ‘Eighties Fan’ and ‘Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken’, they’ve never managed to break the mould or the mainstream, or really challenge the popularity of their fellow Glas-twee-gians. The group’s fifth album, ‘Desire Lines’, is 46 minutes of misty, wistful indie-pop with no surprises. It’s a consistently lovely record, full of intricate guitars and hazy vocal harmonies. There are even a couple of stand-out songs, including ‘Fifth in Line to the Throne’ – like The Sundays covering The Ronettes – and ‘Do It Again’, full of uptempo guitar chops and Motown-lite organ and percussion.

‘Desire Lines’, though, is the the third Camera Obscura album in a row that hardly develops the group’s sound, after the equally charming ‘Let’s Get Out of This Country’ in 2006 and ‘My Maudlin Career’ in 2009. Change isn’t always a good thing, of course, but when a band has shown hardly any discernible artistic progress in almost a decade, it might be worth asking whether a clutch of gently hazy songs can stand up alone. On ‘Desire Lines’, the answer is ‘just about’ – but Camera Obscura are looking increasingly in need of the kind of bold reinvention that Belle And Sebastian managed with ‘Dear Catastrophe Waitress’ in 2003. If that doesn’t happen next time around, they risk falling foul of one of their own ironic album titles: ‘Underachievers, Please Try Harder’.

Watch Camera Obscura's 'Lloyd, I'm Ready to be Heartbroken' video

Listen to 'Desire Lines' on Spotify

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