Masters of sweet sad pop, Camera Obscura are back after a four-year absence; all those melted without delay by Tracyanne Campbell’s voice prepare to be quickly puddled once more.
“Fifth in Line to the Throne” swings with a stately, downcast manner, slowing the band’s characteristic early-’60s melodies to a torchy sway. It’s a simple song, with no pretenses—and, previous CO adherents should note, not a whole lot of reverb. The band traveled from Glasgow to Portland, Oregon for this new album, to work with producer Tucker Martine, a studio whiz who seems to have figured out an intriguing way to maintain the band’s signature vibe without quite so much echoey ambiance as usual. The reverb is still there, to be sure, but the central tones of both Campbell’s voice and Kenny McKeeve’s lead guitar (check out the sly, leisurely solo, beginning at 2:44) are given more clarity than has been previously typical. Guest backing vocalist Neko Case, however, gets the full drench, her distinctive voice often diffused in a reverberant cloud.
The four years that have passed since My Maudlin Career have not been uneventful for the Scottish quintet. Keyboard player Carey Lander was diagnosed with cancer; she has apparently responded well to treatments and is not inclined to talk about it. Guitarist McKeeve, a new parent himself, lost his mother unexpectedly. And Campbell is now pregnant. But, hiatus now behind them, seventeen years into their lives together as a band, Camera Obscura forges onward with their fifth album, Desire Lines, arriving early next month on 4AD Records. MP3 via 4AD; thanks to Largehearted Boy for the head’s up. And for a taste of one of the album’s upbeat numbers, check out “Do It Again,” via YouTube.