Camera Obscura | Desire Lines | New Music Review
To start, Camera Obscura introduces Desire Lines with a brief, sweeping overture (simply, “Intro”) that hints at the structured dreamscape to come—not that any future tracks on the record revisit the string arrangement procured here; I mean to say that this short, overwrought musical construct belies the band’s aspiration to sublime grandeur in obvious subtext. But that’s all just intellectualizing what amounts to a barely a half-minute movement on the album. The simple fact is, once I heard Desire Lines’ introduction, I knew exactly what I’d be getting for the next forty-odd minutes—contrived simplicity well done for the sake of weight—and it’s almost too bad, because you never fully lose yourself in the more elementary notes, cringingly aware the band wants you to forget for a time that it’s all an act. Camera Obscura tells a story in the lyrics and mechanism of Desire Lines that is nothing if not an admirable attempt at layman ethereality. But these folks are too consistent to feign providence in their riffs’ origins.
Finally to the music—“This Is Love (Feels Alright)” is whimsical and breezy, and I enjoyed it as a piece.
The middle third, and heart, of the album (Tracks Three to Nine) systematically alternate between two—and only two—forms: “Troublemaker”, “Every Weekday”, “Do It Again”, and “New Year’s Resolution” run a little faster in tempo than “This Is Love” (albeit in the same sedated spirit), while “William’s Heart”, “Cri Du Couer”, and “Fifth In Line To The Throne” remain adrift with a more casual strum. In these tracks, Camera Obscura references sources from Moose to My Morning Jacket with categorical precision— it’s almost as if the members behind the Camera were born of consummations during an indulgent afterparty for The Scene That Celebrates Itself—for better or worse, Desire Lines is a well-versed product, though it cares not to admit it... (and just like that, this album is drawing to a close.)
“I Missed Your Party” is appropriate in title—growing with some horns in the mix for a long-awaited shift from the now-familiar groove, but it’s too late. Sorry, I missed your party...
And why the hell did it take so long? “Break It To You Gently” is actually enjoyable, not tedious, with its neon-lite synthesizers that The Human League might have indulged in had they survived to ’93. Little darling, I tried, at least look on the bright side... Put this track alongside “This Is Love (Feels Alright)” and you’ve got yourself quite a single ditty. Too bad the pair gets lost amongst the necessities of a full-length creation.
Desire Lines ends with its titular finale, another slow track to smooth the set to a rather underwhelming close.
They say first impressions are impossible to wholly overcome—so true with Desire Lines—and it’s unfortunate, because there’s certainly some fun to be had amongst the set. But it’s tough to enjoy these outwardly whimsical, shoegazing melodies when I can’t help but feel—albeit perhaps misguidedly so—that the folks in Camera Obscura are celebrating their own breezy hipness from the curtains. That being said, at least there’s labor behind the cool—I doubt anyone would underestimate the time Camera Obscura has spent honing their seraphic sound—the artists might be the pin-adorned, high-def hipster offspring of Norah Jones and Tim Gane (you’ve encountered their ilk), but at least they’ve taken the time to find an outfit sewn of thrift that matches.