Camera Obscura

Desire Lines (4AD)

Phases & Stages

Camera Obscura

Desire Lines (4AD)

Guest spots from Neko Case and Jim James fold into Desire Lines, but amid its dreamlike immensity you might not notice. The pop-loving Glaswegians cultivate smart, sugar-coated camp in the vein of countrymen Belle & Sebastian, but their fifth LP resists harvesting low-hanging fruit, including the big-name heavyweights honeying the vocals. And that restraint in a way deflates Camera Obscura's elation. Frontwoman Tracyanne Campbell, usually a victim of the orchestral flourishes, emerges clear and confident, a swagger flawlessly chronicled in the flirty "Do It Again." Already a radio earwig, with obvious, alluring sweeps that harken back to the winking playfulness of 2009 precursor My Maudlin Career, the obvious centerpiece isn't par for the course on Desire Lines. Producer Tucker Martine, working out of Portland, Ore., instead treats the sextet's joie de vivre by paring down thick keyboards in "Every Weekday" and the harkening balladry of "Cri Du Coeur." Either way, Camera Obscura's done it again.

***.5

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