Ask anyone to name an 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 such as ‘Eighties Fan’ and ‘Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken’, they’ve never managed to break the mould or the mainstream. The group’s fifth album, Desire Lines, is 46 minutes of misty 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 up tempo guitar chops and Motown-lite organ.
Desire Lines, though, is 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. James Manning