Catchy, quirky, dreamy pop-rock of Camera Obscura coming to Haw River Ballroom

CorrespondentJuly 11, 2013 

cameraobscura

Camera Obscura.

COURTESY OF ANNA ISOLA CROLLA

  • Camera Obscura

    When: Friday, 9 p.m.

    Where: Haw River Ballroom,

    1711 Saxapahaw Bethlehem Church Road, Saxapahaw

    Cost: $20

    Details: 336-525-2314

It’s fitting that Camera Obscura is touring around the same time and in some of the same cities as indie rockers Belle and Sebastian, since these Glaswegian bands possess similar sonic sensibilities: each act crafts catchy, quirky and dreamy pop-rock.

“We have to give thanks to (Belle and Sebastian singer-songwriter) Stuart (Murdoch),” Camera Obscura bassist Gavin Dunbar said while calling from Ottawa. “He helped us out quite a bit during the beginning. He was a very good guide.”

Camera Obscura formed in 1996, and the band – which also includes vocalist-guitarist Tracyanne Campbell, guitarist-mandolinist Kenny McKeeve, pianist Carey Lander and drummer Lee Thomson – certainly learned a considerable amount from Belle and Sebastian, but quickly became its own entity.

“We became confident, but we have no problem listening to anyone who can help the band,” Dunbar said.

Camera Obscura, which will perform Friday at the Haw River Ballroom, was also wise enough to invite producer Tucker Martine to work on its latest album, ‘Desire Lines,’ which dropped last month. Martine, who has produced The Decemberists, R.E.M. and Sufjan Stevens, has earned raves for enhancing albums.

“I can’t say enough about what he knows,” R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills said of Martine. “He’s that good.”

It’s not as if ‘Desire Lines’ is something completely different for Camera Obscura, but there are some subtle differences on the band’s fifth album. The melancholy and sly humor remain, but the hooks are bigger. Camera Obscura also rocks harder this time out and there is more space between songs. The production is also cleaner – Martine cut the reverb and emphasized the string section.

“He didn’t make massive changes,” Dunbar said. “He made some great suggestions on how to have a better-sounding album but without taking away our sound.”

Camera Obscura seems to be channeling The Smiths at times with jangly guitars, which recall the work of Johnny Marr, and the sublime Campbell’s lyrics are at times downright morose. The fresh material is typically romantic, energetic and catchy.

“We feel as though we’re exactly where we should be,” Dunbar said. “The right songs and the right producer have made for an album’s worth of material, which we love to play night after night. We’re still excited about what we did in the studio.”

Neko Case’s vocals provide a boost to Camera Obscura’s latest.

“I believe Tucker called her since she is such an amazing singer,” Dunbar said. “We met her at the Sasquatch festival and she told us that she likes what we do, and that was nice. She made a difference on the album. Tucker has some talented friends. We love touring behind our albums in America, since it’s always a positive experience. The reviews are always very good for us in America and the response from audiences is great as well.”

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