Camera Obscura – ‘Desire Lines’
“I’ve been cool with you. The sooner you admit it, I will too.” Scottish band, Camera Obscura, have always produced coy, peaceful, airy music—music from a generation past. Their songs could easily ride along the coat tails of the ‘50s pop era. Comparisons to fellow Scots Belle & Sebastian are very easy to make, and the band are more than okay with that. However, never being a band to hog the spotlight, Camera Obscura always seem to embrace life on the in-between of indie rock stardom and playing small venues to diehard fans who will dance and sing along to every song.
I was introduced to Camera Obscura in 2006, when, on a whim, I went to Tallahassee, Fla. to see them with a friend. He raved about them, but it was news to me. I had no idea what I was in for, since at the time our musical tastes were going in two different directions. I remember the band walking out and starting with “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken,” the opening track from the album they had just released, “Let’s Get Out of This Country,” and since one of my all-time favorite jams. The word “cute” is more often than not a word that I use very sparingly, but everything about this band, including their hulking bass player, brought “cute” to mind. I just wanted to put them in my pocket and carry them around, occasionally feeding them minute amounts of haggis.
“Desire Lines” finds Camera Obscura doing what they do best, writing whimsical pop-rock that echoes back to a time of cocktail parties and smoking jackets, an era of housewives and milkmen, a time I only really know or understand from growing up watching Nick at Nite. This album also reveals a band who is very comfortable doing exactly what they want, and for possibly the first time in their career, knowing precisely what that is. Album highlights are “Every Weekday,” “I Missed Your Party,” and the squeaky clean jam “New Year’s Resolution,” all of which exemplify classic Camera Obscura. “Desire Lines” is out now via 4AD. I highly recommend you give Camera Obscura the chance to melt your heart. You won’t be disappointed.
Thundercat – ‘Apocalypse’
My musical tastes and the scope of things I listen to have been doing some serious shifting lately. I have been much keener on R&B and Disco than I have ever been in my life. Not that I have shut those genres out, like I have much of today’s mainstream rock, but I have rarely gone out of my way to listen to artists who fall within those walls. About a week ago, I came across Thundercat. Obviously, the ‘80s kid in me was drawn to the name, but I was very pleasantly surprised by what I found. Stephen Bruner, the musical genius behind Thundercat, has quite an impressive resume, though his name may not strike any pop-culture trivia chords. He has played with the Suicidal Tendencies, spent time in a boy band, and, most recently, provided bass for Ms. Erykah Badu, making him just as well rounded as one would assume with that sort of experience. Bruner’s second album under the Thundercat moniker, just under 40 minutes of soul, funk, and shifty time signatures, “Apocalypse” carries just as much hefty emotion and miry heartbreak as it does whimsy and desire to party well into the night. First single, “Oh Sheit, It’s X,” is a mind-warping funk rager, which spins the listener though an X bender loaded with plenty of dancing. This song is one of the most infectious I have ever heard, and is guaranteed to have anyone tuned in, if not dancing, on the first listen. Upbeat numbers rest neatly between, shimmering introspective songs like “Heartbreaks & Setbacks” and “Evangelion” and impressive, mostly instrumental pieces like “Seven.” Several songs have long breaks, where the instrumental end of Bruner’s prowess is really able to stand tall. I know this seems like kind of a wild card, it was for me, but I strongly suggest giving “Apocalypse” a shot. It will be more than worth it. “Apocalypse” is out now via Brainfeeder.