For more than 17 years, Scottish indie rockers Camera Obscura have never tired of wearing their hearts on their sleeves. The Glaswegian five-piece have crafted five full-length albums packed with swooning '60s girl-group melodies and chamber-pop refrains, all anchored by singer Tracyanne Campbell's plain yet beautiful voice.
Following the release of last year's Desire Lines, the band is preparing for their long-awaited return to North America. In honor of the beginning of their tour, which begins on July 15, guitarist Kenny McKeeve spoke to The Week via email about the merits of Muzak, the emotional toll of going on tour, and the best show he has ever seen.
"I love touring and playing live, but even the best jobs have their downsides — being far from loved ones is the biggest drag," he said. "Here are some songs I've listened to while having a little wallow."
1. The Walker Brothers, "No Regrets"
"Scott Walker was beyond the end of his tether — truly drifting — when he and his former bandmates got back together to make the supersmooth, borderline corny No Regrets album, a favorite of mine. The original (and purists' favorite) 1968 version of the title track by Tom Rush is simple and plaintive, but it’s the fuller, less subtle version he re-recorded a few years later that the Walker Brothers covered. They completely sanded over all the rough edges of Rush's rockier version — almost to the point of making it into a Muzak copy — but despite this, the essential sadness towers over the whole thing with no loss of impact, as it does through the rest of the album."
2. Gillian Welch, "The Way the Whole Thing Ends"
"A song about the ebb and flow of friendships old and new. It's reflective, matter-of-fact, reproachful without anger or conceit, and reassuring, all with the faintest of smiles. I saw Gillian Welch live in Glasgow a couple of years ago, and it was one of the best shows I've seen in my life."
3. Dire Straits, "So Far Away"
"I loved the fluttery sound of the guitars on this song when I was a kid, and I still do. I never bothered with the words until much later, listening to my iPod on random late at night on the tour bus after a show, having one of my little drunken sit-down discos. I remember slurring to myself 'This is about being lonely ON TOUR!' and feeling all clever about it (until the next morning). Camera Obscura did a cover of Abba's 'Super Trouper' a while back; this shares the theme, but is more socially acceptable to like."
4. El Perro Del Mar, "Do Not Despair"
"Anyone who is not soothed by this song probably just wants to remain miserable. I love the sparseness and condensed lyrics of the beautiful album this comes from (From the Valley to the Stars). Quietly encouraging, it's like being lifted up by an angel. If that's your thing."
5 Gerry Rafferty, "Right Down the Line"
"I imagine that when Gerry Rafferty spoke, his voice sounded double-tracked. He was by many accounts a bit of a delicate flower, and not much use at doing feelings in the real world — but I'm sure that woman, whoever she was, got the message loud and clear in this song of love and gratitude."
6. King Creosote and John Hopkins, "Your Young Voice"
"Barely a song, yet more of a song to me than all of the others put together. One line, sung over and over. I was on tour in the States last summer and missing my little boy terribly. You can just tell by his voice and his words that Kenny Anderson, aka King Creosote, is a good guy."
Desire Lines is out now on 4AD.
(This interview was condensed and edited by Samantha Rollins.)
Watch the video for "Troublemaker" below:
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