This Glasgow band’s status as much-loved outsiders was amusingly encapsulated by a headline on the front page of The Guardian in 2007, linked to a feature inside summarising what readers thought to be unfair omissions from the paper’s list of 1000 Albums To Hear Before You Die: ‘What, no ?’
Lately they’ve come in from the cold. After going 13 years without a UK label proper, Camera Obscura have signed to 4AD, and currently sit on a fine fourth album in My Maudlin Career. It successfully crowns the band’s steady transition from whimsical, library book indieists into purveyors of a self-assured strain of soulful, ornate, classic sounding and very dreamy pop.
The under-the-radar thing wasn’t strictly reluctant, according to bassist Gavin Dunbar. ‘I guess we never really pushed ourselves forward to labels and just did what we thought was right, made the kind of music we wanted to make,’ he says. ‘But it’s difficult to up your game if you don’t have a label to help you.’
4AD were just the backers they’d been waiting for. ‘They’re up there with the very best independents,’ says Dunbar. ‘We’ve all got records that they’ve released over the years, so it’s a nice home for us.’
Bringing the reverb again on the new record – after the lush job he did on 2005’s Let’s Get Out of this Country – is Swedish producer Jari Haapalainen. He took the band right to the heart of Scandinavian pop by booking them into Atlantis Studios, Stockholm, ABBA’s hit factory during the 1970s.
‘It was pretty amazing to go into this massive studio which was full of vintage gear, a lot of which used to belong to ABBA,’ says Dunbar.
A perky, possibly even ABBA-esque ethos permeates My Maudlin Career too. Yet, the characteristically bittersweet streak in singer and songwriter Traceyanne Campbell’s words and voice has intensified too. ‘Most of the tracks, musically, are more upbeat but the lyrical content is darker,’ says Dunbar. ‘So it’s a strange marriage. There’s still a couple of moments of musical miserablism, but we don’t want to be making people cry. Not all the time.’
Barrowland, Glasgow, Sun 26 April