Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
The Scottish ensemble Camera Obscura formed in 1996, when vocalist Tracyanne Campbell, percussionist John Henderson, bassist Gavin Dunbar, and guitarist David Skirving began creating lush indie pop with orchestral flourishes and romantic lyrics. They went on to release a number of singles, one of which included contributions from Belle & Sebastian's Richard Colburn, whose band served as a stylistic touchstone for the young Camera Obscura. Three years after the band's first releases, Lee Thompson joined the lineup as a permanent drummer and David Skirving jumped ship, only to be replaced by Kenny McKeeve. Keyboardist Lindsey Boyd also climbed aboard not long afterward, defining the band as a six-piece.
Camera Obscura received an influential endorsement from John Peel in 2001, when the British DJ deemed them one of the most promising bands of the year. Their first full-length album, Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi, was released the following year through the AndMoreSound Records catalog, with production help from Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch. Trumpeter and percussionist Nigel Baile joined the band soon afterward, swelling their ranks to seven. The group's next effort, the luminescent Underachievers Please Try Harder, was released by Spanish label Elefant in 2003; an American release followed in 2004 by the stalwart label Merge, which also reissued Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi. For the band's third Peel session in early 2004, they were asked to put music to the words of Scottish poet Robert Burns, a task they enjoyed so much they ended up recording studio versions of two of the songs: "I Love My Jean" and "Red, Red Rose."
After touring the world and reaping critical success, the band returned to Scotland and suffered two losses: first, the death of Peel, one of their biggest supporters; second, the defection of John Henderson. The band released the I Love My Jean single as a tribute to the late Peel in early 2005 and decamped as a six-piece to Sweden to record with noted producer Jari Haapalainen. The resulting album, Let's Get Out of This Country, was released in June of 2006 on Merge and Elefant. A series of singles and EPs followed, culminating in the release of 2009's full-length My Maudlin Career. The band began work writing a follow up in 2010, but illness and personal issues put the process on indefinite hold for a time. In 2012 they traveled to Portland, Oregon to work with producer Tucker Martine on what would become 2013's Desire Lines, the group's fifth and most confident record to date.