Camera Obscura won't shed any light on lyrics 

click to enlarge Camera Obscura's latest album is "Desire Lines." - COURTESY PHOTO
  • courtesy photo
  • Camera Obscura's latest album is "Desire Lines."

Tracyanne Campbell, who for five albums and 17 years has fronted the delightful Glaswegian chime-pop quintet Camera Obscura, maintains she isn't overly secretive.

But unlike many modern, tech-savvy artists, she's not interested in any online oversharing.

"I'm not up for declaring to the world things that people could only find out if they actually knew me," she says. "I don't have a Facebook page, and I've got an Instagram page, but I only allow my friends to follow me, because I don't see why anybody would want to look at a picture of me or a meal I've cooked."

Fans could parse the lyricist's songwriting for clues. But again — as on Camera Obscura's brilliant new "Desire Lines" for 4AD, which the band will be touting in town this week — Campbell doesn't betray much. She plays her topical cards close to her vest and doesn't want listeners to take her literally.

"I think the misconception is that all of the songs are romantic love songs, and that all I write about are different types of relationships. So I can safely tell you that a tune like 'William's Heart' is not about a boyfriend — I'm much more ambiguous than that."

The composer's style was clear on early single "Lloyd, I'm Ready to be Heartbroken," a playful, coquettish response to Lloyd Cole and the Commotions' "Are You Ready to be Heartbroken?"

But "Desire Lines" is still rooted in cold, hard reality.

After touring ceaselessly behind 2009's "My Maudlin Career," Campbell was feeling exhausted, disillusioned and at a creative impasse.

Then band keyboardist Carey Lander was diagnosed with cancer, and all future plans got tabled while she received treatment and eventually recovered.

"Carey was very ill for a while, and that became our priority," says Campbell, who penned the straightforward flamenco-spiced tribute 'Every Weekday' in her bandmate's honor. "Actually, it gave us time to step back and get the new songs in a state that we were happy with."

Then the group flew to Portland, Ore., to track "Desire Lines" with red-hot producer Tucker Martine, who invited Neko Case and My Morning Jacket's Jim James to the sessions.

Campbell remains vague on a synth-powered "Break It to You Gently" and the simple vow to become a better person, "New Year's Resolution."

"I'm certainly not pretentious when it comes to writing lyrics, and I don't go out of my way to be mean to anybody," she says. "But I've not always been, er, nice when I'm writing. Like on 'Troublemaker,' which was more of a gentle threat."

To whom? Campbell snickers. "Maybe I was addressing the world, in general. Maybe I was saying, 'Don't mess with me!'"

Camera Obscura

Where: Regency Ballroom, 1290 Sutter St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Tickets: $22.50 to $25

Contact: (415) 673-5716, www.axs.com

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Tom Lanham

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