Camera Obscura (band)

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Camera Obscura
Camera Obscura performing in 2005
Camera Obscura performing in 2005
Background information
OriginGlasgow, Scotland
GenresIndie pop
Years active1996–2015, 2018–present
MembersTracyanne Campbell
Gavin Dunbar
Kenny McKeeve
Lee Thomson
Nigel Baillie
Past membersCarey Lander
John Henderson
Richard Colburn
David Skirving
Lindsay Boyd

Camera Obscura is a Scottish indie pop band from Glasgow. The group formed in 1996, and have released five albums to date – the most recent of which, Desire Lines, was released in 2013. The current members of the band are vocalist Tracyanne Campbell, guitarist Kenny McKeeve, bassist Gavin Dunbar, and drummer Lee Thomson. The band undertook an extended hiatus in 2015, following the death of long-serving keyboardist Carey Lander. The surviving members later reconvened in 2018.

The band's bright take on indie pop has been frequently described as "twee pop," and garnered comparisons to fellow Scottish band Belle & Sebastian.[1][2] The band have also been praised for their "honest, wide, and adult approach to heartbreak, romantic liaisons, and escapism."[3]


Camera Obscura were formed in 1996 by Tracyanne Campbell, John Henderson and Gavin Dunbar. Several other members performed with the band before David Skirving joined as a permanent guitarist. Their first releases were the singles "Park and Ride" and "Your Sound" in 1998.[4] The band's line-up changed in 2000 and 2001 when Lee Thomson joined as its permanent drummer, Lindsay Boyd joined as a keyboard player, and Skirving left and was replaced by Kenny McKeeve.[4][5]

Camera Obscura's first album, Biggest Bluest Hi Fi, was released in 2001. The album was produced by Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian and was supported by John Peel.[5] The first single from the album, "Eighties Fan", came in at number eight in the Festive Fifty in 2001,[6] and charted in several independent music charts. Nigel Baillie joined the band as a trumpeter and percussionist in 2002[5] and Carey Lander replaced Boyd. In the summer of 2002, Peel asked the band to do their first Peel session.[4]

The band's second album, Underachievers Please Try Harder, was released in 2003 and was followed by Camera Obscura's first full tour of Great Britain and Ireland and the band's first tour of the United States. Founding member John Henderson left Camera Obscura following this tour.[7] In early 2004 the band recorded the songs "I Love My Jean" and "Red, Red Rose" following their third Peel session, in which Peel had asked them to put these poems by Robert Burns to music.[5]

Camera Obscura recorded their third album, Let's Get Out of This Country, in Sweden over the course of two weeks with producer Jari Haapalainen.[8] The album was released on 6 June 2006. The first single, "Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken", is an answer song to Lloyd Cole and the Commotions' song "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?";[9] it appears during the opening credits of the 2007 film, P.S. I Love You.[10] The title song was featured in episode 5 of Friday Night Lights.[11]

In November 2008, the band announced that they had completed recording the follow-up to Let's Get Out of This Country, and in February 2009, they announced they had signed with 4AD.[12] The new album, My Maudlin Career, was released in April 2009, and preceded by the first single "French Navy". London-based jewellery brand Tatty Devine created brooches and necklaces to coincide with the launch. The album was the band's first UK Top 40 success, and it also reached the top 40 in Ireland and the US Billboard Top 100. Around this time, the band announced that "due to family commitments (including being a proud dad) Nigel will no longer be a full time member of Camera Obscura".[13]

On 18 April 2009, Camera Obscura released a special edition Record Store Day 7" called "French Navy"[14] for independent record stores. "French Navy" was also used by Echo Falls, who are the sponsors of Come Dine With Me, at the start of each episode and during commercial breaks. Their album Desire Lines was produced by Tucker Martine and released by 4AD on 3 June 2013.[15] The album was the band's second UK Top 40 entry and narrowly missed the US Top 100.

In 2015, the band announced the cancellation of planned gigs in North America due to the illness of Carey Lander.[16] She was first diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2011. She announced in 2015 that it had returned.[17] Lander set up a JustGiving page for Sarcoma UK in order to raise awareness to the illness and lack of funding for research and treatment, and as of November 2015, the sum of donations is over £73,000.[18] Carey Lander died on 11 October 2015.[19]

In May 2018, while Campbell was promoting the self-titled debut album of Tracyanne & Danny, her new project with Danny Coughlan, she noted that she still kept in touch with the other members of Camera Obscura in the wake of Lander's passing, but the future of the band remained undiscussed.[20] The song "Alabama" from the Tracyanne & Danny album is Campbell's tribute to Lander.[21]

On 5 September 2018, Camera Obscura announced their live return as part of the Boaty Weekender, a cruise festival curated by Belle & Sebastian sailing from Barcelona to Cagliari on 8–12 August 2019.[22]

Prior to participating in the Boaty Weekender, the band announced a warm-up show at Saint Luke's & The Winged Ox in Glasgow on 5 August with proceeds donated to the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice in memory of Carey Lander.[23] After tickets for the show were sold out, the band added a second date with proceeds also being donated.[24]

For these shows and the Boaty Weekender, the band brought in Donna Maciocia, formerly of Amplifico, on keyboards and backing vocals.[25][26]

On 5 August 2019, Camera Obscura hinted at the possibility of releasing new music when responding to a tweet referring to Desire Lines as their "5th and final album," to which the band replied "It's definitely our fifth album.....".[27] The band confirmed in May 2020 that they were preparing a new album, but had been forced to delay recording it due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[28]


Current members[edit]

  • Tracyanne Campbell – vocals, guitar (1996–2015, 2018–present)
  • Gavin Dunbar – bass (1996–2015, 2018–present)
  • Lee Thomson – drums (2000–2015, 2018–present)
  • Kenny McKeeve – guitar, vocals (2001–2015, 2018–present)

Current touring musicians[edit]

  • Tim Cronin – trumpet, percussion (2009–2015, 2018–present)
  • Donna Maciocia – keyboards, vocals (2019–present)[25]

Former members[edit]

  • John Henderson – vocals, percussion (1996–2004)
  • Richard Colburn – drums (1998)
  • David Skirving – vocals, guitar (1998–2001)
  • Lindsay Boyd – keyboards (2000–2002)
  • Nigel Baillie – trumpet, percussion (2002–2009)
  • Carey Lander – piano, organ, vocals (2002–2015; died 2015)

Former touring musicians[edit]



Year Album details Peak chart positions
UK[29] IRE[30] USA[31]
2001 Biggest Bluest Hi Fi
  • Released: 12 November 2001
  • Label: Andmoresound (and 17)
  • Formats: CD, LP
  • Reissued in 2002 on Elefant (ER-1090)
  • Reissued in 2004 on Merge (MRG256)
2003 Underachievers Please Try Harder
  • Released: 15 September 2003
  • Label: Elefant (ER-1104) (Europe)
    Merge (MRG239) (North America)
  • Formats: CD, LP, DL
2006 Let's Get Out of This Country
  • Released: 6 June 2006
  • Label: Merge (MRG276) (North America)
    Elefant (ER-1123) (Europe)
  • Formats: CD, 2CD, LP, DL
2009 My Maudlin Career
  • Released: 20 April 2009
  • Label: 4AD (CAD 2907)
  • Formats: CD, LP, DL
32 37 87
2013 Desire Lines
  • Released: 3 June 2013
  • Label: 4AD (CAD3314)
  • Formats: CD, LP, DL
39 66 106
"—" denotes a release that did not chart or was not issued in that region.


Song Release date Release info Formats UK Singles Chart[29] Album
"Park and Ride" 2 March 1998 Andmoresound (and 09) 7" vinyl Non-album single
"Your Sound" 14 December 1998 Andmoresound (and 11) CD, 7" vinyl
"Eighties Fan" 25 June 2001 Andmoresound (and 16) CD, 7" vinyl Biggest Bluest Hi Fi
"Teenager" 26 May 2003 Elefant (ER-352) CD 182 Underachievers Please Try Harder
"Keep It Clean" 28 June 2004 Elefant (ER-355) CD
"I Love My Jean" 21 March 2005 Elefant (ER-358) CD, 7" vinyl 101 Non-album single
"Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken" 15 May 2006 Elefant (ER-362) CD, 7" vinyl 124 Let's Get Out of This Country
"Let's Get Out of This Country" 11 September 2006 Elefant (ER-364) CD, 7" vinyl 144
"If Looks Could Kill" 29 January 2007 Elefant (ER-366) CD, 7" vinyl 191
"Tears for Affairs" 23 April 2007 Elefant (ER-368) CD, 7" vinyl
"French Navy" 13 April 2009 4AD (AD 2912) CD, 7" vinyl 141 My Maudlin Career
"Honey in the Sun" August 2009 4AD (EAD 2929 S) Promo-only CDR
"The Sweetest Thing" 2 November 2009 4AD (AD 2926) 7" vinyl
"The Blizzard"/"Swans" 7 December 2009 4AD (AD 2937) 7" vinyl
"The Nights Are Cold" 17 May 2010 4AD (AD 3X25) 7" vinyl Non-album single
"Do It Again" May 2013 4AD Free Download Desire Lines
"Break It to You Gently" / "Do It Again" October 2013 4AD 7" vinyl
"Troublemaker" October 2013 4AD CD
"—" denotes a release that did not chart.

Compilations and EPs[edit]

  • Rare UK Bird (December 1999, Quattro) Japan-only
  • 4AD Sessions EP (19 April 2014, 4AD) Record Store Day

Other contributions[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yissin, Jibril (18 November 2016). "The 10 Best Twee Pop Albums To Own On Vinyl". Vinyl Me Please. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  2. ^ Carew, Anthony (February 2007). "Camera Obscura". The Age. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  3. ^ Plagenhoaf, Scott. "Camera Obscura: Underachievers Please Try Harder Album Review". Pitchfork. Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  4. ^ a b c "Camera Obscura Biography". NME Artists. NME. Retrieved 16 June 2009.
  5. ^ a b c d "Camera Obscura". Allmusic. Retrieved 16 June 2009.
  6. ^ "Radio 1 – Keeping It Peel – Festive 50s – 2001". BBC. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  7. ^ "Camera Obscura". Interviews. Pitchfork Media. 25 September 2006. Retrieved 16 June 2009.
  8. ^ Keresman, Mark (19 July 2006). "If It's Not Scottish, It's Crap!". SF Weekly. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  9. ^ Perry, Jonathan (30 June 2006). "Camera Obscura Sharpens its Focus". The Boston Globe.
  10. ^ "P.S. I Love You (2007) Soundtracks". IMDb. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  11. ^ "Music from Friday Night Lights S1E05".
  12. ^ Webb, Rob (4 February 2009). "4AD announce trio of signings". Archived from the original on 23 March 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  13. ^ "Camera Obscura's New Album". 9 February 2009. Archived from the original on 24 March 2009.
  14. ^ "Records Store Day Releases – 2009". Record Store Day. 29 April 1992. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  15. ^ Thomas, Fred. "Desire Lines Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  16. ^ "Camera Obscura – It is with regret that Camera Obscura..." Facebook. Archived from the original on 26 February 2022. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  17. ^ Strang, Fay (21 August 2015). "Camera Obscura's Carey Lander's rare and aggressive bone cancer returns, says it's 'too late' to help her". Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  18. ^ "Carey Lander is fundraising for Sarcoma UK". 13 August 2015. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  19. ^ Minsker, Evan (11 October 2015). "Camera Obscura's Carey Lander Has Died | Pitchfork". Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  20. ^ Jamieson, Teddy (19 May 2018). "Tracyanne Campbell on Camera Obscura, the loss of bandmate Carey Lander and her new album". The Herald. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  21. ^ Brown, Annie (15 May 2018). "'Losing Carey was massive' Camera Obscura singer on returning to music after band mate's death". Daily Record. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  22. ^ Camera Obscura (5 September 2018). "Hi folks". Facebook. Archived from the original on 26 February 2022. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  23. ^ Camera Obscura [@camera_obscura_] (30 April 2019). "We're warming up for our Boaty Weekender gigs by playing St Luke's..." (Tweet). Retrieved 6 August 2019 – via Twitter.
  24. ^ Camera Obscura [@camera_obscura_] (3 May 2019). "Thanks for the kind words and fast ticket purchases..." (Tweet). Retrieved 6 August 2019 – via Twitter.
  25. ^ a b Maciocia, Donna [@DonnaMaciocia] (4 August 2019). "Super stoked to be playing these shows with @Camera_Obscura_..." (Tweet). Retrieved 6 August 2019 – via Twitter.
  26. ^ Camera Obscura [@camera_obscura_] (24 June 2019). "Great rehearsals this weekend in prep for our first gig in 42 days..." (Tweet). Retrieved 6 August 2019 – via Twitter.
  27. ^ Camera Obscura [@camera_obscura_] (5 August 2019). "It's definitely our fifth album..." (Tweet). Retrieved 6 August 2019 – via Twitter.
  28. ^ Camera Obscura (2 May 2020). "Camera Obscura Faceboook". Facebook. Archived from the original on 26 February 2022. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  29. ^ a b "Camera Obscura". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 3 November 2009.
  30. ^ "Discography Camera Obscura". Retrieved 3 November 2009.
  31. ^ "Camera Obscura Music News & Info". Billboard. Retrieved 3 November 2009.

External links[edit]