by Miranda Beaubien
“Away Frm U” - Oberhofer
The lo-fi Brooklyn pop/rock band Oberhofer has been creating chaotic yet catchy tunes since 2010 when the band released the single “o0Oo0Oo”, and up until Time Capsules II they’ve been doing all the work themselves. Now with veteran producer Steve Lillywhite in the picture they’ve finally released their first full-length album via Glassnote Records. The pairing of Lillywhite with the band seems to be a smart match seeing as he’s been the mastermind behind acts like Peter Gabriel, The Talking Heads, The Rolling Stones, and songs such as “Hong Kong Garden” by Souixsie and the Banshees; the latter example being the most reminiscent of what I hear from Oberhofer. Oberhofer gets it’s namesake from the group’s lead Brad Oberhofer, a 21 year old transplant from his parent’s basement in Tacoma. He’s now backed by a trio of musicians that mesh extremely well with Brad’s approach towards songwriting. The majority of the tracks on the album juxtapose the light jingling of a xylophone with unrestrained drumming, slashing guitars and lyrical themes that consist of love, love lost, or unwanted love. Brad’s vocal range varies widely, and he uses it adeptly whether it’s melodic, atonal, or a well placed scream.
Time Capsules II takes a pleasant leap from the rawness of their previous lo-fi bedroom sound towards something more ambitious and studio produced. Take, for example, track one, “Heart”, a flourishing piano and string quartet backed song with drums that seem to push back against the lightness of the more classical instrumentation. The song assaults your ears with noise in the best possible way, and breaks down at the lyrics “all that I asked for was a little bit of heart… I gave you my love and you tore it apart,” as though it were a life-shattering epiphany. The track departs with a little tune resembling a sound that would come right out of a melting phonograph. It’s the perfect introduction to Oberhofer’s style because it’s so over the top that you can’t ignore it.
The record continues with the 80’s New Wave inspired track “Landline,” a more finely tuned version of the song that appeared on the 7” EP oOo0Ooo. It’s an organic continuation from the start of the album and the line “if I don’t pick up the phone you can call the lalalalalandline” proves Brad Oberhofer can write hooks that will roll around in your head for days if only because he’s a craftsman when it comes to lyrical repetition.
“Away Frm U,” another tune that was pulled from Oberhofer’s cache of songs and reworked for Time Capsules II, is a decidedly heavy-hearted track masked by upbeat melodies, xylophone use, and fast-paced thrashing drums. The start to the song is a lovely downtempo chord progression that really makes it stand out from the rest of the album. Those who found “oOooOoo” as enchanting as I did may find this one pervading their thoughts as well. The more I listen to the record I find myself getting excited when this track comes up, and as the song builds my physical movements seem to involuntarily build with it.
When I first heard “oOooOoo” upon it’s original release I was ensnared by the charm of the unrequited love themed lyrics over drums that beat you over the head, the bright use of xylophone, and, hell, the hook is just a series of vowels (it’s adorable, once again, in the best possible way). I find it impossible for me not dance to it whether I’m experiencing them live or listening to the track on the stereo in my bedroom. Again, the song was reworked for Time Capsules II and loses a bit of the lo-fi allure, but seems tighter overall and the higher level of production has the potential to grab a new group of fans who may be put off by lofi bedroom rock.
Time Capsules II takes a turn from the downside of love to a more positive outlook on the subject with the song “Cruising FDR.” The track is an entirely new release that contains a pleasing 50’s era pop twist to it which is a refreshing respite from the fact that the majority of the songs tend to stylistically meld together.
The more surprising track on the album is the slow, synth-laden “Homebro” that seems to bring the album full circle with contemplative lyrics such as “I never knew what my life was pointing to… it was pointing back at you again.” It ends the LP in a somber yet self-aware way.
Nothing about Time Capsules II feels forced or conformed now that the band members aren’t the only power behind their music. It’s still just Oberhofer being who he/they are, especially because most of the tracks are more finely-tuned older work. I found the progression of the naive lovelorn lyrical theme tells an endearing story and really brings the album together beyond Brad’s distinct vocal range and the similarities between each song which, at times, makes it difficult to tell one track from the other. Regardless of the stories of lost love, the album’s music and the energy in Brad’s voice is electrifying, and there’s so much spirit and innocence in the songwriting that it’s impossible not to find something to love about this record. It’s a respectable record label debut that defines the kind of musical legacy Oberhofer wants to leave behind, and I’m excited to see how the band grows in time.