Oberhofer – ‘Time Capsules II’

An excellent, ambitious debut

Bradley Oberhofer is a 21-year-old dude who fronts his own band, also called Oberhofer. He started making music as a kid in his Tacoma bedroom, and is now resident in Brooklyn. You might take these facts, add them to song titles such as ‘Yr Face’ and ‘Homebro’ and build the presumption that Brad is some scuzzy Wavves kid who rolls out of bed first thing in the afternoon and makes a beeline for the weed grinder. That would be your first mistake.

Turns out, Brad graduated in music theory and composition at NYU, and recorded this, his debut album, with producer Steve Lillywhite, who worked on U2’s ‘The Joshua Tree’ and ‘Achtung Baby’. In short, if you think we’re here to assess another lo-fi tyke shaking some fuzzy tunes out of his unwashed linen, it’s time to dramatically upsize expectations.

The good news is, ‘Time Capsules II’ largely meets them. Beautifully played and recorded, its dazzling guitars, elegiac piano and soaring strings are all rendered in crystal clarity. But what Oberhofer really does is write choruses – simple sentiments, written simply, expressed with passion and sincerity. “I’m drivin’ down FDR/Cruisin’ like a shootin’ star,” boasts ‘Cruisin’ FDR’.

I wanna build a house with you/So we can be alone” he sings on ‘Haus’. “Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-OOH-OOH” goes the vocal hook to ‘oOoO’. Mostly, they’re songs about love gone awry. But even when singing of times gone bad, his voice lends them a sense of joy.

‘Time Capsules II’ is not perfect. At times, Oberhofer’s ambition gets the better of him; songs like ‘Away Frm U’ and ‘Gold’ feel so overloaded with melody they’re in danger of capsizing. He’ll probably make better records in the future. But if a mark of a fine debut is the way it sketches out all manner of possibilities, this fits the bill. It gleams like a skate-park erected in the clouds, and this is your invitation to strap on shin-pads, get up there and carve up some cumulonimbus.

Louis Pattison