Time Capsules II

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From the hooky rock & roll of Smith Westerns, to the '80s and '90s lo-fi revival of Yuck, to the shimmering dream pop of Puro Instinct, the 2010s are a great time to be a young musician. Bedroom-based endeavors are taken seriously, while artists with more polished aspirations are just an audio software-equipped laptop away from a crisp recording, and options for distribution are seemingly infinite. Oberhofer brainchild Brad Oberhofer is a prime example of a young contemporary musician negotiating his place in this new landscape; his 2010 debut single o0o0o0o0o was decidedly lo-fi, but by fall 2011 he was in the studio with veritable producer to the stars Steve Lillywhite (U2, Rolling Stones, Talking Heads). The result, his full-length debut Time Capsules II, lands somewhere in the middle, conjuring plenty of youthful exuberance -- as of the release date, Oberhofer is just old enough to drink at his shows -- as well as openness to new ideas and eagerness to cram them all into one place, which is elevated to soaring, symphonic proportions thanks to Lillywhite's production. All of this fits into Oberhofer's "coincidence pop" philosophy, that improvisation, experimentation, and brainstorming beget happy accidents, and while some more judicious editing would have made for a better record, it's clear Time Capsules II represents where he is now, under his terms. This is a world where conventional rock instruments mingle with strings, xylophone, theremin, and accordion, where traditional meets whimsical, where joy meets bittersweet. This balance strikes best on songs like opener "HEART," a sweeping, dramatic journey brought back to earth with melancholy lyrics like "All that I asked for was a little bit of heart/I gave you my love and you tore it apart," and the freewheeling, surf-tinged ode to the car song "Cruisin' FDR," which relishes the open road and his sweetheart riding shotgun. Sugary indie pop is the main event here, whether propelled by glockenspiel riffs ("I Could Go"), nature imagery and nonsense lyrics ("oOoO"), or cello and woodwinds ("Homebro"), but Oberhofer offers some variation with the back-to-back "Landline Strokes" and "Away Frm U," bringing angular guitar riffs into the mix alongside the tinkles of xylophone and toy piano. Oberhofer has imagination to spare, but Time Capsules II would benefit from reeling in a bit -- most of the songs are at least three and a half minutes long but finished saying what they needed to before reaching that time point, and as welcome as xylophone is on an indie pop record, hearing it on what feels like every song is a bit much. But these observations are the type that Oberhofer will arrive at on his own as he matures as an artist; for now may he let his sense of imagination and wonder be his guide.

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