There are some albums that, despite your better judgements, you just can’t help but like. Despite any attempts to reduce it to generic post-millenial indie pop, Oberhofer’s Time Capsules II, which hit shelves all the way back in March, has become one of those records for me. I can tell myself any number of lies about its tired guitar phrases and sickeningly sweet glockenspiel runs, but when it comes down to it, Brad Oberhofer, the man behind the Oberhofer name, has instilled an unbridled joy into this work. No matter the musical prejudice, it’s still leaves me smiling these several months later.
That’s the big problem. With the obvious exception of “Away FRM U,” the single that brought Oberhofer much of his early attention, most of this work bears the hallmarks of the uninspired dreck doomed to soundtrack pseudo-trendy corporate clothing outlets for years to come. “Landline” has the sub-Strokes guitar lines, “Cruising Down FDR” has the theremin, “Haus” has that insufferable “I want to build a house for you/ A house for you” chorus. At it’s heart, even if Oberhofer chooses to express them in immature ways, there are real emotions here, especially in the surface-level cliched platitudes of the aforementioned “Haus.” It’s youthful love, manifesting itself in desires for domesticity, which makes sense: Oberhofer himself is at the age where such desires are of ultimate concern. It’s hooky, it’s precious, it’s straightforward, and you can’t help but identify with Oberhofer’s desires despite the fact that he explores and addresses these these issues in heavy-handed manners.
Though no track on this whole collection (save for that aforementioned single) really does anything on any massive high art level, it’s just such a pleasant listen that I can’t help but be drawn in. It’s strings, it’s glockenspiel, it’s peppy insistent drum beats and ooh ooh ooh choruses. It’s the sort of thing that usually sends me running for the hills, but that Oberhofer is able to take such an overplayed style and turn it into something still worthwhile is a testament to his charisma and songwriting ability.
Then there’s the big, hooky bombshell of “Away FRM U.” Though the track has been around in some form (and indeed many of these tracks have) since his self-released 2009 EP, it still maintains the same sort of raw emotion as he yelps about his inability to fight someone else’s battles for them. It’s a lyrical sentiment expressed ad infinitum over the course of musical history, and although Oberhofer doesn’t explore it in any new way, there’s something about his delivery that suggests the sly grin of a confidence man. He’s admonishing another for pushing him away in their inability to handle themselves and you just have to believe him. The sentiment is simple, certainly, but there’s some sort of ethos communicated in his delivery that makes it seem like such lines are ripped straight from the core of his being.
These are themes that have been touched on time and time again. It’s a style that’s been done for years on end. It’s a record that should have–on all practical accounts–been ignored, but I just can’t let it go. The more time I spend with it, the more these tracks seem brilliant in their surface level shininess. There’s no deeper level to be revealed in Oberhofer’s brief pop-rock tracks and for that reason Time Capsules II remains a consistently easy and pleasant listen. All pretension and indie kid posturing aside, it’s not a record you’ll soon be able to put down.