Album Review/Interview: Oberhofer – Time Capsules II

Brad Oberhofer will be playing Mission Creek Music Festival 3/29/2012 at the Yacht Club

Brad Oberhofer| 7:00pm | Yacht C lub $8 | 19+

Even though Brad Oberhofer makes sweeping swathes of ornate, indie-pop, he hardly comes off as the dramatic frontman–with heart stitched on sleeve–he presents on his debut LP, Time Capsules II.

Oberhofer spoke fairly quietly, at a measured pace when we talked in mid February. The Novocaine from the dental work he’d just had done affected his timbre, tone, and tempo very little, as confirmed by scoping out several interviews on Youtube.

However, the Novacaine did keep Oberhofer from beaming about his debut LP, working with one of the most acclaimed producers in the world, and an upcoming tour–which is currently underway.

The 21-year-old Washington native is sitting on a goldmine of buzz. Time Capsules II has the right balance of youthful exuberance and early-onset nostalgia, with just enough xylophone runs and toy piano clinks to slide nicely into an independent rom-com or an iPod commercial.

The story behind the album, Oberhofer’s young love life and heartbreak is coupled with the college-educated package of a time capsule for his emotions. It’s the stuff the rock journalists and critics eat alive. You pour two jiggers Steve Lillywhite into that cocktail and bottoms up.

Oberhofer credits legendary producer Lillywhite (U2, The Rolling Stones, Talking Heads), with giving the artist the freedom and guidance to bring his intimate collection of songs to life.

“We were both just throwing out tons of suggestions all the time, just constantly trying things,” He said.

The give and take between the two allowed for the huge, kitchen sink sound ofTime Capsules II. With Oberhofer handling almost every note and noise, save the drums, Lillywhite’s encouragement became paramount, plus, as Oberhofer said, “It would be stupid not to try out a suggestion that Steve had.”

Even with all the bells and whistles, there’s something very primal at the heart of the record. As full as the arrangements get, Oberhofer relies a lot on “wordless choruses,” oohs and ahhs slathered in melody occupy a lot of space in Time Capsules.

This wasn’t a place holder, however “It’s coming from me,” Oberhofer said. “It’s a pure emotion that’s void of lyrical convolution.”

Oberhofer also rivals Andrew Bird as one of the greatest whistlers in indie-pop.

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When most of the descriptors swirling around the pre-release press focus on the album’s bounteous arrangements, how does the sound come across live with a skeleton crew of four on tour?

“A lot of the energy just translates through the songs,” Oberhofer said.

Instead of carting around a cadre of musicians to replicate every piano run, Oberhofer has found three musicians to strip the album down to its elemental core, “the live show’s mostly guitars,” he added.

Re-arranging the album has invigorated Oberhofer. He’s been playing some of these songs since he graduated high school, but in these performances with the quartet, “new things come out,” he said.

The group has found new nooks and crannies in the songs, “I think there are even some improvements having them play,” he said, refusing to cite specifics for the sake of the audiences at the live shows. Even if Time Capsules II weren’t coming out a scant two days prior to the group’s gig at The Yacht Club on Thursday the 29th, there wouldn’t be any worries about getting the album back note-for-note.


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