Twenty-one-year-old bedroom popcrafter Brad Oberhofer is a lone wolf if there every were one. In the figurative sense, the Tacoma woodsy turned Brooklyn hoodie composed and recorded most of the myriad instrumentals on his anticipated debut album, Time Capsules II, alone in the studio but for some helpful nudges from legendary U2 producer Steve Lillywhite. But in the literal sense, he deserves this comparison because of what he shows on his shimmering baroque ’n’ roll debut: the man can howl.
Go ahead and play “I Could Go” for a quick sense of Brad’s sub-linguistic talents. After a tick-tocking intro of drum machine pulses and ascending xylophone plinks, Brad oozes his first plaintive, primal yelp of the album, sustaining it for 20 tingling seconds in a cross-species proclamation of I am lonely. I am wounded. And I am out for blood tonight. So potent are Brad’s animal moans that he even named a song after them: “oOoO,” truncated from the more phonetically accurate but crueler-on-blogging-fingers EP title o0O0o0O0o. Incidentally, this indie sock-hop highlight also contains Oberhofer’s most memorable and perhaps most representative lyric of the album, musing on the unexpected beauty of “beer cans growing blades of grass to look like something new.”
Fundamentally, Oberhofer’s short, sweet pop-rock ditties resemble the classic institutions that spawned them, but none exist without their own “blades of grass” sprouting from the familiar in bold proclamation of their own freshness. Over 10 tracks Brad visits a summery swell of keys, whistles, up-neck guitar plucks and variations on his own melismatic oOoO-face that most immediately recalls perpetual Beach Boys bliss, tie-dyed with an indie twist. “Cruising FDR” is Brad’s analog to “Fun, Fun, Fun,” a joyride of catchy, theremin-laden propulsion pop about throwing “Tchaikovsky on blast in my buddy’s van/Driving just about as fast as one can.” Second track “Landline” is all hooks, an unstoppable Van Morrisonian earworm of playful xylophone melodies, building guitar rakes and an insatiable la-la-la-la-lyrical lead about the iWhatever generation’s ubiquitous connectivity.
Brad, ever a purveyor of self-described coincidence pop, admits that though he premeditated many of the album’s instrumentals, he fell into some of his proudest sounds by treating Lillywhite’s studio like a playground—flipping toy pianos upside-down, ratatating on metal columns in the tracking room and recording a belligerent drummer slamming doors every now and then. But the album plays with such crisp cohesiveness that you’d never know it. Each track is a sonic mosaic, dense with subtleties in both musicianship and production that becomes something greater than the sum of Brad’s precocious songwriting and Lillywhite’s flawless mastering. Even now on my sixth or seventh listen, I’m noticing the cello in the background of “Haus” for the first time. Time Capsules II is that kind of album: a buffet of familiar confections designed for easy digestion, painstakingly dressed and seasoned to demand repeat consumption.