There is something in the water over there in Scandinavia. From the icy electro of The Knife, to the sparkling hooks of Robyn, from the glorious harmonies of the Shout Out Louds, to the swooning romance of Jens Lekman, they have always been fantastic at making irresistible pop music. Oberhofer are not from Scandinavia. Like every other band, they are from Brooklyn, but their music is as glorious, cacophonous, and catchy as any of the aforementioned bands or artists.
Oberhofer are the kind of old fashioned band in which everything serves the simplistic purpose of helping to musically express the ideas of the lead singer. Oberhofer’s songs are swooning and powerful, and the bittersweet, heartbroken feeling the lyrics conjure up is perfectly captured by the music; soaring ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’, beautiful melodies, and epic piano. Often the songs are overly simplistic, but that is often the way with pop music, and these are certainly pop songs. The twinkling, piano-led ‘HEART’ is as heartwarming and romantic as it’s title suggests, and ‘Landline’, with it’s stop-start frantic drums and shoegazey guitars, comes across like a fuzzy, distorted Beach Boys. Both songs, as well as the lead single ‘Away From You’, are absurdly catchy, completely focused on their charming, childlike melodies.
Oberhofer’s originality stems not from their songs, which are simplistic to say the least, but from the swirling, operatic embellishments and showy instrumentation. Although much of the album is driven by a noisy, energetic, rock sound, it’s character really comes from the extra things; the cascading piano, twee glockenspiel and swooning harps, strings and synths. This maximalist approach works for Oberhofer just as much as it does for bands like Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene and Los Campesinos. The fact that it is only 4 men in their early twenties making all that racket is all the more impressive.
Frontman Brad Oberhofer’s lyrics are simplistic, old fashioned; all earnest romantic declarations aimed at the girl who broke his heart. On ‘Away From You’, he exclaims “You’re pushing me away from you/ And I know what I’ll do/ I’ll hop this fence/ So I can get out of this mess”. Deep it aint, but the simplicity of the lyrics is actually their strength, making them consistently earnest, heartfelt and relatable.
It is exciting to finally hear an American band whose music is as irresistibly catchy and gloriously melodic as any their Swedish peers, and hopefully it will reward them with as much success of those bands. And we should all take a moment to thank whoever broke Brad Oberhofer’s heart, because it has provided us all with one of the best pop albums of the year.
Released 16th April 2012 by Glassnote/Cooperative