REVIEW: OBERHOFER – NOTALGIA (2013)
Last November, I caught up with Oberhofer’s leading man, Brad Oberhofer, while the band was in Milwaukee touring with fellow Brooklynites, Matt and Kim. It was then that I first got wind of the collection of songs that would become Notalgia. Oberhofer had actually been listening to the masters of the new songs earlier in the day, prior to our interview. He didn’t reveal a lot of details at the time, but he did mention five songs were recorded that September, and four would likely make it on to the new release.
During our interview, Brad Oberhofer explained how 2012 turned out to be one of the most emotionally intense years of his life thus far. Which is understandable considering Oberhofer’s debut, Time Capsules II, was released in April and the band practically toured and promoted the album the entire rest of the year. Yet Brad also touched on more personal issues, including death of loved ones, as having a major impact on him in the past year. Recent press surrounding Notalgia further revealed that death, and notably, death of a friend to drug use, did influence the writing of Notalgia. With that being said, the new EP is not only a darker, but also reveals an edgier, uninhibited side of the band Oberhofer.
Time Capsules II was a solid debut with some impressive bright spots; however, it tried to tackle the very difficult task of delivering heartbreaking songs through fun, upbeat pop melodies. It works if it’s done right, but when the execution isn’t all there, the song and lyrics can come off as sugarcoating or disingenuous. Notalgia does an excellent job of avoiding any of those lingering sentimental hiccups that weakened its predecessor at times.
“Together Never” is a stirring, fast-paced song with a gorgeously sparse chorus in which Oberhofer sings, “If I had choice, I would be gone; if I had a choice, I’d be with you.” The track still features upbeat, even playful guitar work, yet the song’s tone stays intense; there’s an edge present that doesn’t lift. Still being a newer band, Oberhofer doesn’t have a ton of songs out there, but “Together Never” will find a place amongst the band’s best to date.
“Earplugs” is anchored by the song’s dominant chorus, “Can you hear me now?” It’s another track on Notalgia that delivers an impressive rock force behind noticeably strong guitar and drum work. “Got Your Letter” encompasses a more familiar Oberhofer pop melody, but it avoids falling into the repetitiveness that was a distraction at times on Time Capsules II. Lyrically, it’s one of Oberhofer’s best yet, highlighted by the literal lines of conscious revealing: “I put the postage on the envelope and sealed it closed/ It’s got emotional content like you don’t even know/ I said some serious shit that I don’t need exposed/ I’ll never tell anyone/ I’ll never tell anyone.”
Notalgia’s lead track “You + Me (In The Future),” is the only track that doesn’t quite reach the mark of the rest of the EP. It has its attractive moments, including a beautifully lush bridge, but some of the guitar arrangements sound overly wound-up and there are a few changes in tempo that sound a bit abrupt.
When I reviewed Time Capsules II last year, I felt that too many of the songs had their meanings and emotional integrity diminished by the sunny pop arrangements and repetitive chorus lines. By no means do I get that impression from listening to Notalgia. The songs are fervent, edgy and delivered in a more transparent instrumentation and arrangement than those on Time Capsules II. Some of Oberhofer’s best songs are on Notalgia, and it’s an exciting mark of growth for the young Brooklyn band.