When it came time to make his second proper album under the Oberhofer name, the Tacoma-raised, New York-based artist had a great deal to draw from. His almost idyllic youth — mom sang opera; dad sailed boats; family lived on a gulch; deer and fox munched blueberries outside — had recently smashed up against harsh reality. One day while home for a brief respite from touring his 2012 debut Time Capsules II, Oberhofer woke to find his roommate dead, in the bathroom, of a heroin overdose. He had to call his friend’s boyfriend and break the news. Then, a mere three days later, he had to clear out all of his belongings and drive his band to Lollapalooza.
Such events seem to cast all else in a severe light, so while you’ll hear Oberhofer’s familiar sound — amped psych-pop with orchestral flourish, New Wave flare, and grungy fuzz — the intensity has been ratcheted up. The brighter moments are more brilliant, almost manically so, and the darker hues have deepened in kind. Certain samples, keyboard runs, and piano figures evoke calliope — circus music, conjuring innocence and madness in turn. And our host is as apt to channel the bliss of Brian Wilson’s SMiLE (“Sun Halo”) as he is the blooming melancholia of early Grandaddy (“What You Know”). The ghosts of Lou Reed and Del Shannon lurk these halls, too.