Dark, yet playful, with Oh No Oh My

Friday, February 4, 2011

"People Problems," the new record from indie rockers Oh No Oh My seems cheerful and dreamy enough at first.

Multi-instrumentalists Greg Barkley, Joel Calvin, Daniel Hoxmeier and Tim Regan do an amazing job on the new album, released Jan. 18 on Koenig Records, of mixing their instruments and vocals with a beautiful string section to create a beautifullly catchy -- occassionally dreamy -- indie pop record.

Every bit of that is true. It's a fun, playful record filled with happy music.

But give it another listen.

Sixth track "So I Took You" is a pleasant little acoustic number with a pretty background provided by the string section. It seems to be a simple ballad you might hear on the radio or a pleasant movie scene.

As the song nears the end, the truth is revealed: the narrator is a knife-weilding sociopath.

You said, "I don't know just where I've been."

"Darling that's alright this is the end."

"So I took you with a knife

And watched your eyes fight for life

Fun enough for you? It's a sick topic, but the song still has something catchy about it. Any Warren Zevon fans can understand the charm in this juxtaposition. (Think "Excitable Boy.")

This album fits into that tradtion. The lyrics are dark most of the way through, but the boys in the band just seem to be having fun with musical expectations.

"Again Again" and "Brains" follow similar paths -- a happy road to a dark place.

Even the album cover reflects this theme, showing a beautiful scene of country greenery with a car standing on end, buried from the back bumper to the cab.

Maybe that's exactly what makes the album so much fun, though. The band knows what it's doing with the contradictions.

The boys also know this record isn't exactly what was expected of them. Their 2006 self-titled full-length debut was hailed by some as cute or goofball. Two EPs since then, ("Between the Devil and the Sea" and "Dmitrij Dmitrij") also did little to foretell the band's new direction.

But the band had described the time since their last full-length release as a time of growing up. It's no wonder they've produced a different record.

"Brains" is another standout track, making wonderful use of the string section juxtaposed against electronic elements.

The song does an excellent job of pairing its lyrics and music. With the narrator calmly describing his own mental breakdown, the track starts simply enough, adding elements throughout and growing chaotic by the end.

My spin: B

Oh No Oh My's "People Problems" is a quality record, one that makes you think of some other excellent indie artists -- Band of Horses, the Shins, the Decemberists and Neutral Milk Hotel all came to mind at certain moments.

But this four-piece is also blazing its own trail, following its muse and churning out some excellent music.

Standouts include "Brains," "Walking Into Me," "Should Not Have Come To This," "So I Took You," "Again Again" and "You Were Right," to name a few.

There are other quality tracks here, too. This one deserves a spin.

Oh No Oh My, People Problems

Released: Jan. 18 on Koenig Records

Oh No Oh My is: Greg Barkley, Joel Calvin, Daniel Hoxmeier, Tim Regan