Five long years ago, Oh No Oh My’s eponymous first album was warmly greeted not only for the brightness of its sound and the crispness of its hooks, but also because of its unusual release. It was (and upon revisiting, still is) a breezy, unselfconscious effort that impressed throughout. It beggars belief that they didn’t garner label interest, but the record was self-released, to near uniform critical praise. And unlike similarly successful DIY acts (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, say), it seems as though the penny is yet to drop where Oh No Oh My are concerned.
Half a decade later, the follow up, People Problems, will be the first release on tiny imprint Koenig Records and despite (or in spite of) their perceived industry snubbing Oh No Oh My have shown the character and poise to record a sophomore album that’s awash with quality and depth. People Problems continues the disjointed momentum laid by the EP that bridged the five year gap and turns out to be the best thing the Austin band have ever released.
With the scenesters’ embrace of Robyn and Sally Shapiro, Vampire Weekend and Ra Ra Riot leading the line from Brooklyn and everyone from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart to Waaves channeling the ghost of C86, it could be argued that pop music has never been closer to the fore of indie circles than it has over the past few years. Perhaps appropriately, then, People Problems is unashamed indie-pop in the mould of The Shins and The Little Ones. The record is bookended by two of the finest tracks to have passed through these ears in 2011. ‘Walking Into Me’, is a tremulous, head-of-steam driven opener that defies anyone to keep their toe in one place. The concluding ‘Summerdays’ is wistful, beautiful and Wrens-like.
The pair set the watermark high, but the route the band takes between them is consistent and scenic. The bounciness of call-and-response led ‘Again and Again’ segues into the introspective, string-laden brood of ‘I Don’t Know’. There are echoes of the Tragically Hip’s finest moments (‘You Were Right’) and the occasional flicker of acoustic simplicity (although the welling orchestral conclusion to ‘So I Took You’ is nigh on Sujan-esque). It’s a pleasure cruise, for the most part, but if there is one complaint to be made, it’s that the album is somewhat top loaded.
Tracks like ‘Should Not Have Come To This’ and ‘Circles and Carousels’ struggle to earn their keep amongst the others, but should be considered oversights, rather than bloopers. People Problems doesn’t tread new ground; rather, takes to the beaten track with a rose tinted Polaroid camera, snapping moments we’ve all loved over the years, recycling them into a cut ‘n’ paste scrapbook full of memories. Where their journey takes them next remains to be seen, but the spirit of indie-pop is alive and well within the ranks of Oh No Oh My and for that, we should be thankful.