After living through our teens and early twenties, we occasionally look back at those years as equally forsaken as formative. If you’re still in the throes of early adulthood, it’s safe to suggest you can digest this period however you choose, but these years will chew you up and spit you out regardless. On their second and self-titled record, The Obsessives gracefully tackle the let downs and put downs of maturity through a vibrant narrative and power pop hooks, demonstrating the Philadelphia duo beyond their years as songwriters.
Following their 2015 debut, Heck No, Nancy, The Obsessives, finds singer/guitarist Nick Bairatchnyi and drummer Jackson Mansfield trading in the sonic stylings of modern emo for bouncy, hook-laden indie pop. The record showcases vast influences spanning the 90s to now, evidenced most clearly in the record’s first single, “Surfer Rosa.” The dancey singalong nods to the celebrated Pixies LP explicitly in the chorus hook, “Feeling wild tonight listening to Surfer Rosa.”
Recalling 90s indie fixtures including Weezer and its offshoot/side project, The Rentals, tracks like the brief and punchy, “Violent, ” incorporate fuzzy overdriven guitar cutting through soft acoustic strums and poppy synth. The vocal cadence is skilfully complex and rich, a mechanism Bairatchnyi also uses impressively in the verses of post-emo rocker, “You’re My God,” and classical meets synthpop number, “In Her Belly.” Minimalist technique is featured predominantly throughout tracks including, “A Shady Place,” resembling tendencies of Philly contemporaries, Clique, and, “When One Thing Ends,” a cut echoing the stylings of Told Slant with its baritone vocal uttered over delicate floor tom hits and subdued electric guitar.
The Obsessives ability to craft a pop hook on their self titled record is second to none. From the vibrant chorus melody of, “If You Really Love Me,” to the catchy melancholy implemented in, “Now She’s Smoking,” the collection of songs demonstrate the band’s versatility in writing irresistible earworms across contrasting sonic landscapes. Meanwhile, “It’s Not Fair” and “It’s Ok If” stand out as power pop bangers deserving of hit status. Lyrically, tracks on The Obsessives explore the space between personal experience and abstract imagery, evidenced in “Violence,” “You are impressive and chrome and I am younger than you thought.” There’s also beauty within their composition, for instance, in the second verse of, “It’s Ok If,” “I like your lips, they look like something Botticelli would have wanted to paint back when the moon first put us.”
The lyrical sentiment that captures The Obsessives, however, is comparatively straightforward: “It gets hard sometimes/I’m trying to be cool about this,” Bairatchnyi hollers with fervent, emotional urgency in “You’re My God.” There’s no easy way to manage growing up, but there’s more to it than trying to play it cool, or present yourself as some notion of “cool,” a revelation the narrator reflects in, “Sometimes.” “Sometimes I wish we never kissed in the daytime/Sometimes I think I only know you in the night time when we’re high.”
Transparency in perspective combined with timeless guitar pop finds the Obsessives redefined on their sophomore effort, in both musical and writing styles. The aptly self titled LP represents Bairatchnyi and Mansfield’s rebirth as “The Obsessives” and places the green and growing outfit on the same plane as their indie rock forebears, a place where the young band can continue to grow and transcend capability.