Music Reviews
People Problems

Oh No Oh My People Problems

(Koenig Records) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

Having changed their name to be significantly less exclamatory, Oh No Oh My (previously Oh No! Oh My!) is at the whole pop game again, and with it, they've carved out a new spot for their sound. It's a little less playful and a little less cheerful, with a more contemplative approach coming to the fore. Their serious approach to the craft doesn't curtail the musical fun to be had on People Problems: There's plenty of that, but if you're looking for the same sugary stuff the first album's made of, you might want to turn away now.

There are plenty of similarities between the two albums, but there's something more sensible and serious about People Problems than their self-titled release. When they dropped the exclamation marks, something shifted, and we're left with the shell of that sugary pop band stuffed with something altogether a bit new. Their pop sensibility is still there, but now packaged with a note of calm. Nearly five years has passed since that first outing, and if they'd remained that naive indie pop outfit, they'd either seem a bit silly or a bit resilient — it's hard to say conclusively, but People Problems doesn’t suffer from the so-called “sophomore slump” because of those changes.

The vocals here are inviting but not elevating, the melodies are catchy but not earworm-quality, and the arrangements are refined but not brilliant. People Problems is an album that comes close to wallowing in mediocrity, but by some work of magic, it's all made acceptable by the harmonious existence of its parts. This is a band that's got their sound together; they seem to know each other well as musicians, and as a result, nothing really feels out of place. The foot-tapping moments balance out the sleepiest moments and the whole effort flows with some real quality.

People Problems is something the band can be proud of, and it's a great point to move forward from. It's not a breathtaking album, but in the end, it doesn't need to be. Much like Oh No Oh My's new, refined sound, it all just sort of evens out as best it can, and while we may not have the same light-hearted Oh No! Oh My! of days gone by, this has the potential to be even better, given time.

On a bit of a side note, perhaps the most engaging part of People Problems is its admittedly mysterious web presence. What must be the album's website — it's at people-problems.com and is linked to from the band's MySpace-listed US label, Koenig Records — is puzzling, to say the least: There are 35 videos of people talking about their "people problems," and some of them are more entertaining than others, while others are simply puzzling.

While the connection between the site and the album isn't necessarily clear — one a nice pop album, the other a collection of people complaining about their problems with topics as diverse as diarrhoea ("Turd Eye Blind" and "She didn't actually have aids, she just got shit in her eye" are hard lines to forget) to the Brazilian sex trade. Information on the video project is sparse, but I think it's a tour video interview diary — or something like that. Whether it's incidental to the album or a key feature — inspiration, maybe? — it's at least entertaining. In fact, it's almost as entertaining as the album.

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