The drum machine is the first thing you hear on “SUNSHiiNE,” the new single by the psych-pop artist Oberhofer. It’s a common instrument in dream pop and bedroom pop, but it’s used in an interesting way here. Rather than just keeping time in the background, it serves as a texture in its own right: a crunchy, surprisingly bracing sound that’s further up in the mix than you’d expect. It stays that way going forward, providing some necessary balance to the lush psychedelic haze of the rest of the song.
“SUNSHiiNE” boasts some other gorgeous textures: the vocals are sweet and airy, and a plaintive electric organ swirls with reds and purples, like Beach House circa Teen Dream. Plenty of other dream pop outfits have chased this kind of sound over the past ten years, but Oberhofer is better at it than most. For one thing, he doesn’t neglect melody: instead of simply coasting on a vibe, he delivers one of the most indelible hooks I’ve heard this year, stretching the word “sunshine” out to seven syllables and letting the listener savor its swooning romanticism.
For another thing, Oberhofer doesn’t settle into a predictable formula. This isn’t the sort of verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus song you’d get from a songwriting handbook. “SUNSHiiNE” starts with its chorus before transitioning into the first verse. It isn’t long before the chorus comes back, but this time there’s a key change. This is the kind of trick a more conventional songwriter would save for the end of a song (“I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “My Heart Will Go On,” “Heaven Is A Place On Earth,” etc.), but here Oberhofer places it right in the middle before it gives way to a fuzzed-out guitar solo from The Strokes’ Nick Valensi.
Towards the end of the song, the drum machine cuts out, and we listen to none other than Shamir give a spoken-word monologue over sweet, if slightly distorted, synth chords. Shamir, of course, was on the cusp of indie stardom upon the release of his album Ratchet, before mental health struggles and his own artistic muse led him to flee the limelight and make inscrutable bedroom pop. His familiar androgynous voice is double-tracked and somewhat disorienting here, but his message is purely comforting. “Life itself is an opportunity,” he says, “and if you’re a good person and you do everything the way you should, it’ll all come back to you in the best way possible.” Shamir sounds like he’s speaking from a place of experience, and that sense of well-earned sweetness is what makes “SUNSHiiNE” work.