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Making my way through the past Owl City records before the new album 'The Midsummer Station' comes out, I'm listening to 'Ocean Eyes' right now.
What I love about the album covers is that it reflects a lot about the themes involved within the album and so do the song tracks. The album opens with a catchy and imaginative track 'Cave In' with intriguing lyrics 'every mushroom cloud has a silver lining' and 'wind and the rain smell of oil and octane mixed with stale gasoline'... you would not find this imagery elsewhere!
Despite being a rather short track, 'Hello Seattle' leaves you wanting so much more with an explosive 'chorus?' at the end. 'Umbrella Beach', 'The Saltwater Room' and 'Dental Care' all offered similar quirky sounds and lyrics.
'Meteor Shower' offered a breakout space with a slower song with a great buildup, but again is unfortunately short. Following this are two superb tracks, 'On the Wing' and 'Fireflies', the latter of which got me into Owl City in the first place. With addictive hooks and again delirious lyrics, the album has reached a peak here.
'Ocean Eyes' wind down with average tracks. I wished 'Vanilla Twilight' had closed the album as it was just a slightly stronger and more emotional track. I don't like saying this but 'Tidal Wave' started to annoy me.
With regards to the deluxe tracks, the standouts are probably 'Butterfly Wings' and 'If My Heart was a House', both beautiful and emotional songs and I just love the latter and wished it was on the main album. The others I could do without, especially 'Rugs from Me To You' which was completely humourous and laughable but I applaud Adam Young for being able to write this at all!
1. Cave In 4/5
2. The Bird and the Worm 3/5
3. Hello Seattle 4/5
4. Umbrella Beach 4/5
5. The Saltwater Room 4/5
6. Dental Care 3.5/5
7. Meteor Shower 4.5/5
8. On the Wing 5/5
9. Fireflies 4.5/5
10. The Tip of the Iceberg 3/5
11. Vanilla Twilight 4/5
12. Tidal Wave 3/5
13. Hot Air Balloon 3/5
14. Butterfly Wings 4/5
15. Rugs from Me To You 2.5/5
16. Sunburn 3/5
17. Hello Seattle (Remix) 3/5
18. If My Heart Was a House 5/5
19. Strawberry Avalanche
20. Fireflies (Remix)
TRACKS TO LOVE: Meteor Shower, On the Wing, Fireflies, If My Heart was a House
TRACKS TO SKIP: Rugs from me to You
Overall, the album is strong with a few standout tracks. A few songs do begin to mash and feel a bit 'samey' but there is enough variation to lift them. Again, the songs are beautifully written with imaginative lyrics and this is certainly an album to check out!
The first album under an official record label for Adam Young and his project Owl City, he reaches the big time with the colossal mega hit 'Fireflies'. For me, this isn't the type of music I'd normally listen too, but wanting to find the origins behind a quadruple platinum selling single. Forgive me for the ironic petulance here, but when I saw certain reviews and opinions all over the internet concerning this album, I felt the strong urge to set the record straight, or at least make my little opinion clear. FIrst off, its pretty obvious that this brand of music appeals to (or is aimed at) a younger generation, 10-15 is my best guess. The summer of 2009 saw a bright and original song go across the airwaves and an even more bubblier album behind it. There's no doubt there are some decent songs written, but some are just too much to bear and frankly, a bit embarrassing to acknowledge.
A headphone sounding introduction for 'Cave In' sounds interesting, as does the funky synth bites behind the vocals, which unfortunately havent really changed much since the past two albums. Adam Young blitzes through the silly lyrics with determination as some video game like effects bask in the spotlight for a bit as he says "Get me out of the cavern or I'll cave in" as an orchestra also makes a brief appearance. "If the bombs go off the sun will still be shining, because I've heard it said that every mushroom cloud has a silver lining" is imaginative but a tad lame at the same time. The rest of the lyrics sound like little doodles scrolled on a high schoolers notepad. There's also no standard structure to the song, just rambling and occasional high notes in the background. 'The Bird and the Worm' really grinds right away. An ecstatically happy guitar note chimes in with a worse vocal that demands autotune and even that cannot make it seem real or at least pleasant. The music doesn't really change up either, using the same beat throughout and an occasional twiddling synth. Just when it can't get any worse, the 'chorus' is a hollow "da-da da da-da-da". I remember first hearing this repulsively childish track on a Scrubs advert, detested it then, detest it now.
'Hello Seattle' is a nice change of pace despite its full on voice effects, it has a sweet melody floating through it. As the album name suggests, most songs are filled with nonsensical ramblings of ocean creatures and surroundings, this song is no different in "Hello Seattle I am a cold seahorse, feeling warm in your sand". I dunno about you but it sounds like someone urinated on that poor seahorse. Still, Young had the foresight to include a track from his past album and spruce it up a smudge. With those Godawful lyrics, the instrumental parts are the most enjoyable aspect unless you can tune out the vocals and focus on all the technical stuff hidden behind them. It ends with a random rhyming line of 'Take me above your light, carry me through the night, hold me secure in flight, sing me to sleep tonight", unoriginal writing but the music gains momentum at least. 'Umbrella Beach' is a sunny little song, relative to the title, with a club mix intro and the same whisper-singing and banging on about 'underwater ferris wheels'. The music again is the best part, sound like a party for Super Mario and all his chums. The sounds of the ocean waves lightly gurgling is a classy touch and the booming synth line halfway through is straight up enjoyable madness. By now the annoying vocal effects have sunk in and instead of expecting a real delivery, you come to terms with the fact that Adam Young doesn't seem confident enough to use his true voice, unedited.
Just when the vocals do stop being irritating, a new guest singer pops up in 'The Saltwater Room', a spindly guitar riffed lovey dovey song with good use of the string section. The woman's voice is equally burdened with similar effects, this time seeming unnecessary as it sounds as if she can actually sing without it. "Time together isn't ever quite enough. When you and I are alone I've never felt so at home" is shared between the two singers and is a surprising highlight. Like most of the other songs there is bells and jingles going on here and there as well as the standard finger clicking loops. Again its sugary sweet but this time its almost bearable. Things rapidly go to hell again as 'Dental Care' just spoils any atmosphere that was just created. The lyrics are as lame as you can imagine, picking flowers brushing teeth and smiling with 'clean pearly whites' and 'knowing the drill' *shudder* its just terrible. Its actually a song about a trip to the dentist and sounds like it was written in 5 minutes. If the words and theme weren't bad enough, the eye opening synth is torturous.
At this point I really wondered if I could stomach any more from Owl City, but a heavenly 'Meteor Shower' kept me going. Simplistic lyrics straight from the bible "I am not my own, for I have been made new" is a fresh change instead of the usual trend of being amazed at how pretty that starfish was or swallowing gravel. It makes good use of a standard piano and a nice percussion. If only the guy would use a piano more often instead of switching every button on and generally going overboard. Another recycled track is 'On The Wing' and again is an inspired move because its a decent song. Nothing new amongst the instruments but some of the lyrics are more tolerable. "I am floating away, lost in a silent ballet. I'm dreaming you're out in the blue and I am right beside you, awake to take in the view" is still a naive but at least this time its vivid and fun. The melody of the vocals is a high point for once too, holding notes instead of retreating to more irrational lyrics. The female singer also returns to echo the chorus line (still slapped with autotune) "Late nights and early parades, still photos and noisy arcades".
Finally its time for 'Fireflies' - which sounds like a one off so far - the reason I and most people give the album a chance. An insane melody and christmasy chimes together build up the start and Young's words aren't too bad with the piano and quality orchestra section of cellos and violins - artificial or otherwise. Love it or hate it, the chorus line is catchy and loud. The whole song is a hazy dream, mixed with all kinds of instruments (including a brass segment) and the lyrics are suitably spacey too - "I'd like to make myself believe, that planet earth turns slowly. Its hard to say that I'd rather stay awake when I'm asleep, because everything is never as it seems". Its about time that the words were honest and real. Unfortunately all the other songs don't really come close to measuring up to 'Fireflies' and because of this, people will look back and see it as a one hit wonder. 'The Tip of the Iceberg' goes straight back to the juvenile writing about putting your "warm fuzzy sweater cause you'll feel much better" and the female vocals returning to add redundant breathy 'da da-da-da da-da dur da-da's'. More hand claps, circling apple loops and a dip in volume are all nothing new at this point. Like the 3rd track, there is a short interlude to pluck up a better mood with gameboy like sounds to raise a smile.
Its evident that the songs are best listened to at the right time when in a suitable mood. Possibly when you're down or super happy, just nothing else in between. By now I don't need to explain what kind of song 'Vanilla Twilight' is. With a name like that you already get the gist its a cheesy song that tween-agers will deem deep and thought provoking when really its content is questionable. The slowest song on the album makes it slightly different and the theme is more about love than a dragons balls dropping or other pop up book rubbish. Not the worst song but the rhyme scheme makes it more of a poem than a song. The closing song 'Tidal Wave' races straight into it with a new vocalist (Matthew Thiessen) who sounds almost exactly the same - more proof of the over abundance and reliance on autotune. However, despite being the final song and a chance to write another fairytale of epic and loser proportions, its a quick, rolling track with a calming outro. Should you download via iTunes, you can get 2 bonus tracks in 'Hello Seattle Remix' and 'If My Heart was a House' the former being what 'Ocean Eyes' should have featured.
It could be my fondess for the purer instrumentation of a piano, or the fact the song is low on the vocal side, but it has a moving piano piece to start and holiday like beat to get things going. More like a soundtrack and only featuring the title words, it shows off some good effects and goes all over the place instead of getting distracted with trying so desperately hard to rhyme abstract words together. The whole album does have its moments, where it can sound like a youthful Sigur Ros, but most of the time sounds just what it is, a young guy in his parents basement, whispering into a microphone so his parents don't wake up, getting lost in his keyboard solos. Its safe to say that the majority of Owl City's fan-base consists of 12 year old girls, reading into things that aren' there. Although, its not this comparison thats makes it embarrassing to have on your mp3, just listen to the words and try not to laugh.
Adam Young is the talented young artist behind the phenomenon that is Owl City. Alongside his quirky band name, he has produced an album full of superior dream-like music and electro-pop fluff. It's upbeat, stylish, and somehow takes you to another place completely.
With the popularity of "Fireflies" behind him, Adam Young originally formed his fanbase on Myspace. Since then he's had a couple of huge hit singles and a successful tour, and he's still giving young people a tooth ache.
The media had mixed opinions about this album, and Owl City in general. There were implications that his music wouldn't suit anyone over fourteen and those who thought it too "emo." I'm going to give my whole-hearted opinion of what I think, as someone who is twenty-five, and someone who doesn't like "emo."
I first picked up on Owl City a long time before dear Adam reached our side of the ocean. My friends were talking about them, Myspace was talking about them, I figured I just had to hear them. Turned out that them was a he, and he was pure brilliance!
My first taste was the song "Fireflies" which is, I'll admit, sweet to the taste. To hear it is like listening to a warm mixture of pure fluff. I can't stress enough how mellow it is to listen to though. It's pure easy-listening for the kid in you. After hearing this song, I picked up the whole album and listened to it through, after which I barely put it down.
In brief, "Hello Seattle" is a catchy tune, but even though it's one of the best-known songs, it's one of the weakest lyrically. "Umbrella Beach" is artistic, and feels special. The lyrics can paint a fantastic picture - "Home is a boxcar and it's so far out of reach, Hidden under umbrella beach..."
Another favourite of mine is "The Saltwater Room" a love-story mixing mellow accoustic guitar with synthesizer which features vocals from Breanne Duren.
What makes this album so different from other synth-pop artists and electronic acts is its undeniable driving rhythm, especially in the song "Cave In." Although the music is slightly reminiscent of The Postal Service, I think Adam Young still manages to hold his own.
Although the album takes a slow dive towards the end I think the albums best listened to sporadically, or maybe shuffled, by mixing everything up a little bit. It may seem a little repetitive to listen to all at once, as some of the songs do sound slightly similar, but from listening to it on my iPod and having a song pop up on random, I felt I've enjoyed and experienced it in a way I would have missed had I not.
If you've got a sweet tooth, you'll probably love this.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Cave In
2 The Bird and The Worm
3 Hello Seattle
4 Umbrella Beach
5 The Saltwater Room
6 Dental Care
7 Meteor Shower
8 On The Wing
10 The Tip Of The Iceberg
11 Vanilla Twilight
12 Tidal Wave