Universal Republic Records
Rating: 4With a sound reminiscent of the Postal Service, Owl City delivers a third album of mellow electronic beats coupled with catchy, playful lyrics that convoke atmospheric images and allusions to nature. Adam Young, the one-man-show behind Owl City and a resident of Owatonna, Minnesota, began recording songs in his parents‘ basement in early 2007. His tracks were quick to gain support on Myspace before growing to a larger audience and reaching nationwide success. “Fireflies,” the first single off of Ocean Eyes, is currently number seven on iTunes. Young likes to incorporate outdoor themes into many of his songs, which is clear after just one quick glance down his list of song titles. On Ocean Eyes in particular, song titles like “Meteor Shower,” “Fireflies” and “On the Wing” exhibit a theme of etherealness that adds a dreamlike vibe to the majority of the tracks. He also creates music backbeats that match each song theme, evident in the sound of meteors dropping in “Meteor Shower” and the sound of flapping bird wings in “On the Wing.“ Other songs in addition to Young’s iTunes mega-hit are “Umbrella Beach,” “Bird and the Worm” and “Vanilla Twilight.” “Umbrella Beach” is more fast-paced, with certain breaks where you can hear waves crashing on the beach, alternating with breaks that have a pulsing backbeat perfect for dancing. This rotation between calm and fast-paced makes for a more versatile track, with a violin break towards the end that is auditorily refreshing. There’s also “Bird and the Worm,” memorable for its soft acoustics, subtle guitar-playing and a little bit of clapping at the beginning, different from the typical electronic, underwater feeling to the backbeats in most of Young’s songs. What stands out in this song is the soothing imagery that the lyrics call forth: “We’ll take a long walk through the cornfields / If you’re my girl, twirl me around your room with feeling / and as we twirl the glow-in-the-dark stars on your ceiling will shine for us / as love sweeps over the room cause we tend to make each other blush.“ “Vanilla Twilight” is probably the strongest track on the album, with lyrics that eloquently portray the feeling of missing someone. Again, Young incorporates atmospheric images into his lyrics when he sings “Drenched in vanilla twilight /I’ll sit on the front porch all night, /Waist-deep in thought / because when I think of you / I don’t feel so alone.“ Young doesn’t have one of those whiny voices that many pop lead singers striving to fit the “pop-punk genre” carry with them in their songs. You’ll also never hear him shouting to compete with the noise of loud guitar riffs. His singing is simply mellow, while the instruments and backbeats hold a similar calm, which is a breath of fresh air from some of the artists out there that seem to try too hard. The only drawback is that virtually every song sounds similar. There doesn’t seem to be much experimentation with new instruments or guest vocalists that may add some versatility to the sound. Still, it is impressive that Young can be so successful as a one-man act. Having guest artists may make the songs sound too manufactured or commercialized. All in all, the album produces a soothing effect. The lyrics are gentle; neither vacuous nor too heavy. Simplicity is sometimes hard to achieve, as most of the time it is only people who are truly at peace with themselves that can put forth work that is free of pretensions. Young seems to be one of them, having succeeded in making music that doesn’t strain to be anything more than what it is.
Give these tracks a listen: “Bird and the Worm,” “Vanilla Twilight“
For fans of: The Postal Service, Death Cab for Cutie
– Eleni Stephanides