Oh my God it’s been so long since I’ve written an album review (the Mariah ones I cheated on, I wrote them last year). Partly I’ve just been too busy or exhausted, but partly because I hit a few rather good albums and didn’t quite want to stop listening to them.
Probably the top of these is the latest Owl City album. I don’t know quite WHY but I really love this guy. Breakthrough 2nd album Ocean Eyes was a great soundtrack to my long Scandinavian train rides in 2010, and he’s just got such a relaxing but uplifting sound. I can understand people not taking to it, and at times some tracks are a bit naff in their writing. But if you are willing to embrace that and just have a giddy bit of fun, his three latest albums are great (haven’t heard the debut yet).
For this latest album, he’s upped the tempo a bit, and taken things in a much dancier direction. The songs are still totally Owl City but a bit more sparky than his previous fare. A great idea I think, if he wants to do this sort of thing, and it has freshened up the sound no end. He’s even ended up with another hit finally! But enough of this, let’s go through the album.
10 Dreams and Disasters – Almost Guetta-esque first impression, but soon it feels like your usual Owl City lyrics. But that chorus kicks in and you’ve got a really euphoric dancepop song that really alerted to me to the sound this album would have. That “fo-oh-ollow the li-igh-ight” hook really is wonderful. Parts of the later verses expose how liberally he autotunes the vocals, which isn’t for everyone but he was never pretending to be a soprano. This is just dizzyingly uplifting pop music.
08 Shooting Star – This maybe has more of the ‘classic’ Owl City sound to it, and when the beat-driven chorus arrives, it’s a slightly more sedate affair, but there is still that lush electronic soundscape to get lost in. Perhaps it’s a little generic, and the influence of Guetta as a hitmaker does pop into my mind on occasions. Still a really nice track.
07 Gold – A slower track now, but still that big beat that thumps in quite early on and there’s that ‘big’ sound to the song. I can’t say I’m totally fussed by the chorus but it’s nice enough. It just doesn’t really go anywhere, though I do love how he gets his mouth around some of the lyrics with that strange autotuned vocal.
08 Dementia – With a helping hand from Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus (what a random addition), here’s a rather strange song using dementia as a metaphor for love(?). It’s got quite a nice sound to it though, again it feels very big and airy, and the chorus has a bit more weight to it than ‘Gold’ did. Mark’s inclusion doesn’t add much to it though, his vocals aren’t really that different to Adam’s (Mr Owl City, if you didn’t know).
08 I’m coming after you – What the hell? I’m still undecided about this one, a rather literal tale of Adam pursuing some love interest, with a metaphor used so fully that I’m not entirely sure if it’s a metaphor at all. I mean you never know with Owl City, this is after all a guy who wrote several pun-heavy tracks on Ocean Eyes. It’s a very catchy pop song, and has that feel of a big commercial single (though I don’t think it would actually happen with this one), and certainly one of the more memorable tracks on the album. But very cheesy, even for me!
09 Speed of love – The tempo doesn’t slow down, and we’ve got a really ultra-modern sounding electro pop beast up next. It’s got nice airy verses with a gorgeously smooth transition to the bridge. The chorus is a bit of a flimsy “oh oh oh” lyrical dud but it’s a lot of fun. I think his whole sound just reminds me of that Scandinavian pop sound that it’s so rare to find elsewhere, maybe that’s why I like him so much.
09 Good time – Hit time! Did we ever think he’d get a follow-up after his original smash ‘Fireflies’? Well he’s hitched his wagon to a potent collaborator, marking the follow-up song to Carly Rae Jepsen’s megasmash “Call me maybe”. It might not have that magic, but it’s a simple but effective dance-pop chorus. Carly’s vocals are a nice contrast to Adam’s after so much autotune. The video is a bit cringey, I get the impression that Adam’s not one for clubbing or getting crunk and wild at summer camp etc., which if anything makes him even more endearing. The adorkable sensitive guy vibe is very sweet and only helps his cause. A bit of a throwaway track but it’s done the job.
07 Embers – Perhaps if I wasn’t enjoying this album so much, this might start to feel a bit samey, but we’re doing alright so well. This track starts quite slowly, but the chorus is nice and bouncy. Lyrically it’s a bit of a blah, but I don’t have any big complaints with it.
10 Silhouette – What was I saying earlier about the adorkable sensitive guy? Well it’s really hitting home now, with a really heartbreakingly sweet piano-led ballad. He’s got quite a gentle tone of voice in any case, to the point where it’s quite exciting when he gets all energised. But now he’s heartbroken and softly-spoken. The piano is gorgeous, and the emotion doesn’t get sappy, it’s just a really sweet ballad.
09 Metropolis – Enough of that though, it’s back into club thumpers now. Feels a little trancey to start, then certainly has more than a hint of Swedish pop about it when the strings come in. The rhythm works well, especially that quickening in the bridge. The chorus has a soaring trancey feel to it, something I really miss these days. The naff Superman references are a reminder of the old Owl City but it hasn’t worn thin for me at all.
08 Take it all away – Closing off the album is a much more beat-driven track, an unusually mid-tempo affair, but that big handclap beat really adds some scale to it. Chorus doesn’t quite get off the ground but it’s a spirited closing track. While I would have welcomed another ballad if it was to the standard of Silhouette, I think that might have left a bit of a miserable aftertaste. This might not be as uplifting as the speedier tracks but it’s a nice one to end on.
Well that really was a joy, and I only hope he continues to read my mind for future albums. He just seems to have a unique quality about his music. It’s not trying to be cool, or rely on extreme themes and language to get attention and a reputation. Maybe that’s not how you sell records, but it really works for me, and his whole sound really has something about it that typically pop acts don’t capture.
Keepers for the iPod: Dreams & Disasters, Shooting star, Dementia, I’m coming after you, Speed of love, Good time, Silhouette, Metropolis, Take it all away