Owl City is Adam Young. Unlike other groups where the singer seems to be the entire group, this one actually is. And yes, Owl City has Christian roots and is definitely faith-inspired, but don't do yourself the disservice of pigeonholing Ocean Eyes as a Christian album. It isn't. What it is is a smart and cleverly-crafted collection of tunes, sung deeply and meaningfully by a man with a drive and conviction behind his lyrics.
Comparisons to The Postal Service and other contemporaries (Styrofoam, Plushgun) are inevitable. This style of male-fronted folktronica is such a fledgling niche and still relatively new to the masses, that there is a fairly small pool of "contemporaries" to base comparison on. While I definitely love the genre, I like a lot of what Owl City has introduced into it.
Song By Song
"Cave In," the album's opener, utilizes some synth work and musical effects that would commonly be found in vocal trance circa 2003, layering them amid the standards of folktronica. A full on uplifting (albeit cheesy) dance stomper takes form in "Umbrella Beach," a track that couldn't contrast more the grandiose swelling beauty of the lead single, "Fireflies" in both intent and delivery. "Fireflies" is the type of track that sticks with you long after the final notes have twinkled away, while "Umbrella Beach" demands you stay in the moment for as long as it can hold you, relinquishing you with the last beat.
A carefree hand clap accompanies both the comical and clever lyrics in "Dental Care" which is about exactly what it sounds like, and the lazy, whimsical, and infectious "The Bird and the Worm." Owl City throws some 80s influences into his ballad "Vanilla Twilight," but not the blatant 80s sound we are used to hearing in modern music.
The Vocals Are the Shining Point
Owl City isn't trying to push the musical envelope with every track on Ocean Eyes. Some excel at the pre-existing formula, like the effervescent and synthy "Hello Seattle" - while some strip it down to the bare essentials of the style exhibited in "The Saltwater Room" and "On the Wing." Young's voice is a real shining point of the album in many points (like the aforementioned "Fireflies") but shines no brighter than the way he cries out for the one who has made him new in "Meteor Shower." "The Tip of the Iceberg" hints at more to come from Owl City, fusing a chilly and sparse intro with an upbeat and bouncy ending, his sing-along voice echoing across the cold. With a "Tidal Wave" of hope and good feelings, the album ends marvelously, wrapping up a tremendously entertaining journey through the mind of a single man.
Styles abound on Ocean Eyes, but it feels cohesive. "Fireflies" is a definite standout, as is "Meteor Shower." Definitely worth the time and money.
Released August 2009 on Republic Records.