I first heard Owl City courtesy of Dr. Tony Shore. He played "Hot Air Balloon" on his ObviousPopcast a few weeks ago, and I hadn't heard anything so delightfully silly in some time. I then fell in love with the first single from Ocean Eyes, called "Fireflies." I was sure I would love this album.
But the actual experience of hearing 12 very similar-sounding Owl City songs back to back is somewhat wearying. Owl City is Adam Young, and his style is a kind of dancehall Death Cab - earnest alt-pop played on glimmering synthesizers. If Ronnie Martin (of Joy Electric) had a voice like Ben Gibbard's and a predilection for bad puns, he might sound like this.
But Ronnie Martin can write captivating melodies, something that eludes Adam Young here more often than not. The songs are all very basic, and I probably wouldn't like them very much if they were performed on guitar. The shimmery keyboards make this stand out, and I love them, particularly on more serious ones like "Fireflies" and "Meteor Shower." Young does slip into disco mode a bit too often for me, using that same orchestra-hit sound too many times, but the production on this album is top notch. It's the sameness of the songs that gets old.
As a side note, these lyrics are head-shakingly silly, which wouldn't be a problem if they weren't all delivered with aching emotion. The first line is "Take a long look at your textbook, 'cause I'm history," and it goes from there. "Dental Care" is actually about dental care, pivoting on the line "I've been to the dentist a thousand times, so I know the drill." Really. It's like Young heard "Vega-Tables" and took it as a challenge.
But when I'm not analyzing it, and I'm listening to one song at a time, I like Owl City quite a bit. The pure joy of this music makes me love life. Sometimes, that's all I need. Hear "Fireflies" here. If you like that, and can stand 11 more songs exactly like it, you'll dig this.