Owl City All Things Bright and Beautiful
Rs 395; rating: **1/2
Adam Young,the singer-songwriter behind Owl City,is no naïve young school boy. Hes a 25 year old multi-instrumentalist,who has fronted a number of musical projects,apart from Owl City. The reason one might be misled into believing him to be much younger and less worldly-wise than he actually is,is his music. His music,to use some of his favourite metaphors,is light as a feather and frothy as cotton candy. Its got lines that young Moldy Peaches wannabes will scribble in their notebooks,and notes that mop-haired boys will sing to their beloveds.
The story goes that Young who sounds rather like a younger,less cynical Ben Gibbard would create music,working from his parents basement in their Minnesota home,when he suffered from bouts of insomnia. No wonder there is so much surreal imagery in his songs,probably inspired by late night creative sessions (and loads of milk and cookies). In Alligator Sky,he sings,Where was I when the rockets came to life/And carried you away to the Alligator Sky; in fact,dreams and dreaming are motifs he repeatedly resorts to,such as on the song Angels,where he sings,Ive been sleeping with the night light unplugged/ with a note on the rocking chair/ that says Im dreaming of the life I once loved/ So wake me if youre out there.
Young,who belongs to the generation of musicians who first exploded onto the Myspace scene,is often credited with reviving synthpop,which was otherwise on the decline. The breezy synthesised notes on Fireflies,from his 2009 debut album Ocean Eyes,became his breakout hit. Perhaps what worked for Owl City at that time was his clear,blue-eyed approach to life. A little boys fascination with space adventures and toys wove in and out of his songs,while his clear Christian faith would assure that this was safe listening for impressionable youngsters. On the bright side,Youngs indefatigable optimism suffuse this second album as well: its a nice change in a world full of goth and grim young musicians. The music also makes it very clear that hes a very talented producer,especially on tracks like Deer in the Headlights and Dreams Dont Turn to Dust. It makes this album a pleasure to listen to,albeit a guilty one.
The major problem with this album,however,is Youngs refusal to grow up. A teenager making music in his parents basement can be expected to create the same sound over and over again. A 20-something,with a second major album,needs to incorporate a wider world view. Instead,Owl City seems to be bending inward: Youngs absorption in his faith is more pronounced than ever (especially on Galaxies) and Young often ends up using the same few key words sky,leaves,feathers,stars over and over. He sings on The Real World that Reality is a lovely place,but I wouldnt wanna live there. That sounds dangerously close to denial and delusion.