Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Album Review: Owl City - All Things Bright and Beautiful (4/5)

Owl City's Ocean Eyes was a great pop album, enchantingly mellow with its dance-pop production. It landed the one-man band his first major hit, "Fireflies" which topped charts on both sides of the Atlantic--becoming one of the biggest selling singles of 2009. Unfortunately, it failed to duplicate its success with any of its following singles; the just as bewitching "Umbrella Beach" failing to garner any attention.

So how does third album All Things Bright and Beautiful follow up? Well, not a lot has changed. Things are still very subtle, mellow and tranquil demonstrated through illusive beats and enticing atmospherics. I guess, if anything was different it would be the imaginative backdrop has moved from the beach to the countryside (see cover).

Unsurprisingly, a lot of the material on here does sound as if they were cut from the same vein as the sound on Ocean Eyes, at times little like leftovers. However as that album was quite a joy to listen to, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, although a new dynamic would have been nice too. The melodious beats and underpinning keyboards of "The Real World" recalls the similar composition of "Fireflies," although this adopts a more bristling aura.

"Deer In the Headlights" is a little different--showcasing traces of pop/rock beneath the layer of tranquil dance beats and keyboard synths of course, particularly on the chorus where the guitars and drums erupt. Quickly returning to the restraint is "Angels" which soars with spacey soundscapes and cataleptic bell effects.

The female vocal in the alleviating pop of "Honey and the Bee" is quite rapturous, depicting a touching puppy-love story with its sappy but loveable lyrics ("'Cause my heart stops without you, there's something about you that makes me feel alive") similar to "Vanilla Twilight."

Aside from "Headlights," the biggest departure on here is probably "Galaxies" which highlights a raw sensibility in Adam Young's vocal, as well as laying heavily into the pounding beats. In contrast "Hospital Flowers" wades in subtlety, probably more so than on any other number on here, capitalizing nicely on sensitivity and heart.

There are some mis-steps. Oddly I'm not that fond of lead single "Alligator Sky," which in comparison to other songs just seems like all beats and no depth, for the same reason "Dreams Don't Burn to Dust" is another dud. "The Yatch Club" and "Plant Life" have nice tuneful melodies, but aren't stand outs.

As a follow up, All Things Bright and Beautiful isn't as an enjoyable of an album as Ocean Eyes but still enjoyable and a pleasant listen nontheless--there are enough highlights to make a pretty solid body of work.

Best: The Real World, Angels, Deer In the Headlights, Hospital Flowers, Galaxies, Honey and the Bee

2 comments:

Project Mobius said...

This is definitely a great album. However, I have two notes.

1. "Deer in the Headlights" is currently free to download in the US. Get it today on iTunes!

2. I looked up the album on iTunes, and its genre was "Electronic". This album definitely has "electronic" songs, but I feel that Adam Young's project as a whole should really fall under "Alternative". You could argue that he is helping redefine the music world!

J.Mensah said...

Americans get all the good stuff on iTunes! ¬_¬

I kinda agree, I think it could fall under alternative too, but I think the sound is mainly electronic.