Plumbiferous Media

Ocean Eyes - Owl City

Aug 2nd 2009
Ocean Eyes - Owl CityOwl City
Ocean Eyes
Score: 0

Owl City, com­posed entire­ly of musi­cian Adam Young, was formed in 2007. Among the crop of new bands find­ing fame on Myspace, Owl City built up a large fan-base through the release of an EP, Of June in 2007 and an LP, Maybe I’m Dream­ing in 2008, which, though self-released, rose to #16 on the Bill­board Top Elec­tron­ic Albums chart. But self-made fame notwith­stand­ing, Owl City’s newest album, the first with Uni­ver­sal Repub­lic, is not an inno­v­a­tive suc­cess. Instead, it is a gener­ic, mer­it­less nightmare.

Most instant­ly notice­able on Ocean Eyes is that Adam Young loves the bub­bly elec­tron­ics most close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with synth-pop, and while they might be charm­ing for a few moments, noth­ing allows them to retain any inter­est­ing qual­i­ty past a por­tion of the first track. The per­cus­sive sounds are gen­er­al­ly inter­est­ing, but while they fit rhyth­mi­cal­ly with the rest of the album, they oth­er­wise remain uncon­nect­ed to the rest of the sound. Young does try to mix up the instru­men­tal group­ings, some­times sub­sti­tut­ing a gui­tar or piano for part of the syn­th’s line, but every­thing on the album retains the incred­i­bly bright qual­i­ty the synth con­stant­ly pro­vides. Noth­ing, it seems, can force Owl City to lose its incred­i­bly bright qual­i­ty: not the low­er tones used on “Fire­flies,” the syn­thet­ic “tidal wave” on the track of that name (which ends up grow­ing to full kid­die-pool sized pro­por­tions), nor even the few minor chords around the 1:50 mark of “Vanil­la Twilight.”

Adam Young’s vocals are not inno­v­a­tive. They’re also not inter­est­ing, com­pelling, insight­ful, or any of a hun­dred oth­er adjec­tives which would describe well-com­posed vocals. Instead, they’re dull, insipid­ly gener­ic and often painful to lis­ten to. Restrict­ing him­self to those few notes which pre­vent him from leav­ing his radio-friend­ly cocoon, Young whines his way through Ocean Eyes, occa­sion­al­ly accom­pa­nied by back­up singers, whose voic­es (espe­cial­ly that of the female singer who appears on sev­er­al tracks) are some­times pitch-shift­ed to the point where they’d fit in well with The Chip­munks. Young him­self has a con­stant elec­tron­ic edge to his voice, irri­tat­ing at the low end and dis­mal at its great­est promi­nence. The vocal base­line here is not good - and the only stand-out moments are those where Young some­how man­ages to make it worse.

The best pos­si­ble praise of Young’s lyrics on Ocean Eyes is that they fit in well with his oppres­sive­ly bub­bly musi­cal style. This, how­ev­er, is not a com­pli­ment. From the inef­fec­tu­al title of the album itself, Ocean Eyes, to the mis­er­able com­bi­na­tion of non­sen­si­cal phras­es and imagery, Ocean Eyes is alter­nate­ly painful and infu­ri­at­ing to lis­ten to. Begin­ning with the open­ing track (and worst track lyri­cal­ly), “Cave In,” Young fills his songs with ter­ri­ble puns, life­less word­ing, and worth­less metaphors. The album begins with the line “Please take a long hard look through your text­book / ‘Cause I’m his­to­ry,” and does­n’t improve from there. Young spends an entire track singing about “Den­tal Care,” includ­ing such excel­lent lines as “And that’s why I don’t drink and dri­ve / Because good grief, I’d knock out my teeth / And have to kiss my smile good­bye.” By the last track, Young sings “I wish I could cross my arms / And cross your mind,” mak­ing it painful­ly clear that no ener­gy what­so­ev­er has been put into lyri­cal improvement.

While there’s noth­ing wrong with a par­tic­u­lar­ly cheery per­son, as Young seems to be, there is a prob­lem with an album that, as a con­se­quence of its need to impart extreme hap­pi­ness, sounds like one track set to mul­ti­ple sets of lyrics. The tem­pos, lyrics, and instru­men­ta­tion may change from track to track, but on Ocean Eyes there’s only one way to pro­vide exceed­ing­ly bright lines for the lis­ten­er. And so vocal melodies, synth melodies, and har­monies in gen­er­al are all repeat­ed through each track on the album. While indi­vid­ual tracks may have enough vari­a­tion that they can’t be con­sid­ered “over-repet­i­tive,” tak­en as a whole, the album is just that, and much, much more.

Ocean Eyes is catchy, extreme­ly radio friend­ly, and occa­sion­al­ly even makes lis­ten­ers want to tap their foot to the music. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this is done at the expense of every­thing else music has to offer, and why lis­ten to the album when you could eas­i­ly find equal­ly catchy and at least slight­ly more inter­est­ing music sim­ply by turn­ing on your FM tuner? Ocean Eyes is a set of twelve vari­a­tions on a sin­gle, incred­i­bly bub­bly theme. And even though each track has unique lyrics, none of them are worth a lis­ten unless you are an avid col­lec­tor of awful puns, bad rhymes, and com­plete­ly unin­ter­est­ing state­ments. And so for the vast major­i­ty of the world, Ocean Eyes has absolute­ly no redeem­ing qualities.

This post is tagged ,

6 Responses

  1. Gina Harrison says:

    absolute­ly not!

    adam young uses very upbeat, catchy melodies which has cap­tured the hearts of thou­sands of peo­ple! his first tour date? sold out. i was there in the crowd of scream­ing fans singing right along with him and every­one else. 

    His lyrics? are beau­ti­ful… he’s not ortho­dox, so what. he has an amaz­ing tal­ent, espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing how he does most of the writ­ing, mix­ing, record­ing and editing. 

    im sor­ry that you dont imme­di­ate­ly jump to want­i­ng to bump and grind when lis­ten­ing to his music. im also sor­ry that you dont hear about body parts and skin and mon­ey when you hear his voice. 

    you want to be a crit­ic? try leav­ing an opin­ion that isnt as insult­ing as this sor­ry excuse for a website. 

    k thanks have a won­der­ful day

  2. Alaina Rain says:

    He’s a jerk! He’s a jerk! He-he-he’s a jerk! He’s a jerk!

    I love owl city and so does most peo­ple i encounter. 

    the end.

  3. Jake says:

    Yup, agreed with the above… this review­er kind of sucks (read: sucks major­ly). Owl City is an excel­lent (one-man) band. Yes, Adam’s lyrics are bub­bly, but that’s what makes it great. He utter­ly failed to men­tion the /brilliant/ puns in Den­tal Care: “I’ve been to the den­tist a thou­sand times/So I know the drill,” “When hygien­ists go on long vacations/That’s when den­tists scream and lose their patience (patients),” and “Golf and alco­hol don’t mix/And that’s why I don’t drink and dri­ve.” Some songs have pos­i­tive­ly beau­ti­ful imagery--for instance, Swim­ming in Mia­mi from Of June has the won­der­ful line “As the air­ships move across the sky/And my equip­ment just keeps stand­ing by/The plan­ets glow and inten­si­fy…” This is lit­er­al­ly the first bad thing I have /ever/ heard about Owl City. Every­one I talk to has either not heard of them or loves them, which is the way it is with most good bands. In short: shut up, dick.

  4. Ian says:

    I have to dis­agree strong­ly with this review. I will not say the review­er “sucks” because every­one is enti­tled to their own opinion.

    Yet, to rate this CD as a “0” shows an unnec­es­sar­i­ly harsh bias that nit-picks every­thing needlessly.

    The great thing about Owl City is that it isn’t like oth­er music. It uses puns, and imagery that are intend­ed to make the lis­ten­er actu­al­ly think about what they are lis­ten­ing to. You’ve heard of the “show don’t tell” expres­sion? Where the author does­n’t just tell the per­son what is going on, they allow the per­son to expe­ri­ence thoughts, emo­tions, and experiences.

    Ocean Eyes, and all Adam’s oth­er music isn’t so shal­low as to assume the lis­ten­er can’t under­stand what is going on with­out a closed expla­na­tion, ie. “This hap­pened, then this hap­pened, then this hap­pened, then that hap­pened.” And because of this, it isn’t the same as main­stream music. It does­n’t try to hide it’s mes­sage in clever puns and analo­gies, which may be some­thing the review­er was expect­ing (and when not found, was utter­ly dis­ap­point­ed). Adam’s music works and moves through the lis­ten­er, allow­ing for med­i­ta­tion and thought. Per­haps hav­ing to dwell on the music is some­thing that the review­er isn’t to fond of doing. Per­haps dwelling on music is some­thing that more peo­ple should do.

    Con­trast to the review­ers opin­ion, this music is very inspir­ing, emo­tion­al, spir­i­tu­al, and (many) more adjec­tives. The imagery in the songs are delight­ful. They move through the lis­ten­ers mind and soul, allow­ing for audi­to­ry visu­al­iza­tion. A lot of peo­ple just see music as some­thing to lis­ten to, but Adam Young has effec­tive­ly turned his music into some­thing that goes beyond lis­ten­ing. It can be visu­al­ized, and felt on an emo­tion­al lev­el. It is an expe­ri­ence that does­n’t rely on nar­ra­tive, but on the process of dis­cov­er­ing what music actu­al­ly is.

    I can see why Owl City is said to be either some­thing to love, or some­thing to hate. It is art. Some enjoy a piece. Some despise it. But what’s fas­ci­nat­ing is the peo­ple who can see the val­ue in a great piece of art, not because it fits the cul­tur­al mold, but because it goes beyond the bound­aries of the mold and seeks to become some­thing in itself beautiful.

  5. david grohl says:

    Both the review­er and the com­menters are being extreme­ly biased, but the review­er does make a good point

    While i admit that his music can be a pick me up, it is pret­ty awful musi­cal­ly. Most of the tracks are the same thing with dif­fer­ent hap­py words. i dont mind hav­ing lyrics that dont make sense but he uses way to many puns and such.

    There is no rea­son to buy the entire album because all the songs sound the same and are basi­cal­ly the same. It is bet­ter than most rap but at least rap some­times has some cre­ativ­i­ty and lyrics that actu­al­ly say something

  6. nicky says:

    Dude what an out of order review.
    Every­one has their own taste in music fair play but i love owl city and to abuse them with a zero is not on. Con­sid­er­ing he start­ed of in his base­ment and built his way up the inter­net and to star­dom he has done bril­liant. Ocean eyes is a good album, the stand out tunes fire­flies, umbrel­la beach and vanil­la twi­light are catchy and uplift­ing even if twi­light is about his past lover. Fire­flies is as catchy as catchy can be and umbrel­la beach is a decent dance track. Even a few oth­er songs of the album i would say he can release. Such as tidal wave and mete­or shower.Fair play his lyrics are a bit child­ish but thats what makes his music so fun.His voice is some­times bril­liant and some­times chip­munk­ish yet his voice is qual­i­ty live. The beat and tunes of his songs are well just sooth­ing and uplifting.One thing you can’t deny the one word that describes owl city on a whole is uplift­ing. He makes good music mate, sort it out. A ZERO more like an 8 out of ten…

Leave a Reply