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.

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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…

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