Synthpop is a genre all too common within the world of music today. You can find bands like Breathe Carolina and the Secret Handshake anywhere (more likely in places that have Mac computers). One band that deserves the title of flagship though, is Owl City. Formed in 2007 by sole member Adam Young, Owl City is a fresh take on an overly hashed idea. Taking off where his 2007 Of June
debut started, 2008's Maybe I'm Dreaming
is a great, fun, and original album bristling with keyboards and summertime melodies.
The album starts out with the supremely melodic On The Wing
. This song incorporates some great atmospheric synths, while also utilizing some very pseudo-dance type synths. The chorus contains a very simple melody, but while its simple its just bound to be stuck in your head for days. This track is unique in its combination of your standard variety key sounds, with very poppy orchestrated sections. Rainbow Veins
has a very tropical feel to it. During the chorus, there is some Hawaiian style acoustic riffing, in the background you can faintly hear the sound of xylophone (which is "coincidentally" mentioned within the song).
starts out with a dance track beat and a happy-go-lucky synth intro. It kinda sounds like the intro to some early 90's video game. The gem of the CD is the fourth track, entitled The Saltwater Room
. Kicking off with a slowly finger picked acoustic guitar intro, the song soon begins to mesh that with a bouncy piano interlude that continues throughout. The song truly separates itself from the rest of the album during the chorus where the listener is treated to the female vocals of Breanne Duren. This is without a doubt the catchiest song on the album and is pretty much guaranteed to be stuck in your head for months.
is the next track and starts out with a very vintage 70's key riff mixed with a modern day hip-hop beat. Mr. Young pulls out some of his best vocal tricks in this song, making great utilization of his autotuned voice. Air Traffic
could be considered the "ballad" of the album with its slower tempo. Adam almost seems to be whispering, but the effect works perfectly. One thing that is great about this album is most definitely Adam's vocal work. While it employs the ever unpopular autotune, he manages to pull it off in a way, where you can still read his emotion perfectly. This song also has some of Breanne Duren's vocals, though they are not quite as powerful as The Saltwater Room
Next track The Technicolor Phase
opens with a heavily effected drum beat and some of the most bubbly happy synths on the album. The chorus even integrates some European dance music synths in as well, creating a truly intersting mixture. Throughout the album Adam Young definitely shines with his skills on the keys, playing some of the most uplifting melodies available from the current crop of pop bands. Sky Diver
intro actually feature normal drums and a keyboard riff that seems slightly influenced by pop rock. Its hard to describe but if you listen to it (and you should) you would understand. Since the drums in this track aren't electronic at all, you can hear a slight Coldplay influence in the playing.
could be a straight up pop song. From the intro to the end of the song, the structure is straight up radio pop. Although one might mistake this for sounding generic it still has that Owl City twist to it, keeping it original and fun. I'll Meet You There
is a rave song through and through. There's some build-up, those slow atmospheric parts and of course some great triggered clappy hands. Overall its a fun song, and gets the blood pumping quite a bit.
This Is the Future
Has a marching beat to it, which creates a very anthemic feeling to the song, which is quite unique for a song of the genre. It switches between the anthemic part and a softer piano interlude, but it never gets stale or old, and basically leaves you wanting more. The last song West Coast Friendship
is a closer that will leave you feeling giddy, happy, basically any other happy variation feeling there is. From its background atmospherics to its upfront key riffs, the song creates a non stop feeling of happiness. Even the lyrics are happy and fun.
Detractors might just read this and associate it with the rest of the current synthpop wave, but in doing so they would pass up a great opportunity for some amazing, feel good music. Sure, Owl City aren't the most musically proficent, but when it comes down to it, they create pure, emotional music (not emo!) that grabs you and refuses to let go. Owl City is for anyone and it is highly encouraged that everyone give them a whirl, because its almost guaranteed you'll be hooked.