Review Summary: Maybe We're Not Dreaming After All; Adam Young shows good talent when in the right places.
A little band history: Owl City is a one-man group hailing from Owatonna, Minnesota, who began his sugary career through his Myspace distributed album, Of June. It was more of the song Hello Seattle's glory than the album itself, which launched Young into stardom after getting him recognized by Universal Republic. The following year he released this record, Maybe I'm Dreaming. Here, Owl City found itself in a sweet spot between Of June's lesser-developed talent and Ocean Eye's overdone presentation.
If you payed attention to Of June's lyrics, he seems to be obsessed with the ocean. And he still is, but this time around it's not the only
thing he sings about. Maybe I'm Dreaming feels more down-to-earth in terms of pop music, with topics closer to having fun, love, and friendship. That's not to say he doesn't still write about the seven seas, because he does. But there are some real departures from Of June's content, most notably on songs Super Honeymoon and The Technicolor Phase. That, with the richer instrumentals and variations, makes Maybe I'm Dreaming a much less repetitive and tedious listen than Of June.
Speaking of instrumentals, which is all done digitally, Young has some of the catchiest and most interesting tunes in his discography on this record. Technicolor Phase uses bright, beamy synths post-chorus that has a similar essence to Of June's Panda Bear. In short, the overall variety with his instrumentals make this album his easiest to sit all the way through, and the catchiness gives it more replay value. Early Birdie even pulls out a club-ish, dancing shuffle toward the end, and then closes out with a whirly, calming outro. Air Traffic is perhaps the slowest track on the record, and adopts a ballroom-dance type of rhythm. Vocals are done well with both Adam and guest vocalist Breanne Duren. This guest vocalist is also heard on The Saltwater Room, and the result is fantastic. This track is like a dreamy romance story, with both Adam and Breanne taking turns behind the mic. The acoustic guitar accompaniment and catchy "ding" noises make this one of the better tracks.
This album isn't a classic, however. While there isn't anything particularly bad
, per se, almost none of this tracks are great. Some are above average, certainly, and most are very catchy. But there seems to be something lacking on every song, be it an unnessesary quiet/slow section, an overreaching atmosphere, or just the icky lyrics in general (which I'm never a fan of). Also, while his vocals easily qualify for the aforementioned "in between" status (more developed than Of June, less overdone than Ocean Eyes), he still fails to fit with a lot of the songs on here, in my opinion. Sometimes his voice distracts from a stellar musical number, because it's unfitting with the applied mood or the instrumentals. Others his voice suffers from overusing that whisper-and-speak-at-the-same-time thing he frequently does.
To conlude, this isn't a great electronic album, but it is good, and it's Owl City's best yet (to me at least). There's some tracks I recommend a lot for fans of Owl City, but for those who aren't too keen on him I can't see myself recommending any of them. It's a love or hate relationship, because Adam Young has always incorporated a servere, gooey sense of happiness in his records that's often void of masculinity. For those who can enjoy the elation here, Maybe I'm Dreaming is where to go for good Owl City music. Otherwise I recommend The Postal Service or Pretty Lights over this.