Review Summary: Riding on thrift store coattails
“Cat, Pogs, and floam and Home Alone, Berenstein Bears and bean bag chairs
My L.A. Looks and Goosebumps books, oh Etch-A-Sketch
What happens next"
Grape juicy juice and Dr. Seuss, piggy-back rides and
Slip-n-slides, McDonalds Fries, those were the best
What happens next"”
These lyrics from “Unbelievable” show the major problem with Owl City’s Mobile Orchestra
. Songs about nostalgia can work when handled with care. Childhood stories can make for great, introspective lyrics, giving the song a personal feel. However, instead of that, Adam Young decides the best way to tackle this subject is to fill the song with more 90’s references than a terrible Buzzfeed article. The fact that 90’s artifact Hanson features make the intentions behind this track even more apparent: pandering towards the masses is the main goal with this project. This kind of songwriting happens to be a theme on here. “My Everything” and “You’re Not Alone” fail terribly as religious tracks and come across sounding like those songs you sing at your church youth group, the lyrics on “Back Home” are as sickeningly obsessed with the countryside as a modern country song, and “Verge” takes the emotions of graduating, the fact that you are stepping into a new, confusing step of your life, and boils it down to “Graduation day is fun!” If the lyrics aren’t terrible in a specific kind of way, their most likely too forgettable and generic to stay in your head at all, such almost every other song on here.
The advantage of electro-pop is that as long as you produce some catchy, enjoyable music, sub-par lyrics could be excused. Sadly, Young even fails at that here. If you’ve listened to any electronic track on the radio in the past 2-3 years, you’ve heard every single song on Mobile Orchestra
. Opener “Verge” features Aloe Blacc of “Wake Me Up!” fame and is obviously riding on the coattails of the 2014 worldwide hit. In fact, almost every song is doing its best to replicate the successes of big-time EDM producers, and failing miserably. We have even the honor of having “Back Home” awkwardly shoved into this album, sounding like every modern country song ever; generic electric guitar riffs, thumping yet flat drums, and the run-of-the-mill country singer feature. To wrap it all in a tight little bow, Adam Young’s vocals are as nasal as ever. This is especially highlighted due to the squeaky clean production, so you have no choice but to focus on his voice.
The closer of this album, “This Isn’t The End” is the only track that doesn’t follow the trend of god-awful songwriting. The track tells the story of a father being forced to leave his young daughter, and the daughter being forced to cope with his departure and eventually understand why he had to leave. While the wordplay is far from complex, it’s a touching little tale that easily surpasses the rest of the tracks. If this song was anywhere else on the tracklisting, I’d have no problem with it and Owl City could mark their tally with one quality track. However, the fact that this is the one that closes the album leaves a terrible pit in your stomach. After 9 straight tracks of boring, generic, pandering soullessness, there was a shred of personality that squeezed in at the end. You’re left thinking that this had potential to be good. Adam Young could’ve made a quality album.