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Owl City: Ocean Eyes

January 11, 2010

Trying to be an attentive, giving husband, I bought a CD for my wife as a Christmas gift.  She loved the gift, but I still owe her an apology.  Since the night she opened Owl City’s new album Ocean Eyes, it has mainly been in my posession.  In fact, I’m a little obsessed.  Having admitted that, let me offer a brief review and recommendation.

Owl City is one guy, Adam Young, and he attributes most of his musical exploration and song writing to insomnia.  He began making music while awake during the night in his parent’s basement in Owatanna, MN.  With an early Death Cab for Cutie/The Postal Service (the Postal Service is Death Cab’s lead singer Ben Gibbard) feel, Young combines electronica with catchy vocals and interesting lyrics.

Some songs remain light while others tackle more weighty subjects.  As a general rule of thumb, I often think that most “Christian” music is subpar in terms of musicality to its secular counterparts.  You are, of course, free to argue otherwise, that is simply an opinion.  After hearing a few tracks, imagine my surprise when I read Young’s liner notes and learned that he is a follower of Christ and seeks to bring glory to God through his music.  I then noticed that Relient K’s Matt Thiessen contributed to the album on several songs (listen to the first single, Fireflies, his familiar voice can be heard singing background vocals).  Whether my general assessment of Christian music is true or not, Owl City can stand toe to toe with anything out there.  Young’s beats are original, his melodies are complex, but catchy, and his musical arrangements and instrumentation are sophisticated.

Match those qualities with clever lyrics and Owl City has become my CD of choice for the past several weeks.  I especially like the song Meteor Shower.  It’s Young’s most direct description of who he is and what he lives for.

“I can finally see, that you’re right there beside me,

I am not my own, for I have been made new,

Please don’t let me go, I desperately need you.”

In the age of itunes, when you can buy one song at a time, the idea of an album, that is a collection of songs meant to work together and communicate as a whole, has almost been lost.  Do yourself a favor.  If you’ve heard Fireflies on the radio and thought about picking it up for $.99, buy the whole album.  First, every single song is good, there is not a skip on the whole CD.  Secondly, in order to really understand what this music is about, you need to hear all of it.  Young moves in an out of serious, heavy topics with ease, the songs fit well together, and the sum of the whole is even better than its collective parts, as good as they may be.

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