Owl City, The Midsummer Station
Adam Young is back. Eager to regain the success of “Fireflies,” Owl City’s third studio album transitions from synth-pop to more in-your-face electro dance tunes, poised to push fans back on the dance floor with glow sticks in the air.
After the disappointing reception and chart performance of All Things Bright and Beautiful, Young’s strategy for The Midsummer Station has him hitting the market with a first single featuring surprise sensation Carly Rae Jepsen. The good news for Young is that it looks like he may very well succeed. “Good Time” currently sits at #13 on Billboard’s Top 100 and marks Owl City’s second entry into Billboard’s top 20.
The fun, lighthearted tune is a good indication of an album fit for the ears of the most conservative parent, devoid of swearing, drug references, innuendo, vulgarity or distasteful portrayal of women. Each song provides plenty of "oh woah woahs" exploring topics from new love, heartbreak and typical teenage angst, to resilience and overcoming obstacles. “Gold” provides encouragement for girls to see their value and live up to their potential.
Young's Christian background is evident in the album’s first song "Dreams and Disasters" as he repeats and responds to the yearning to feel alive forever. He encourages: “follow the light through the dreams and disasters/follow the light to the edge and the after/we won’t turn around/we will not slow down/follow the light through the dreams and disasters.” It’s an upbeat song about overcoming darkness and feeling alive that will have hipsters secretly bobbing their heads.
Young's success has not been without its downfalls. In the police chase themed “I’m Coming After You,” Owl City gives the miranda rights of love with the painful lyrics: “You’ve got the right to remain right here with me/I'm on your tail in a hot pursuit/love is a high speed chase running down the street/I'm coming after you.” The same is true of the space-themed “The Speed of Love” where Young sends satellite signals to his lady interest and races after her. The electronic beat all but saves lyrics so terrible they pain the soul.
The one instrumental surprise lies in the slow, piano-led track “Silhouette” concerned with loneliness and regret. But the piano lead is not the only surprise the song brings. Pitchfork reviewer Ian Cohen joins thousands of Ben Gibbard fans who dismiss Owl City as a sad, electronic hack of The Postal Service (to put it nicely). Unfortunately, the new album does very little to challenge the allegations. If “Fireflies” made Postal Service fans wring their hands in protest, the lyrics of “Silhouette” are enough to send them over the edge.
Yet, the catchy beats have matured since Young’s first release and it’s hard to keep your toes still. The Midsummer Station flies above his others when it comes to rhythm, where he has developed and grown.
Unfortunately, his lyrics remain a bit stagnant in a pool of rainbows and shooting stars, and one would hope he'd graduate to a more complex rhyme scheme than ABAB.
Despite its deficits, the album’s uplifting theme eventually won me over. The catchy lyrics stayed in my head long after the songs were over and I can easily see myself dancing to “Gold” on a Saturday night, a refreshing alternative to the typical "bump and grind." I will even admit to putting “Take It All Away,” on repeat. Boy band nostalgia crept in as I listed to what could be a slower, electronic version of Backstreet Boys’ 1997 “I Want It That Way.”
As far as lighthearted pop is concerned, it's a goldmine. And if the first single is any indicator, one should expect to hear a lot more from Owl City in the coming months.