Assorted thoughts while listening to Owl City’s new album, The Midsummer Station:

– Do you suppose that when Adam Young was recording “Good Time” he had any idea that he was essentially creating the follow-up to the catchiest, most viral single since, like, “Hey Ya”? Carly Rae Jepsen is a get and a half right now when it comes to buzz and potential exposure, and she may well be the only reason that “Owl City’s new album” is a thing on the general public’s radar at all.

– As long as we’re talking about “Good Time”…so, it’s a tweenage booty-call song, right?

– Thank god none of the executives at NBC had heard “Gold” (which was actually released back in May) before the olympics, or we’d have heard it going into every single commercial break. It’s not just the lyrics — the beat actually goes out of its way to evoke “We Will Rock You”.

– Metaphor count:

  • “Light” – 6 out of 11 Songs
  • “Fire” – 4 songs
  • “Shine” – 3 songs
  • “Star” – 5 songs
  • “Shooting Star” and “Embers” manage the Yahtzee, pulling all four of the above into the same song. “Good Time”, “Metropolis”, and “Take it All Away” avoid them altogether, though the latter two both manage to work in references to the “dark”.

– I hated the album’s token piano ballad, “Silhouette”, until I imagined Ben Folds singing it. It’s actually a fairly Folds-ian tune, and probably the best song on the album in terms of pure melody. Folds, however, would have sung it with some self-awareness, while Young can only offer his pummeling sincerity. There’s something to be said for sincerity, sure, and a lot of the time, his childlike innocence combined with that utter sincerity works for him — it’s honestly what much of this album is missing. Still, on this particular song, it’s easy to long for, say, just a little bit of irony.

– The beginning of “Shooting Star” sounds exactly like “Fireflies” for about ten seconds.

– Speaking of things that sound exactly like each other, the voices of Young and Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus sound almost identical on the foray into chunky-guitared pop rock that is “Dementia”.

* * *

“Fireflies” was the exact right thing at the exact right time for Adam Young’s Owl City. It’s a highly electronic little pop song that sounded just like the type of thing someone might have recorded in their bedroom, complete with lyrics that were un-self-conscious enough to make you wonder if maybe Young didn’t think anyone would ever hear them. In fact, most of Ocean Eyes was like that, bounding from Finding Nemo jokes to insecure love songs to cute little pop-for-the-sake-of-pop songs without batting an eye. It was an in-depth look at one’s own belly button, humble and imaginative.

Once he realized he had an audience, he started speaking to them instead of himself — his beats started to pulse instead of twinkle, and Young taught his voice to project, and there was a confidence and polish to his music that wasn’t there before. That evolution has continued into The Midsummer Station, and where once we could relate to Young, it now seems as though he’s speaking to us from on high, imparting what wisdom his 26 years have brought him onto us via four-on-the-floor dance beats and a voice that sounds like it actually belongs in Blink 182 a little more with every passing song. Ms. Jepsen does fine for herself in this context, though it doesn’t really answer any questions about where she goes in a world that’s moved on from “Call Me Maybe”, and to their credit, the rest of the collaborators that Young has brought on for the album seem to give their songs distinct personalities.

Really, The Midsummer Station is fine. It’s sugary sweet, and it’s easy to understand, and Young’s way with a melody is occasionally transcendent. It will, however, make you roll your eyes more often than it will make you have to catch your breath, which means that it’s much easier to concentrate on its deficiencies than its merits.

Grade: C+

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