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Album Review – Owl City: Mobile Orchestra

The album cover for Mobile Orchestra by Owl City

There is a thin line between being able to rev your musical engine to new heights and experiencing sparks of originality. An artist’s music can sound the same over the course of time or it can morph with each album release, each single, each hit, and each flop. Every artist is bound to have their moments good and bad but what I’m really trying to say here is, music has to be able to withstand culture changes and time. Real music, honest musical artistry- lives on. Fans collect vinyl and CDs. Favorite songs are on repeat ten years later after their release. So I found myself asking, “Can Owl City live on?” It is harsh but true, Owl City sounds exactly the same as when it started. Mobile Orchestra bears resemblance to all that has come before it. First impressions say the lyrics are typical in context and the painfully electronic bubble-pop sounds give off a plastic feeling. However, my perspective was altered slightly after a few spins through.

“Verge” is an appropriate opener; light and hopeful, fun to listen to but the depth I was looking for I found through guest vocalist Aloe Blacc’s cries and promises of honesty. “I Found Love” follows and is a typical Owl City love serenade, complete with references to stars and fairy dust. Songs like this come across as glittering puff pieces with no backbone and are rather cliché in subject matter. “Unbelievable” offers whoops and hollers of 1990s nostalgia and although I am all for this, I also feel that it is a little early on the music timeline to be throwing out “remember those days.” It sounds like high school. It feels like high school. Most of the people who will genuinely listen to this song will probably be a child of the 1990s or be in, you guessed it, high school. Case closed. “Back Home” is a composition worth mentioning because it’s the first time we see Adam step outside of his bubblegum pop box with a country-inspired groove. There’s just enough country and just enough of Owl City to achieve a mashed-up balance. Many artists who are not by any means country musicians have turned out a country-tinged track for broader appeal, often with varying degrees of success, but in this case it seems to work.

In a twisted way that I did not expect, the songs that fill the album seem to gel fairly well. We have the stars in our eyes songs, the love songs, the songs of hope, of sadness, and the songs of yesteryear. It’s all there. In black and white with a splash of color. Mobile Orchestra is pumped and positive in its entirety and although the songs hop from influence to influence, sound to sound, it’s important to remember that instead of numerous performers minds feeding off each others energy, there is one artist behind Owl City. Adam Young stands in all positions as a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and songwriter. At the ripe age of 29, Young has proven success is possible without embracing the raunchy side of fame. Behind all the songs that say “live today like it’s your last,” there is just a guy who wants to grow as an artist- and even though his music is not my necessarily my jam, the man is clearly talented.

Still standing behind my claim that most of this album blends with the sounds of Midsummer Station and even Ocean Eyes, I will also say that the collaborators chosen for this album are rather impressive and add a certain depth that seems to be missing when Young is on his own. It shows Young is open to collaborations and experiences that can in their best form humble a performer. The entity of Owl City has always been packaged as party jam-background noise and although it still holds this title- the music has undergone some changes and now holds musical stamina as Young continues to grow- one song-singing step at a time.

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