Review - Owl City - The Midsummer Station
Those that read my blog know that I love Owl City. Like, really really really love him. I love him for a lot of reasons, but I want you all to know that I set that aside when reviewing his new album, ‘The Midsummer Station’. I mean, it was tough to do, but I wanted to be objective.
Ok, if you thought I was now going to trash this CD, you’re mistaken. And if you think I am only going to say nice things because I love him so much, you’re even more mistaken.
Adam Young has made a career out of cute synthpop, but recently some of us started getting worried for him. “Fireflies” made him a thing, but after that he kind of disappeared. I was pretty sure he was going to exist very happily in the underground, supported by his still-extensive and adoring fan base for years to come. All of this sounded lovely, and all of us had made our peace with this.
…and then 2012 happened and everything changed. After the paltry reception of his 2011 album ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’, which had six singles (and none of them charted in the US!), Young took a long hard look at what he was doing and decided that something different was needed. He and his label brought in hitmaker Stargate (who has produced hits like Rihanna’s “S&M”, Katy Perry’s “Firework”, Jordin Sparks’ “Tattoo” and Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable”, among so many others) and Matthew Theissen of Relient K to work with Young on a new album.
When I heard all this, I thought the game was over. Owl City is in a weird place, and one that is very tough to maneuver successfully. If he gives up the cutesy/indie synthy poppy thing that brought him to fame, his fans that have supported him throughout the years will not only be disappointed, many will leave him for good. If he didn’t get himself another hit or two, I’m sure there were discussions around his label of dropping him. Tricky tricky.
Miraculously, ‘The Midsummer Station’ is absolutely everything that it needed to be. The album is pop, it’s dance, it’s everything Top 40 is missing and everything it craves right now. No part of the album is “sexy” or hard, but it is clearly reaching out to the masses. People are tired of the sex and the vulgarity; this year has brought back pop at its best, and Owl City is right there on the forefront of this wave.
Of the eleven songs on ‘The Midsummer Station’, I’d say maybe two of them couldn’t make it as radio hits in some territory. Every song has enormous potential, and each track gives you something new. There are rock bits (“Dementia” [which features Mark Hoppus of Blink-182]), there are Daft Punk-quality electronic guitars (“Speed Of Love”), there’s a children’s choir (“Good Time [ft. Carly Rae Jepsen]”) and even a country-esque twangy guitar (“Dreams and Disasters”). Yeah, I was as surprised about that twang as when I heard that a Lady Gaga single was both a club banger and had 80’s saxophone (“The Edge Of Glory”).
The best part about ‘The Midsummer Station’ is that at no point does it not feel like Owl City. The music might be very Top 40, but that doesn’t mean the feeling isn’t still there. Adam Young produced every track on this album (with help on some) and only didn’t have a hand in writing two songs. This shows that he is absolutely no one-trick pony, and that he has incredible versatility and talent. How is it possible that he created an album that in no way sounds like him, but in every way <i>feels</i> like him? Only listening can really tell you this.
Listen to: every song. Everything. You may have already heard a number of the tracks from his ‘Shooting Star’ EP a few months ago, and that is a good sample of what this album holds. BUT, you really should listen to the entire thing. Incredibly worth your while.
Plus “Good Time (ft. Carly Rae Jepsen)” and the four songs on the ‘Shooting Star’ EP.