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Posted on August 10th, 2009 (10:34 am) by Kevin Lopez

While Adam Young’s latest effort as Owl City is his first release on a major label, he fortunately makes the transition without any loss of artistic integrity. For someone who just a few weeks ago might have been a “who’s that?” in the business, Young's Owl City project has grown quickly from its humble beginnings: he has gone from sleepless nights in his parents' basement producing his own music, to a nationwide tour and thousands of fans in the palm of his hand. Ever since the release of his earliest recordings, fans have been drawn to Young's synth-pop vibes. Ocean Eyes carries that electro flair even further in a beautifully vibrant aural experience.

Young has a deep-seated penchant for rhythm, and his melodic and tonal expressions meld with forward moving beats that give his songs a distinct pop appeal. In "Cave In," the themes and motifs that are introduced early in the song are played with throughout its four minutes. He switches it up by freely mingling atmospheric half-time and straight-ahead disco, every once in a while striking a fine balance between the two. The track concludes in the same way it began, reusing the opening musical motif as a lead-out.

Young's lyrical and vocal abilities also deserve some recognition. It's easy to appreciate a song as a whole, but occasionally the singular elements get lost in the mix. Young's lyrics have considerable emotional appeal and his subjects are diverse. Young will speak of puppy love in “The Bird and the Worm,” and then the difficulties of maintaining those pearly whites in “Dental Care” a few tracks later. There are hints of synesthetic blather, metaphorical comparison, and verbal parallels interspersed in his lyrical penning. His words are not merely relevant in the context of rhythm and melody, but also generally hold a deeper meaning. With such clever lyrics as “. . . we'll take a long walk through the cornfield/And I'll kiss you between the ears,” it is easy to fall in love with Young’s articulate mode of lyricism.

The earlier part of the album is distinctly upbeat and joyful in its euphoric quasi-dance-rock character. Starting with “Meteor Shower,” Young explores sentimental depths in a more downbeat tempo. Though the song may be short, it packs a punch in just over two minutes. It introduces itself as a melodramatic piano ballad with subtle string accompaniment, and then bursts into an emotional flourish with the impassioned and heart-wringing plea: “Please don’t let me go, I desperately need you.” This is where Young’s talent for words lends itself well; he says so much in so little. He explains, “I am not my own, but I have been made new,” and you can feel the yearning and solemnity in his voice.

From there the album picks up speed, culminating with “Tidal Wave.” There is a return to the up-tempo hop while Young speaks about insecurities in a breathy, blithe voice that bears a striking resemblance to that of Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard. Though the sentiment is dark, Young concludes that, “The end is uncertain, and I've never been so afraid. But I don't need a telescope to see that there's hope. And that makes me feel brave.”

From the very first minute to the last, I can honestly say I enjoyed every second of this album. There is something about Young’s approach to sound that invokes a carefree, yet deeply touching emotional appeal. His words speak as boldly as his music, and will appeal to anyone who simply lives a day-to-day life. For a first ever run with a major label, I can eye an ocean of opportunities for Owl City.

Track List:
1.Cave In (4:02)
2.The Bird and the Worm (3:28)
3.Hello Seattle (2:47)
4.Umbrella Beach (3:51)
5.The Saltwater Room (4:03)
6.Dental Care (3:12)
7.Meteor Shower (2:14)
8.On the Wing (5:01)
9.Fireflies (3:48)
10.The Tip of the Iceberg (3:23)
11.Vanilla Twilight (3:52)
12.Tidal Wave (3:10)

owl city, ocean eyes
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

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