Album Review: Owl City – All Things Bright and Beautiful

I don’t like Owl City.

It’s not that I’m against twee music; hell, Belle and Sebastian probably gets more playtime in my library than Metallica. But Adam Young’s musical project is so syrupy and dull that making it through one whole song awake is sometimes a small miracle. Anyone who heard Owl City’s break-though single “Fireflies” instantly knows what this band is about: bleepy bloopy synths and drum machines under “beat me for my lunch money” whispered vocals, sing-song melodies and lyrics so saccharine that Disney would probably reject them.

But that was the old Owl City. Surely the new one will be different, right? Nope, not at all. Opener “The Real World” assures the listener that if you were looking for more “Fireflies”, Adam Young’s got you covered. Next tune “Deer in the Headlights” has a bit more oomph to it thanks to some slightly crunchy guitars, and the limited variation helps. To tell the truth, similarity is the fatal flaw here.

All Things Bright and Beautiful‘s problem isn’t that it’s bad. It’s certainly not very good, but it’s not entirely bad either. It just feels like listening to the same song over and over again. It just feels like listening to the same song over and over again. It just feels like listening to the same song over and over again. It just feels like listening to the same song over and over again. See, annoying ain’t it?

Credit where credit is due, though. Despite being tweeer than twee as fuck, Young is a capable if narrow-minded producer. Even though every song mixes drum machines, synths, strings, and loops together in the exact same fashion, at least it tends to be a pretty mix of drum machines, synths, strings, and loops. Not to mention that Young actually sounds awake for once, and his more alert performances are on the better songs (“Galaxies”, “Kamikaze”).

But All Things Bright and Beautiful has plenty of smudges on it. There’s a strong lack of solid hooks to keep you interested past the second or third track. Also, the gap between the quality of the good songs and the bad songs is minuscule. I know that sounds like it should be a good thing, but it means that truly nothing stands out; the bad songs aren’t bad, they’re just dull as shit.

And, of course, there’s Adam Young’s dismal lyrics. He’s not quite as far gone as “I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy”, but he’s pretty close. Between dorky optimism, mentioning stars, colors, and skies at every chance he gets, and bad puns (not to mention the caked-on layer of sugary sweetness), Young’s lyrics go from cute and endearing to eye-rollingly bad ten minutes in.

If Young could give his sound variety, and his lyrics something of an edge, he’d be doing much better than he is now. As it stands, there are some fun moments, lots of vaguely pleasant ones, but few memorable ones. Imagine picking out all of the pieces of cereal by hand in a family sized box of Lucky Charms, and only leaving the marshmallows behind. All Things Bright and Beautiful is as obnoxiously sugary as the end result, and listening to it is as monotonous as the process to get there. Two out of five stars.

tl;dr: Agreeable, enjoyable, but not memorable. Two out of five stars.

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About bgibs122

I enjoy music and music culture; I hope you do, too.
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