by patrickscheen and d.ork
A wise person (me) once said: “all sounds are good sounds, but the best sounds are by owl city. ” yep, you read that correctly. On the 28th of july, 2009, american electronica project owl city released its second studio album, ocean eyes, and the world was forever changed. Adam young, the genius behind owl city (it’s just one guy! ), is back online according to the official owl city website, so what better way to celebrate this return by dis- cussing his crowning achievement.
Picture this: you’re an eight-year-old me traveling to chicago with your family for the first, and only, time that you will ever step foot in illinois. Without a care in the world, you brave the six-hour drive with only a backpack that your parents packed for you and your trusty, cut- ting edge ipod touch—the one from way back when with the enormous charging port and no camera to be found. Loading music onto these babies was way too complicated for my simple second grade mind, so i relied on my sis- ter to hook me up with some rocking tunes. And boy did she! This is where it all began: for my soundtrack this trip would be owl city’s ocean eyes. Words can barely ex- press the sheer might and audacity with which i carried myself during the bustling and frigid chicagoan winter, and i can only attribute my prowess to this, dare i say, perfect album. If the windy city was an oyster, owl city made me the pearl.
The subdued yet dramatic opener, “cave in, ” entices the listener with overlapping synths and slick vocals, ac- companied by a menagerie of subtle ornaments laced into the instrumentation. I’ve always believed that an album’s opening track is its most important song, and owl city nails this one. Perhaps my favorite track on the record, “the saltwater room” is an intimate and lush acoustic ballad, and the addition of vocalist breanne düren trad- ing off phrases with adam young brings yet another layer of serenity and comfort in the song. The track’s wistful vo- cal harmonies produce an overall experience of bliss and warmth in their delicate placements. Part of the beauty and magic of ocean eyes lies in the record’s ability to draw the listener in right off the bat, for this collection of tracks boasts some of the most consistently interesting intro sec- tions. Take “umbrella beach” as an example: this track immediately kicks into gear with an almost overwhelming vibrancy from the accompaniment before quickly slow- ing down, leading into a starker and more pulled back in- strumental for the verse. And, of course, i can’t even talk about this album without praising its magnificent lead single, “fireflies. ” arguably the most omnipresent song of the late 2000s, this hit was, without a doubt, deserved. Everything from the epic production to the drowsy synth line and some surprisingly deep lyrics cement “fireflies” as a modern masterpiece.
In terms of the album’s critical reception, i have one thing to say: the so-called ‘music critics’ can take their so-called ‘mixed reviews’ and fuck all the way off because they are all dumb losers who don’t know what good mu- sic is. But that’s just my opinion on the matter. If i was to take a fully objective look at the album’s composition and production, i can see that, at first glance, ocean eyes may seem to be a somewhat boilerplate and derivative synth- pop record. I can see beyond that view, however, because under this exterior is a genuinely magical and wondrous album—you just have to see it through ocean eyes.
but patrick, ocean eyes is the farthest thing from a derivative synthpop record! First off, it derives most of it’s sound from the indie electronica duo the postal ser- vice and their single album from 2003, “give up. ” not only is this album a masterpiece of indie music and the most influential album of the early 2000s, but it also gave owl city the push he needed to create his vibrant synths sounds and overlapping melodies. But he perfected it. They thought it couldn’t be better and yet he did it. It also was influential itself, because “give up” is a hit but not nearly at the level owl city got to. It left things to be de- sired, and owl city delivered. Ocean eyes is the perfect specimen of the internet age. Discovered on myspace, it blew up because the people wanted it, not some tone deaf record executive who wanted to pump out a formula. It is infectious because it wants to be, not because it has too. This music was made for enjoyment, not sales.
We’re still on the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this album. It has been in my life for most of my life, and was dropped right when i was discovering music and could find what i wanted to listen to. The owl city concert was the first time i saw someone playing an electric guitar with a violin bow, which definitely shaped my music taste even to this day. Synths still rule my life, and the music of owl city can instantly transport anyone to when artists were coming from the internet, and the future of music was very optimistic.
Now that we are old and sad, us owl city fans have found eachother after all these years and can talk about ocean eyes yet again. This is truly a classic album, and we were lucky to have this in our ipods and mp3 players, as well as all the amazing artists from the internet who made their way into our earbuds. We love you owl city.