The one man band known as Owl City burst onto the music scene more than 10 years ago with the smash hit “Fireflies” a clever, catchy and emotionally driven synth heavy pop song that propelled Adam Young to brief stardom.
But like all flavor of the month breakouts that planet earth hardly turns slowly, the hype died, but Owl City, under the guiding hand of Young, continues, as Young, who writes, composes, records and produces all songs has released four albums since 2009’s Ocean Eyes continuing the straight forward lyrics and near orchestral keyboard arrangements that illustrate his albums.
Though Ocean Eyes was Owl City’s debut major label album, 2008’s Maybe I’m Dreaming is the debut studio album. (I keep wanting to say band but for some reason that doesn’t sounds right.) Of course, one could argue the EP Of June released in 2007 works as a debut album. Though Owl City dubs Of June an EP, a seven song 26 minute record works as a complete album for many bands.
All technicalities of course, so we will visit the official on the record, debut Owl City record, Maybe I’m Dreaming. (Sort of my first request! My wife wanted Ocean Eyes but with the debut album series in full swing I went with Maybe I’m Dreaming.)
Owl City developed a sizeable following on MySpace as Young reportedly recorded songs while living with his parents. That led to selling songs on iTunes then a deal with Universal Republic followed as the EP and debut album reached the Top 15 on the Billboard Electronic Albums Chart.
Owl City Maybe I’m Dreaming Album Review
Mostly bereft of guitars, bass and an actual drum kit, Owl City uses synthesizes, keyboards, computers and software programs among other programming devices to create sampling, beats and harmonies all blended together creating a cohesive unit.
Young apparently began by first creating the music in his head while at work, then translated those ideas into his music making machine later. Certainly, it takes a special kind of genius to keep those thoughts intact then to produce this ambitious debut album comprising 12 songs more than 45 minutes long. No, none of the tracks feature the infecting charm that made “Fireflies” such a widespread hit and if your-thinking of electronic music falls more in line with the thumping strobes that emerged during the 90s this won’t pass your test.
Sweet and very amiable, Owl City gives an almost open-eyed wonderment to songs that makes Young all the more endearing. His vocals, occasionally delivered using mic effects but mostly keeps to the real deal, come across near kid-like but in tune, on point and totally fits with the music.
You hear some similar sounds in the songs on Maybe I’m Dreaming plus a preview of sorts of the big hit to come but every song on Owl City’s debut album shows a professionalism and understanding of how to make delicate pop songs that fall like rainbows after a raging storm. Similarly paced from beginning to end, opening track “On the Wing” along with “The Saltwater Room,” “Air Traffic” and “This is the Future” stand out. No overly gregarious melodies rather more pleasant rhythms hallmark Maybe I’m Dreaming which does not fail in leaving you with just a bit more brighter outlook on life.
Owl City often brings to mind the classic synth band’s of the 80s and sometimes chiptunes. Young, if he wanted, could front a Pet Shop Boys tribute band emulating Neil Tennant. Arguably then, Owl City came along a few decades too late but more likely resurrected a forgotten niche with a fresh take using a whole different demeanor.
Debut Album Grade: B+
Overall Grade: B-
Owl City Maybe I’m Dreaming Songs:
- On the Wing
- Rainbow Veins
- Super Honeymoon
- The Saltwater Room
- Early Bridie
- Air Traffic
- The Technicolor Phase
- Sky Diver
- Dear Vienna
- I’ll Meet You There
- This is the Future
- West Coast Friendship