We have all heard at least one song from him – probably more times than necessary if you are the radio-listening type. For those familiar with the song “Fireflies,” (i.e. everyone under the sun) Owl City’s new album All Things Bright and Beautiful is receiving criticism from one edge of the spectrum to the other: from those who enjoyed his previous albums and also family/commercial-oriented magazines, it is getting mostly positive reviews. From music-based magazines, it is getting less than stellar feedback. Both sides have valid arguments.
On one hand, if you are a big fan of Ocean Eyes, you should also be a fan of All Things Bright and Beautiful. This album exhibits the same beats and overall sound when dealing with musicianship and lyrics; the same cutesy tales about nonsensical adventures that seem to place you in the midst of a child’s storybook – or just another acid trip. The entire album is upbeat and cheerful, something of a ‘sunny-day-album.’
One thing that can be considered a perquisite is Adam Young’s vocals. In All Things Bright and Beautiful, his voice showcases some grit and macho-ness (who would have thought he had it in him) that was lacking in previous albums and singles. This is particularly evident in “Angels.” While on the topic of vocals, we might as well take notice of his lessened use of the dreaded effect “auto-tune.” In Ocean Eyes, it was constantly noticeable and used to the point where his voice was as electronic as the instrumentation behind it. But in ATBAB, there is more of his actual voice, which, in my opinion at least, sounds much better void of auto-tune.
However, with music like this, it is definitely hard to come up with new-sounding songs. With his first album, many feel he reached that limit and crossed it by coming out with ATBAB. And it is not hard to see where they are coming from. With many of the songs on this album, it feels as if they are mere duplicates of Ocean Eyes songs. There are moments – for example, in the song “Dreams Don’t Turn to Dust”- that feel like you could swap out melodies from previous songs (in this case “Hot Air Balloon”) and the song would continue sounding the same. This begs the question of what point there is buying an album that you technically already own? But as stated earlier, this album is definitely for the more fanatic fans of Owl City. For the casual fans, this one may not be for you.
That does not mean that this album is a bad one. It most certainly has its good points: Young’s vocals have improved, and some of the songs are quite catchy; it never hurts to have his bright lyrics stuck in your head during dull days. But All Things Bright and Beautiful was undeniably similar to his other releases, leading one to believe that maybe “Fireflies” was Owl City’s one-hit wonder.