When it comes to Owl City-style electronic music, it is easy to write off most of what comes out of the genre. This is primarily because it often all sounds the same, and all the world really needs is one Adam Young.
Despite being in this genre, the latest release from the band Swimming With Dolphins, titled Water Colours, is a unique and original album that breaks free from past stereotypes of the genre. Water Colours is the band’s first full length album, and the first release since 2008’s Ambient Blue EP.
Just as is true with Owl City, the band is based primarily on the work of one Minnesota-born person by the name of Austin Tofte. Interestingly enough, Adam Young was an original member of the group until he decided to leave after the first EP, due to the success of Owl City.
Although it would be very easy for Tofte to follow in the footsteps of the very successful Young and Owl City, Swimming With Dolphins breaks free from the previous genre stereotypes that have been set in multiple ways. Water Colours is not over-autotuned, which is really refreshing to hear. That being said, it is used, but in a way that blends well with Tofte’s voice – and never too much.
The album also has a very retro feel to it, which is created by an array of different synth keyboards. It is almost the perfect integration of retro ’80s sounds and the synth-pop style that has become so popular in music. Many songs on the album also have a very Cobra Starship feel to them, incorporating the synth-pop style and rock, which adequately dilutes what can sometimes be overbearing in this style of music.
The opening track to the album, “Holiday,” is a personal favorite. It is very upbeat and attention-catching, and features vocals from Sarah Beintker, which match in a very pleasant way with Tofte’s voice. This song also has greater complexity to it than you will often hear from the genre.
“Sleep to Dream” is the first single to come from the album, and easily one of the best tracks the album has to offer. It especially has a very ’80s feel to it, with a catchy, buzzing synth part. The song sounds like a much more upbeat version of the 80’s classic “Forever Young.” This song is also a very good example of the fact that Tofte doesn’t rely on autotune.
Another track from the album that is worth checking out is the song, “Jacques Cousteau.” Although it is bothersome that Tofte sticks with this same marine/aquatic theme with the image of the band, which can be seen simply through the song’s title, this song has a complexity to it that hasn’t existed in the genre until now. The song is catchy, yet sounds like nothing else that one will hear from this genre, combining multiple elements to make a unique and noteworthy final product.
Water Colours is a significant change from Tofte’s first EP, which would fit into the cliché category of the genre. This album has a very complex and unique sound to it that won’t be found anywhere else, and is worth a listen whether you are a friend or foe of the genre.