Owl City: A Poetic Wonder
Music and poetry have always been of the same ilk, since, after all, lyrical music is no more than poetry with a greater emphasis on the word and music combinations. There are many artists whose music I define as heartfelt, beautiful and emotional, but very few that I describe as poetic. In this sense, I use the word poetic to describe finding beauty in the everyday world, and presenting it through inventive lyrics and sounds. Seal has always been one of the masters of this style, and Owl City is one of the emerging stars.
Just about everyone has heard the number one hit “Fireflies” at this point, but most of the public does not know much about the artist. For starters, Owl City is not a group; it is an alias used by one man named Adam Young. If it seems like his music has a detached sound, as if created by someone cut off from the world, you wouldn’t be too far off. Born in Minnesota, Adam Young/Owl City created his Of June EP (2007) and indie LP Maybe I’m Dreaming (2008) during an extended bout of insomnia. Sealed off from the world, he sat the keyboard in his parents’ basement, and simply let the muse of insomnia work it’s magic. Ironically, the music made has a dreamlike quality to it; as if someone is looking at life through a magic Viewfinder.
The success of those two projects led to the studio LP Ocean Eyes in 2009, which earned Owl City as many detractors as fans. All Music Guide was unimpressed, describing it as “bubbling electronics and light, G-rated club anthems.” It’s a very divisive sound; one you either become entranced or annoyed with, very easily. I lean towards the former; it takes me away to a new world, highlighting sights so common, we pay them no attention. I can honestly think of no artist quite like Owl City; there may be shades of other techno/electronic artists, but nothing quite like him.
For a perfect example, listen to the “Fireflies” the verse “I'd get a thousand hugs/From ten thousand lightning bugs/As they tried to teach me how to dance” takes the familiar sight of lightning bugs on a summer night, and finds splendor in such an image. “Meteor Shower” is interesting because it has minimal lyrics, but uses the music to underline their power. Others personal favorites include “Vanilla Twilight,” which finds new life in the redundant image of watching the sunset, and “Hello Seattle,” where the title city is repainted as an exciting Wonderland. Speaking of Wonderland, Owl City’s best song may be “The Technicolor Phase,” from the Almost Alice soundtrack. An explosion of verbal color (if that’s even possible), it’s a song that’s vivid, trippy and quite gorgeous, which is more than fitting considering the movie.
The reason this music appeals to me so much, is that it’s not that far removed from my own poetry. Like Owl City, I am a firm believer that there is still beauty and magic to be found in our 21st century world. I can see how many listeners will grow irritated with this music, but those are the same literal realists that don’t know how to enjoy life. Despite all the hardships of today’s world, there’s true exquisiteness to found if you’d just look, and Owl City provides a lovely soundtrack for this world.