When Adam Young, one of the many pop stars to rise via YouTube, kicked off for fame and fortune with 2009’s Ocean Eyes, his second album as Owl City, many thought of him and his band as a one-time hit wonder. Indeed, the album’s main singles, “Fireflies”, took him out of his Minnesota bedroom into the British and American top 10 but the things suffered a downfall with the band’s best and third album, 2011’s All Things Bright and Beautiful. Ironically, the album enjoyed comparatively modest sales, but this was a decisive factor for Young, who decided it was time to bite the commercial jugular and so The Midsummer Station was born.
Released on August 21, 2012, Owl City’s fourth album is the band’s most commercial effort, but this doesn’t mean it is worthless. In fact, the songs bring a bit of happiness into our lives, so it’s not just an ordinary album meant to hit the stream only for the summer. Its sunshine melodies, uptempo hooks and buoyant choruses that recall the glorious days of the ’80s make the album the perfect way to spend a cold winter afternoon with your best friends. Just close your eyes, listen to the tracks, and feel the warmth in your entire body. Owl City promises a truly unique experience only if you have the time and patience to go beyond the lyrics and the rhythms.
Hearing the energetic bounce of the Stargate-produced single “Shooting Star,” which bears a striking resemblance to Katy Perry’s “Firework” single, the stuttering chorus of “Gold” and the effervescent sweep of “Metropolis,” it’s like sipping a glass of ouzo, the Greek drink filled with positivity. “Embers” sounds less like Erasure and welcomes you with encouraging words (including “It gets better”), which made the critics associate the song with the gay anti-bullying campaign of the same name.
Nevertheless, the album is not all about riding unicorns into the sunset and looking up at the stars, one of Young’s favorite themes. The Midsummer Station can also take you down the cliff, into the depths of despair and “Silhouette” stands as proof. The song starts on a real piano instead of synths and then addresses feelings of pain, exhaustion and obliteration, as well as the darkest solitude man can face (”I can’t put to bed these phobias and fears”). “Take It All Away” goes on the same path as Young prays for strength, as the person who has broken his heart wouldn’t see him crumble: “I won’t let it show until you’ve finally flown away.”
But after revealing his fears and pains, Young goes back to the sweet songs culminating with “Good Time” featuring Carly Rae Jepsen, a song recorded long before Jepsen took over the airwaves with “Call Me Maybe”. However, though many consider this song as the best of all the album’s tracks, Young continues to make our ears and heart smile with the giddy, summery exuberance of “I’m Coming After You,” “Speed of Love” and “Metropolis,” a tune about coming home to the only one who “gets me.”
Moreover, beside the pop charmer Jepsen, Young collaborated with Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus on “Dementia“, a song about Young’s fast developing fame and what it did to him, as well as with Emily Wright and Relient K’s Matthew Thiessen on several tracks.
Overall, The Midsummer Station feels like it was made by an artist in transition, an artist who has not left his protective shell yet to go and experience the world. Even so, the colorful wordplay mixed with daydream sounds and anxiety-tempered optimism resulted in a good album that sounds exactly like Young wanted it. Another one like this and Owl City will be huge once and for all.
Owl City - The Midsummer Station Album Cover
Owl City - The Midsummer Station Track Listing
1. “Dreams and Disasters” - 3:45
2. “Shooting Star” - 4:07
3. “Gold” - 3:56
4. “Dementia” (featuring Mark Hoppus) - 3:31
5. “I’m Coming After You” - 3:29
6. “Speed of Love” - 3:28
7. “Good Time” (with Carly Rae Jepsen) - 3:26
8. “Embers” - 3:45
9. “Silhouette” Young Adam Young 4:12
10. “Metropolis” - 3:39
11. “Take It All Away”
iTunes Store bonus track
12. “Bombshell Blonde” - 3:26
Released August 17, 2012
Genre Synthpop, dance-pop, pop
Label Universal Republic
Producer Steve Bursky (exec.), Josh Crosby, KoOoL Kojak, Brian Lee, Matthew Thiessen, Stargate, Adam Young