Universal Republic Records
Release Date: June 27th 2014
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
- Beautiful Times (feat. Lindsey Stirling)
- Up All Night
- This Isn’t The End
- Wolf Bite
Does Adam Young need any introduction? Nope, I don’t think so. But just in case, let me give you a quick rundown. The shy, introverted, young, multi-instrumentalist and insomniac, who was playing with electronic sounds in his parent’s basement in his teens and early twenties, has now become a musical mainstream phenomenon under the name Owl City, and it’s all because of one song- “Fireflies”. You know, the song that skyrocketed to No. 1 on many charts worldwide in 2009, and the music video with Adam experimenting with instruments and sounds in his bedroom, and with strange objects flying around? I’m sure many of you have seen this video and probably have an opinion on it, however I digress. After an immensely popular sophomore album Ocean Eyes (his first signed to Universal Republic Records), that had the world talking (his first album flies by under the radar, who can remember it?), Adam released two more equally memorable and much-loved albums (All Things Bright And Beautiful and The Midsummer Station) and now has unveiled his latest project Ultraviolet EP. Known for combining fun, breezy, quirky and nonsensical electropop as well his deep and meaningful ballads and spiritual themed tracks filled with imagery and double or triple layered material, this 4 song mini-album has the best of both worlds, as we are met with songs that speak to our soul, and also still maintain that Owl City flair and atmosphere that made him popular!
Opening with soft keys and acoustic guitar (yet still up tempo and vibrant), “Beautiful Times”, featuring Lindsey Stirling on violin (and adding an orchestral and epic like atmosphere to the album opener), is one of Adam’s songs that you need to listen to many times to grasp its meaning and appreciate the beauty in the captivating musical layers. As such, I have heard this song many, many times, (and seen the video too) with each listen and watch brightening and deepening my experience. Though the verses are slightly confusing, Adam’s ability to turn simple phrases into complex messages that are relevant to many, is very profound, and this time he reminds us that the bad times in our life will end, and that something good will be around the corner if we just look. As the chorus states; ‘…I fought all through the night, but I made it alive, the sun’s starting to rise, these are beautiful times…’, we are presented with hope and assurance that our struggles are not our own to bear, as we can rely on our friends, family, and others. Though God is not mentioned, it is implied that we can turn to him also. As Adam passionately and eloquently sings across mesmerising electronic synth and programming, the profound lyrics and Lindsey’s stellar strings work, has won me over, and now I’m officially a fan on this song.
Being an artist in the mainstream, means sometimes writing relationship songs that don’t really have any hints of spiritual meaning in them, and that’s exactly what “Up All Night” is about. Either a literal song about Adam missing a loved one due to death or other circumstances such as drifting apart or moving away; or a metaphorical tune about the love that makes us nervous that we can’t sleep and are excited all the time (and not really talking about a specific person); Adam does make us think about what is important in life, and that is people. No man is an island, and this song proves that as humans we crave connection; and without it, our souls feel lifeless. Driven by keys, computerised drums and light electronics, Adam also states that he can’t get the person off his mind- and this song, if anything, makes me curious, as an unconditional love like that, and one that we always think about, is worth pursuing, and is sure to catch us by surprise. Do you have someone in your life that you can sing this love song to?
The final two tracks are probably the most personal of Owl City to date. “This Isn’t The End”, a sombre and down to earth acoustic guitar and keys driven ballad about a young girl’s father who commits suicide, and her struggle to live and also forgive him after that; nearly brought tears to my eyes. Yet in my opinion Adam should be congratulated for being courageous and taking a step not normally taken, as his fans will now know that even in the darkest of times, that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. “Wolf Bite”, laden with animal metaphors, and the most electronic out of the bunch, describes certain sticky situations and predicaments that Adam finds himself in. Adam also asks for help, that ‘…if my time runs out and the sky falls down, despite my fear, will you appear? If the world goes blind and I lose my mind, will you show me the way tonight?…’; Adam’s faith in God and my own, convinces me that this song is a prayer to Jesus, while others can take the ‘you’ and put whoever they want in there. That’s the beauty of ambiguity- no listener feels alienated, but it is my hope that “Wolf Bite” eventually draws people to Christ.
One of the surprise EP’s that I love this year, Ultraviolet has me saying something that I have never said before- that I’m excited for Owl City’s upcoming full length album. And that’s saying something about the calibre of these 4 songs as I only consider myself a casual fan of Adam Young. Fans of his earlier work will thoroughly enjoy this batch of new songs, and I would also encourage newer fans or non-fans to check out the EP as well, as Adam skilfully and professionally combines his silly lyrics with his serious lyrics, together for a memorable ride and fun and honest experience. Well done Adam for captivating me for 15 minutes (the downside is that Ultraviolet is too short!), let’s hope and pray that the full length album has no filler tracks like in The Midsummer Station!
3 songs to listen to: Beautiful Times, This Isn’t the End, Wolf Bite
RIYL: Relient K, Hawk Nelson, Needtobreathe, TobyMac