Owl City – Coco Moon

Sky Harbor Entertainment

Release Date: March 24th 2023

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Owl City– Coco Moon (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Adam, Check Please
  2. Under The Circus Lights
  3. Kelly Time
  4. Field Notes
  5. Sons Of Thunder
  6. The Tornado
  7. Vitamin Sea
  8. Dinosaur Park
  9. Learn How To Surf
  10. The Meadow Lark
  11. My Muse

Does Adam Young, songwriter, and entertainer extraordinaire, need any introduction? Nope, I don’t think so- his song “Fireflies” under the popular moniker Owl City, has garnered him fans aplenty, as he rose up to fame and stardom very quickly since 2009. But just in case you are unsure of who he is (although he’s been around for 13 years or so as an artist…), 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, because of the aforementioned track. “Fireflies” is the song that skyrocketed to No. 1 on many charts worldwide in 2009, and the music video features Adam experimenting with instruments and sounds in his bedroom- with strange objects flying around. Though many have differing viewpoints on the song and the video, let’s move on, shall we?

After an immensely popular sophomore album Ocean Eyes (in 2010) that had the world talking (his debut album unfortunately 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 after dropping a mini album, the Ultraviolet EP in 2014, as well as a quasi-worship project Mobile Orchestra in 2015, and an autobiographical orchestral album Cinematic in 2018; we are now presented with something new from Adam. Adam loves to ‘go dark’ in between releases- maybe to reignite the creativity and maybe it’s part of his process. Whatever the reason, from 2018 til now, Adam has been sporadic on social media at best- but he resurfaced late last year to unveil his collaboration with Neural Cloud for his pop single “Up To The Cloud”; reminding us that Adam Young isn’t slowing down any time soon. This song, though perhaps not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, is still vintage Owl City, and this melody had (and still has) me anticipating whatever comes next from Adam. 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; “Up To The Cloud” is no different- you can read our review of the single here.

This past year though, Adam is back, again under his moniker Owl City. He released his single “Kelly Time” this past January, as well as “Adam, Check Please” in February. It was all culminating to the release of the brand-new album Coco Moon which released this past week… and seeing that the release was so soon, there wasn’t any way I would review another Owl City single, right? Wrong! That was before I heard “Vitamin Sea”- and so you can read my thoughts on Adam’s third single here! I had high hopes for Coco Moon– and lo, and behold, the album is here, and it hasn’t disappointed me in the slightest. Coco Moon is a rather strange album. The music and feel is typical Owl City, with his signature electronic beats and his recognisable synth and whimsical, child-like and introspective lyrics. But the album feels way more mature and like something from a soundtrack and something that probably all of us can listen to and gain something from. 11 tracks and 55 minutes; Adam has poured his heart and soul into this project- and you can tell that this album is a labour of love.

Hi, it’s Adam. I’m thrilled to announce a new Owl City album is coming.

March 24th is the day.

The title of the album is “Coco Moon.”

“Coco Moon” is made up of 11 songs because I like the number 11. Some songs on the album are autobiographical, meaning you had to be there. Writing is how I prefer to sort things out, so I turned some of my journal entries into songs.

Some songs on “Coco Moon” are metaphorical in a story kind of way. I like to read books because books take me places. When I pick up a book, I leave planet Earth. I wrote a few songs inspired by this.

And then some songs on “Coco Moon” are odd. Meaning, some have unusual structures, some don’t make a lot of sense, a few are extremely wordy, others are a little too long. Creative oddity is beautiful to me so I embraced it.

The point is that “Coco Moon” is a very Owl City album. It is quirky. It is odd. It is unapologetically myself. I made an album that is exactly the way it was supposed to be, not an album that popular culture, or algorithms, or analytics, or anyone else on planet Earth told me to make. I wrote me. Average, ordinary, weird me.

CS Lewis said to Tolkien, “If they won’t write the kinds of books we want to read, we shall have to write them ourselves.”

Amen to that.

I started by imagining an album I wanted to listen to. The result is “Coco Moon.” I’m so grateful and honored to be able to share it with you soon.

What I mean by soon is March 24th.

Immediately when scanning through the track list, we are presented with three recognisable tracks. “Kelly Time” is a stirring, powerful, 5-minute ballad, sung from the perspective of Wilson the volleyball in Cast Away, and sung to Tom Hanks’ character about their friendship while being stuck for 4 years on a deserted island. With the melancholy, contemplative track speaking about feelings of isolation, contemplation, reflection, heartache, and hope; Adam also delves deep into the concepts of forgiveness and sticking by someone through thick and thin. Structurally, this is an incredibly weird Owl City song, but it’s still incredibly poignant, heartfelt, and catchy. It takes a while to appreciate this song, but one it gets you, there’s nothing better than to press repeat and listen to this epic artistic masterpiece. “Adam, Check Please”, the album opener and the second single, is another brilliant masterpiece from one of today’s most gifted songwriters; with the song being about Adam’s first job, and the song lyrically goes deeper than that, as Adam speaks about doing whatever it is that you do to your very best- with passion, with intention and with a zeal for life. As Adam recounts that he loved his job despite the mundaneness of it all because it was where God had placed him in that moment in time, so too should we be grateful and thankful for the little moments in our lives, even when they are menial jobs, and especially so- because more often than not, we will learn something about others and about ourselves through the things we think are insignificant. These two are deep and introspective songs… and the next single and final single prior to the release of this album is “Vitamin Sea”- that fun, jovial Owl City that we’ve all come to know and love. It’s about celebrating life in the sunshine and living every day to the fullest- and what better way for Adam to sing about the sun that to film a music video in the snow? It’s a quirky yet totally Owl City kind of song!

The rest of Coco Moon is an incredible, exuberant, and celebratory journey through life and the many ups and downs of each messy day and what it entails. “Under The Circus Lights” is a Greatest-Showman-like powerful epic orchestral anthem, with Adam via the persona in the song outlining his fleeting attraction and crush to a performer in the travelling circus. It’s a story song, with the persona crying out ‘…what a display of rosé poetry, what a majestic menagerie, I swear when I caught her eye, I could almost fly, and under the circus lights, I must have fallen in love that night…’, and later declaring that he will join the circus, if only to find this person again and declare his feelings to her. It’s a bit an extreme decision, but this song reminds us that sometimes there are moments in our lives where we need to take a risk and we need to do something bold and courageous with our lives otherwise we are just meandering. We need to ask ourselves ‘what is our circus moment’ and then go for it. If it is asking someone out on a date that we are terrified and nervous about, if it is moving back home or travelling abroad for an exchange program- then we should do something, because life is short, and we will regret the ‘what ifs’ and always wonder if we let the little things pass us by. “Field Notes”, arguably the most important and resonating and encouraging song on the album, is inspired by Matthew 13: 44-46, Matthew 6: 19-21 and Matthew 6: 33, and speaks about chasing after eternal treasures rather than material possessions that will fade away, as Adam eloquently outlines that ‘…then full of joy, I said goodbye to my shack, it wasn’t much of a home so I never looked back, and I never questioned the choice I happily made, I said, “I need that field whatever it takes”, you might call it foolish but I call it faith, trusting in God so gladly, you can hardly wait, and that’s how I learned how a rich fella accounts, his treasure in heaven, not under the ground, ’cause betting the farm is well worth the risk, to carefully keep such a beautiful gift that’s yours forever, it’s a pretty good deal, there’s a couple of things more precious than gold, one is your heart and the other’s your soul, and you’ve got something you need that nobody can steal, it’s a fable, you see and the moral is this, your heart’s with your treasure, wherever it is, and trust me when you dig, a treasure will be revealed, and you never know what could be buried in the middle of a field…’ (as Adam overtly encourages us to seek after God’s kingdom rather than our own!); while the overtly worshipful “Galaxies”-like anthemic track “Sons Of Thunder” is equally as impressive and engaging. As Adam powerfully sings about what heaven will be like, and effervescently highlights that ‘…sons of thunder, feel the wonder, you were made to run and not be faint, so take heart, wild one, for there is a God who loves you to death, no matter what you’ve done, so don’t lose hope ’cause He will lead you home, yeah, we serve a God who loves us to death, no matter what we’ve done, so don’t lose hope ’cause He will lead us home…’; God is praised and lifted up high, and I am in awe of Adam boldly singing about his faith in a more and more secular world of mainstream media.

“The Tornado”, a vibrant and eclectic melody whereby Adam outlines a fictitious story about a boy delivering papers in his part-time job and being stuck in a storm and him taking cover so he won’t be swept away, speaks about the complexities of life, and the fact that we as people have a flight or fight response when extreme circumstances occur- we want to survive so we will do everything in our power to stay alive; while the dreamy and innocent piano pop melody “Dinosaur Park”, standing tall at 6 and a half minutes, features Adam outlining about how he’s curious and in awe of what happens in the dinosaur park- sort of what happens in the Night At The Museum movies. And as Adam sings out ‘…in Dinosaur Park, long after dark, I wonder what happens there when no one’s around, does some kind of magic fill the air? I won’t ever prove statues can move, but I’d like to think they do so I make believe with all of my heart, there’s magic afoot unseen in the dark, in Dinosaur Park…’, we are encouraged to keep our childlike faith and wonder and not be cynical and jaded by the world- because there are indeed miracles and magic anywhere you look, and creation around us alone should present to us an air of thankfulness and gratitude.

“Learn How To Surf”, a 90’s inspired pop/synth/dance track, delves into the concept of picking yourself up after a tough situation, that ‘…you gotta go with the flow ’cause the tides always turn, and sink or swim, divin’ in is the best way to learn, kick up the sand ’cause your tan proves you lived through the burn, and when you wipe out, it’s gonna hurt, you can’t stop the waves but you can learn how to surf…’; while “The Meadow Lark”, the penultimate track on Coco Moon, speaks about a man in war and in battle, being told to kill the enemy, but showing grace and mercy because of God’s love and because of the meadowlark bird in the song. A song that speaks about loving your enemies, Adam cries out that ‘…as I held my rival stare, a tremendous chorus filled the air, then in my heart, as clear as day, I heard a gentle whisper say ‘my son, if my disciple be, show grace and love your enemy…if I should live to see more days, I pray the Lord to guide my ways, with grace to love my enemy, for grace, my Savior showed to me…’, and implores us all to be kind to and love those who persecute us and those who seemingly hate us, for Jesus’ name will still be glorified and more and more will be drawn into His presence. The final track on Coco Moon is “My Muse”, a piano ballad where Adam earnestly and powerfully delivers a tribute and homage to his wife; and it’s clearly the most personal song on this project- a perfect way to end a near-flawless album!

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and going for walks in nature, which helps me to stay focused on what’s important instead of getting caught up in the craziness of social media. After a hard day or week or even season of life, one of my favorite things is to put on my headphones and zone out on the music I love—it always feels like I’m escaping in a healthy way, and when I come back to reality, I feel a little more equipped to deal with what’s difficult in life. Over the years I’ve had people tell me that my songs have done the same thing for them, and that’s really given me a sense of purpose. To me there’s no greater honor than to hear that my music might be a place people can go to feel uplifted, and to contrast the darkness of the world with something more hopeful and positive.

What does the future hold for Owl City next? After the epic 18 track album in 2018 (that plays out like a soundtrack for a movie), and after this new album of 11 songs and several moments of singing about his faith in Jesus (“Field Notes”, “Sons Of Thunder”, “The Meadow Lark”), what direction will Adam head into next? Is Adam Young still going to be singing about movies and key moments in his life, or more explicitly about his faith in Jesus Christ? Whatever the case, I’m still going to listen to his music, and I will encourage all of you to as well. Cinematic is a very unique album, and Coco Moon (5 years in the making!), is another special album as well. Did Adam capture your attention with this extremely powerful and inspiring album? If yes, then that’s great, because Adam is a genius songwriter and singer. And if not, then listen to this album anyway, and let’s bask in the knowledge that Adam is still an incredibly talented singer and songwriter. Let’s be amazed that we all have gotten to experience the past few Owl City albums in real time. Isn’t that wonderful?

3 songs to listen to: Field Notes, Sons Of Thunder, The Meadow Lark

Score: 5/5

RIYL:  Relient K, Switchfoot, Needtobreathe, Brooke Fraser, Cimorelli, Avril Lavigne, Lifehouse

One thought on “Owl City – Coco Moon”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *