One of the strengths of Adam Young’s Owl City has always been the songs. They’re written wonderfully and he’s got a style that’s completely original- so original it made his first record a hit album and made his second album a tremendous listen. On his latest album, The Midsummer Station, Young’s doing co-writing with a variety of different people. It’s something that he’s done in parts in the past, and nothing to look down at. But co-writing should bring out your style and make that style better- it shouldn’t make your music into something it’s not. And that’s the problem with the new Owl City record- it sounds like Owl City but it doesn’t sound like something Owl City would put out.
That assessment isn’t exactly fair because there are songs that sound like Young’s previous work in that tone and spirit. “Dementia,” “Shooting Star,” “Silhouette,” and “Dreams and Disasters” sound like songs that Young would put out. “Speed of Life”, “I’m Coming After You,” and to an extent “Good Time” don’t have that sound. They’re overly commercial. That’s something that Young has been lucky enough to avoid- I loved on his first record he didn’t care about commercial success. Not even in press or interviews, when somebody would ask him anything industry related- he’d just laugh it off or tell a joke to get around it. This music sounds like its five years removed from that guy worried about commercial success. It doesn’t overshadow what’s actually a good listen, but it’s definitely worth mentioning.
There are some unfortunate inclusions on this album but there are also six to eight great songs. Everything on the EP that was distributed a few months ago is terrific and also on this album. “Good Time” is a different song for Owl City and while it’s a little commercial, it’s still a tremendous listen. The album finishes off strong with tracks like “Metropolis,” and “Embers” too. So it does have that going for it, but one can’t help but wish that the middle of the album was more like the end.
Young’s approach to everything Owl City has been great. His first two albums on a label were wonderful, the third one is largely hit or miss but it’ll more than likely draw more fans than it will push away. It’s regrettable that this sounds like a pure pop record, but a few high-quality Owl City songs sprinkled with some commercial pop won’t be the worst release to come out this year.