Owl City – New York City

“We have Mr City to turn to as a reliable source of pop music that can be counted on to sound just fine.”

Tim: Chances are, you hear “Owl City”, you think “cheery and largely inoffensive pop”, correct?

Tom: And a really good soundtrack to a Disneyland parade.

Tim: Ooh, that is really good, and you’ll be delighted to hear his new one does absolutely nothing to counter that assumption.

Tom: You’re not wrong there. Those lyrics are… well, yes, “chirpy” is certainly about right, although I feel like “did you forget your phone cord / we’ll buy one at the next small town” might be a contender for the worst lyric of 2018.

Tim: It is enjoyable, it is chirpy, it is a complete summation of Owl City. And you know what? I like that. I like that in these turbulent times, when it sometimes feels like everything is turning to poo, we have Mr City to turn to as a reliable source of pop music that can be counted on to sound just fine.

Tom: And, even if I can’t get behind the words, at least there’s a pleasingly generic Americana road-trip video to watch. Which is basically what I expected.

Tim: You might not get anything special, but you know you’ll get something nice and listenable. And that’s reassuring.

Owl City – Lucid Dream

“I’m having trouble believing you’re being serious here.”

Tom: Owl City’s singles tend to be EITHER brilliant bubblegum pop bangers OR dull introspective wishy-washy rubbish. With a title like this, from an album called Cinematic, I’m not hopeful.

Tom: Huh. Turns out he can do both at once.

Tim: You what? Instrospective it may be, but dull and wishy-washy?

Tom: Well, yeah. This needs someone like Avicii or Axwell to just take one pass through it. Give it something to actually make a crowd go off, and and you’d have an absolutely spectacular dance track.

Tim: Are we…are we listening to the same song? That post-chorus is fantastic, and if we were on a dance floor I would absolutely lose my nut to this.

Tom: Would you? Because, yes, it’s not bad, but after one of the most spectacular and promising builds I’ve heard in a while, we just get… well, mush is the word that comes to mind. Or alternatively, you take the verses down a notch, and you’d have a lovely… well, still a dance track, just one for the end of the night.

Tim: See, I’d have the opposite suggestion – turn the verses up, to keep the energy up throughout and not have that dip between the choruses.

Tom: As it is, it occupies a middle ground that – for me – is a bit disappointing.

Tim: I’ll be honest: I’m having trouble believing you’re being serious here. That chorus is just fantastic – yes, there are improvements that could be made, but for the most part this is brilliant.

Tom: Give it those improvements, I’d love it. Right now, it just doesn’t work for me.

Owl City – Humbug

“Mr City’s been off for a while doing other stuff.”

Tim: Mr City’s been off for a while doing other stuff, but now he’s back to tell us about a problem he’s got.

Tom: So here’s the thing, Tim: I am not Christmassy this year. At all. Zero. I’ve had bad years in the past, but this is a new one: I’ve got absolutely no Christmas spirit. So I’m not expecting to…

Tom: …huh. That actually made me smile. That’s a surprise.

Tim: Well there you go – a festive treat, with an issue we can all relate to, lyrics to crack a smile here and there, and closing with a shout-out to, of all people, Magnus Carlsson! (Yes it definitely is a deliberate reference, no it definitely isn’t a coincidence, I don’t care how enormously unlikely it is that it would be a deliberate reference, I AM CERTAIN THAT IT IS.)

Tom: Mate, if the ‘Wrecking Ball’ ripoff yesterday wasn’t deliberate, I’m guessing this isn’t either.

Tim: Not listening, can’t hear you. One issue, though: if he really loves her but doesn’t know which of two restaurants she prefers, I’m sure something’s gone a bit wrong somewhere in the standard dating process. But never mind.

Tom: The lyrics are terrible. Can we just agree that the lyrics are terrible?

Tim: Yes, though I would direct you to the very first sentence you wrote about Good Time, and also your remarks on Alligator Sky. Complexity isn’t his strong point, you should expect that by now.

Tom: But you know what, the rest of the song is happy enough that I actually don’t mind. And, hell, “sorry for the hand towels” is actually a lovely little descant to put at the end.

Tim: It really is, and I’ll take this, because the lyrics may be dodgy, but they’re fun, and jingly, and lovely.

Saturday Flashback: Owl City – When Can I See You Again

“I loved it on first listen.”

Tom: I’ve been lukewarm on Owl City in the past; his tracks can seem a bit like they’re written for young kids, and they frequently leave me… well, a bit cold. Not this one. I loved it on first listen.

Tim: Even though it’s quite clearly written for young kids, given the film it’s from?

Tom: Well, that makes it more remarkable — given that it’s a movie credits song. Sure, there’ve been good credit songs in the past — but for every “Men in Black” there’s a “Black Suits Comin’ (Nod Ya Head)”. And if you don’t get that reference, try and keep it that way.

Tim: I don’t, and I shall. But I’ll also take this opportunity to recommend It’s Raining Sunshine for pure sugar overload. This is very good, though – I especially like the last line of the chorus.

Tom: And yes, you could just as easily level the usual criticisms of Owl City at this–

Tim: Well, given the film it’s from, you could certainly make your ‘made for kids’ argument again, although that’s never bothered me.

Tom: — but somehow it manages to transcend them. Listen to those string synths during the second part of the first verse: there’s a completely different counter-melody, with a different rhythm, running through this whole track and it works so, so well.

Tim: That’s very true, and I’d not immediately noticed that. It’s a nice theme, and a reminder that I’ve still not seen it – a situation I must change.

Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen – Good Time

Truly appalling lyrics.

Tom: Brace yourself, Tim; some truly appalling lyrics are coming.

Tim: Woohoo!

Tim: Why would you plan to wake up at twilight? That’s just silly – you’d miss the whole day, and you’d have trouble getting to sleep when you actually go to bed. What a nonsense.

Tom: Our resident Radio Insider sent me this, and straight away I was skeptical. Two irritating-but-catchy artists team up: and by their powers combined, they’re… they’re even more irritating-but-catchy.

Tim: Catchy, definitely. Irritating, slightly, but the fact that the catchy bit is “it’s always a good time” almost forces you not to be too irritated by it.

Tom: I want an instrumental of this: that chorus sounds absolutely amazing, apart from the lyrics. That verse sounds great, apart from the lyrics. The middle eight is… well, even that’s pretty good, apart from the lyrics. I caught myself tapping my foot on the first listen through.

Tim: With you, mostly, but I’d happily keep the lyrics from the chorus – woah-oh-oh-oh onwards – because it’s a happy thought and does prevent the irritation from spreading.

Tom: It’s no Call Me Maybe, but… well, if it isn’t a summer hit, at least in the US, I’ll be very surprised.

Owl City feat. Shawn Chrystopher – Alligator Sky

Oh. You’ve got yourself a rapper. Well, that’s just precious.

Tom: Ah, Owl City. Purveyor of cheap and tacky synthpop to teenagers across America. What do you have for us this time?

Tom: Oh. You’ve got yourself a rapper. Well, that’s just precious.

Still the exact same nonsense lyrics and happy-go-lucky electronic music. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that, but once you’ve figured out the formula – and seen it expertly deconstructed – you kind of hope for more.

Tim: Thing is, I like Owl City. He’s a bit like the Scouting For Girls of the electro world – the songs all blend into each other, and as long as there’s one fairly decent one in there somewhere it all seems all right. This one’s alright – even the rapping is fairly low-key, so it doesn’t really disturb anything.

Tom: There are some artists that keep producing the same kind of thing, and that’s OK because it’s just so good; and there are artists who keep reinventing themselves, and that’s great too. And then there’s Owl City.

Still, at least there’s a key change.