Pop hit maker Owl City, aka Adam Young, barely parts from his laptop (or as he refers to it, his “orchestra in a box”). He writes songs backstage prior to gigs, even in airport terminals, and his thus far fruitful career shows no sign of slowing down; his third album Mobile Orchestra sees him steer in a slightly new direction, working with collaborators such as Hanson and Aloe Blacc, and even his approach to the overall sound is different. Having sales in the multi-millions and his music featured in some of the film industry’s biggest titles (The Smurfs 2, Wreck-It Ralph among others), it’s clear what Owl City is about, and that is appeasing to the masses. Let’s see how Mobile Orchestra pans out.
First up, lead single Verge is possibly OC’s edgiest single to date with its dance beat, R&B vibes, pop atmosphere and the Midas touch being Aloe Blacc’s refrain. I Found Love touches on what we first fell in love with: Young’s gentle and innocent vocal work and a sparkly melody. You feel right at home with this one; fans are in for a treat so far. The UK’s Sarah Russell lends her pipes to the club ready Thunderstruck and it instantly becomes an album favourite, easily embodying your ear drums with its heavy pop aura. If you were waiting for a notoriously cheesy track, you were anticipating the arrival of My Everything with its overused yet relatable lyrics and approachable melody; Unbelievable brings a sense of childhood nostalgia as Young and the Hanson boys sing about what they experienced as kids, it also serves as one of the catchiest tracks on the album.
The thumping beat of Bird With A Broken Wing is supported by its intensifying atmosphere and anthemic lyrics, sure to be another hit among fans. Country music star Jake Owen is one of Young’s favourite artists, so working with him on Back Home was a highlight for him, this is one of the most stripped back tracks from Owl City we have heard yet; it’s refreshing to hear the acoustic and electric guitars incorporated through the arrangement as we are too used to the synths and computerised sounds in OC’s music. Can’t Live Without You will also be filed under “corny”, but these songs just suit Owl City’s sound well; featuring Britt Nicole, You’re Not Alone falls under OC’s notorious pop sound and once again consists of lyrics where the protagonist is lost without that special someone. The album ironically ends on This Isn’t The End, which was featured on OC’s previous EP Ultraviolet, depicting the tale of a beloved father committing suicide.
Owl City’s sound is truly unique, and with each album release it develops into something new. While Mobile Orchestra may not entirely depict the songwriter/producer the world fell in love with when Fireflies went viral in 2009, the passion and the drive is still present in each track. The collaborations on the album were commendable and well delivered, you wouldn’t change any of the artists featured if you could, particularly Unbelievable with Hanson and Back Home with Jake Owen. There were moments where you thought the concept could be more diverse, particularly with the “cheesy” numbers, but overall Mobile Orchestra is a welcome new addition to Owl City’s catalogue.