Reviewed by Mark Plummer
Having already had a preview of what’s to come in the form of the Shooting Star EP, Owl City’s eagerly awaited third studio album is finally here. With guest vocals from Mark Hoppus (Blink-182, +44) and Carly Rae Jepsen this promises to be nothing short of an entertaining listen. Whilst some criticized the tracks as being ‘different’ to what the average Owl City listener would be used to, Adam Young is being autonomous in his direction. Afterall, no one, not even the artist wants to hear the same record three times. Young himself was quoted “Creativity is all about pushing boundaries and pressing onward” and this is exactly what has been produced, it’s everything Owl City needs to keep the motion moving in a positive direction.
After a highly successful first album and a solid, if underrated second, Adam Young has taken a risky approach, bursting out of the shackles of the music that first made him a Myspace hit. He’s opened the door to a more mainstream sound and whilst The Midsummer Station shows rawness and openness in tracks like Dementia and Silhouette, that mainstream sound found in clubs all over is evident on tracks like, Dreams and Disasters, Speed of Love and the bonus, Bombshell Blonde. The Midsummer Station also has a lot going for it beneath the skin, below the obvious collaborations with Mark Hoppus and Carly Rae Jepson there are also a variety of co-writers and co-producers who have a big resume and help to make this a pleasurable listen.
Kool Kojak (Nicki Minaj,Ke$ha, Flo Rida), Stargate (Rhianna, Beyonce, Ne-Yo) and Emily Wright (Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Cobra Starship) to name just a few, but between them they’re multi-platinum selling and multi-grammy nominees. This is a star studded release whether you realized it or not. The drums, that usually take a very processed feel, change depending on the nature of the song. Take Dementia, whether these drum tracks have been programmed or not, they’re big and give off a rawness that would be attributed to an acoustic kit.
Opener Dreams and Disasters has an enormous bass drum sound that sets the beat for the rest of the song, but the guitars that open have a distinct country feel. This is where the big name collaborations that Young has brought in are paying off, The Midsummer Station has an edge that the last two records were missing. Silhouettes is a real breakthrough, it’s a heart on the sleeve, honest song with a beautiful chorus (“I’m a silhouette, asking every now and then. Is it over yet? Will I ever smile again? I’m a silhouette, chasing rainbows on my own”). From the pumping tracks, heartfelt spine tinglers to the summer time anthem Good Time, this is an album that has made progress where it was due. It may not feel as homely as Ocean Eyes with it’s warm fuzziness that accompanied every track, but it still leaves the listener with a smile.
Whilst it maintains a strong mainstream feel through out, there is still this hint of the bedroom music that kicked off Young’s career, he’s not forgetting his roots. Yes, it pushes more boundaries than fans of Owl City might be used to, but it’s this desire to grow and mature that makes it their best album to date. This is nothing short of an eclectic album, surprising at each turn and bringing something different to the table more than just once. It’s all well and good to drop some big names into the mix and the collaborations help to make this a hit, but Adam Young’s tenacity in breaking away and trying to mix things up is what really shines through. All that remains is for it to be recognized and if the public grabs his ambition, it will make him a star, out selling Ocean Eyes.
4 out of 5