It would be impossible to talk about Ocean Eyes, the second album by music project Owl City, without talking about The Postal Service. In fact, it would be impossible to talk about Owl City at all without drawing attention to the resounding resemblance. The similarity, however, runs superficially and the flaws of Ocean Eyes are as transparent is they are numerous–exceedingly, that is.
Despite its general failing, Ocean Eyes is actually a vast improvement from the previous Owl City record, Maybe I’m Dreaming. The latest effort introduces airy strings, new percussion styles and even some acoustic, providing some relief from the quickly tiresome bouncy, electronic pop beats. The initial sound of the 8-chip tunes to bass and drum beats matched with Adam Young’s school-boy voice mimics the sound of The Postal Service and Ben Gibbard so familiarly that upon first listen you really want to like them, and might even think that you do.
Until you listen to a full track or two, that is. Then it becomes blindingly clear how little intellect, emotion, creativity and risk Young put into this 14-track disaster. (Eleven, technically, if you discount re-releases and remixes). Even calling it at eleven is generous since all the songs are nothing more than nearly identical monotone reiterations of the same uninspired, clich?d melodies and sing-song high-school rhymes.
Aside from “The Tip of the Iceburg” and “Hello Seattle (Remix),” which respectively offer some actual variation of intensity, tempo and instrumentals and the only reprieve from Young’s unbearably silly lyrics, the album ranges from unlistable to unmemorable. “If My Heart Was a House,” resembles a love ballad and offers a few surprises, but collapses under its own length and grammatically improper name. Nadir tracks shamefully include “Meteor Shower” and “Dental Care”–yes, a song actually about dental care.
Ocean Eyes could have passed for a mediocre, albeit unoriginal and safe, electronic album if it were purged entirely of its vocals. Some of the melodies even manage to be decent, but that’s not enough to abrogate its failure that hinges largely on Young’s highly synthesized whining, limited vocal range and lyrics that are either too inane in their simplicity and Seussical rhyme dependence or too obscure and disjointed in their failed attempt at metaphor. One would hope the second album would see purer vocals and the discovery of slant rhyme, but these likely lie beyond Owl City’s potential. Ocean Eyes can be cute and catchy but is ultimately a disappointingly hollow experience.
The flaws of Ocean Eyes run deep, suggesting the inherent limits of Young, a synth-pop Wizard of Oz who manages a convincing and initially impressive sound, but in reality is little more than a dull-voiced, empty-minded optimist with an auto-tune. The disillusionment is especially disappointing and loathsome since Owl City’s veneer so poignantly evokes the eccentric and catchy sounds of The Postal Service, from whom nearly everyone vainly awaits another album. Ocean Eyes is far, far cry. Why is a band in 2009 still trying to imitate 2003 pop music anyways? For a more original take on electronic power pop try Playradioplay!, The Secret Handshake, Breathe Carolina or even Swimming With Dolphins, a side-project of Young sans his vocals, something we can only hope lies in the future for Owl City.
1 1/2 stars out of 5.