Hello again, my fellow Lightbearers! I’m back with another rant about music. Owl City, to be exact. If you missed part 1, you can check it out here. But first, a little reflection on music and life. Time is a funny thing. It goes fast, then slow. You don’t want to waste it, but you inevitably do. You see it draining away slowly but gradually, and it causes you to panic.
In case any of that hits too close to home for anyone, let me assure you that I feel it, too. I think everyone does to some extent. Something I realized recently is that music can be used to keep track of time. When you just sit staring at a screen (or doing whatever you do) all day, the hours vanish too quickly. Where did they go? Was the time spent wisely? It’s hard to answer those questions if you get stuck in a daze, unaware of each hour that is spent on a project and distant from reality.
People need something to ground them and keep them “in the moment.” Maybe that’s a classroom of other students who are focusing on their schoolwork. Maybe it’s the phone-ringing and paper-rustling ambiance of an office. For me, it’s music. I use music to subconsciously filter out distractions while also keeping track of the time that passes. I sometimes play songs on loop until they become monotonous, which is typically after 5 or 6 replays. That’s about 15-20 minutes.
Yet music can also distract us from reality. For some, it becomes a coping mechanism. If they don’t want to focus on something, they put on their headphones and tap their favorite playlist to distance themselves from the present. Compared to other ways of coping with emotions and circumstances, music is probably a better choice—a unique sort of therapy. It often embodies the emotions roiling around inside the heart of the listener, encouraging them to let down their guard and absorb the lyrics. In this way, music is one of the most powerful methods of communication. It’s why the music we listen to is so important; it often becomes a reflection of what’s in our hearts.
For me, the words of a song are more important than its tune or the voice of the singer. It’s part of why I love Owl City so much. I have listened to so many of his songs that I know his usual lyrical style and don’t have to worry about the content of his songs. His music’s upbeat rhythms and good vocals are just a bonus.
Last week, I reviewed my favorite songs from his first album, and this week I’ll be moving on to two more albums.
First, we’ll look at his All Things Bright and Beautiful album.
This album’s name definitely seems to have a Christian theme. I have so many favorite songs on this album, but we’ll start with “The Real World.”
This song’s beautiful, vibrant lyrics describe a place in one’s imagination. In fact, that’s the main theme of the song: people would much rather live in imagination than “the real world.”
To quote all my favorite lines here would be to quote the entire song, so I’ll just quote the most interesting ones:
Reality is a lovely place but I wouldn’t wanna live there
If we dissolve without a trace
Will the real world even care?source
Explaining his thinking behind this song, Young said,
The line, ‘Reality is a lovely place but I wouldn’t want to live there’ is a fun way of saying I appreciate life exactly as it is, and although I can’t change the world by any means, I can touch it. It’s merely my way of dealing with things by proclaiming I can’t keep the dark days from happening or the frustrations from occurring, but I can fix my eyes on that one blue patch of sky and thus keep my eyes focused on what truly matters.source
I have my theories about this song, but they’re a little bit of a stretch so I won’t include them here. I do believe there’s a Christian theme to be understood, though. What are your thoughts on this song? Let me know by leaving a comment!
Another song with a faith-based theme is “Angels” which talks about the existence of such heavenly beings. This song is especially interesting to me because I once wrote a short story about angels. While not my favorite song, it is a good one.
Another of my classic favorite songs is “Deer in the Headlights.” It’s very upbeat and happy-sounding, but the lyrics tell a rather unfortunate tale.
It’s probably best to go to the artist himself to interpret this one:
I enjoy writing largely from the imagination, and usually that produces rather abstract imagery. But with ‘Deer in the Headlights,’ I wrote a personal song that plays close to the chest in a way that no other song I’ve written ever has. I was ending a serious relationship at the time, and I was harrowed by the fact that so many people (specifically me) have a funny tendency to desire romance merely for the sake of avoiding loneliness, which ultimately means it’s not about LOVE at all! Sometimes it’s easy to be ‘blinded by the light’ and forget all about what true romance is designed by God to be. When all you focus on are the warm fuzzies, a relationship can become dangerous and disastrous very quickly. So the song plays closely to the fact that I needed to pull myself out of the lights and remember what’s more important than the romantic butterflies.source
A more optimistic song is “Dreams Don’t Turn to Dust,” which has very straightforward lyrics:
The final song is “Kamikaze,” perhaps the most difficult to understand out of all Owl City’s songs.
I have seen speculations that this song contains veiled references to the Bible. For instance, “The princess in her flower bed / Pulled the jungle underground” could call back to when Adam and Eve first sinned in Genesis 3.
The strongest parallel to the Bible in this song is this stanza:
My captain on the snowy horsesource
Is coming back to take me home
(Is coming back to take me home)
He’ll find me fighting back the terrible force
Because I’m not afraid to die alone
This is a direct reference to Jesus, who is “coming back to take [us] home” and will one day be riding on a “snowy horse.” Beyond that, this song is extremely hard to interpret. If you have any idea what “eagle eye” and “kamikaze” mean, please do enlighten me.
We’ll move on to the Midsummer Station album which has many songs that I love.
The song “Gold” has two versions, the original and the acoustic. Since I can’t decide which one I like better, I’ll just link both.
“Gold” is meant to remind you to “never forget your roots.” Beyond that, it’s up to the listeners’ interpretation. I’d say this song’s lyrics are easier to unpack than others: everyone has potential if they chase their dreams without fear, and everyone has a story worth telling. I believe that wholeheartedly.
Next is “Dreams and Disasters.” Similar to his other music, it has a strong electronic beat underlying the whole song and a catchy chorus, but it also incorporates some other sounds that almost have a wild west theme.
It’s not my top favorite Owl City song, but it still holds a special place in my heart. The lyrics are good, too.
On this song, Adam Young said,
“Life is full of dreams and disasters,” he explained. “When things go right, you feel like you’re on top of the world and when things go bad, you’re heartbroken, but you’ve got to figure out how to press on regardless of your situation because life is all about the journey.”source
A more somber song on the album is “Silhouette.”
I really love this song, particular these lyrics:
I’m sick of the past I can’t erase
A jumble of footprints and hasty steps I can’t retrace
The mountain of things that I still regret
Is a vile reminder that I would rather just forgetsource
I can’t go without mentioning “Good Time,” which is a very bright, happy song featuring Carly Rae Jepsen. The music video is fun, but not my favorite. Watching it over again, I notice how Young points to the sky and gazes upward at the end.
That’s all for my favorites on The Midsummer Station. You should definitely go check out the rest of the album, too!
Owl City has even more albums, so it looks like this series will have a third part. Stay tuned for that. If you stuck around ’til the end of this post, let me know if I forgot to mention your favorite Midsummer Station or All Things Bright and Beautiful song!
Thank you so much for reading and have a good week, friends.