Hail, friends! It’s time for the final part of my mini-series about Owl City. (You can check out parts 1 and 2 over here if you missed them.) As you know, I love ranting about my favorite songs. Music is a huge part of my life, and I like sharing it with others. This week, I’m reviewing some songs from Adam Young’s Mobile Orchestra and Cinematic albums, as well as his Ultraviolet EP.
Let’s begin with Mobile Orchestra.
My favorite song on this album is probably “My Everything.” I can’t believe I didn’t mention this one earlier. This is definitely one of the most faith-centered songs Young has ever written.
Just listen to it. Please. It’s so good.
Second, “Verge.” It’s a song for graduates who are “out on the verge of the rest of [their] lives.” Having graduated myself, the song has a lot more potency than when I first heard it years ago. It gives me chills.
Next is “Bird With A Broken Wing” which is probably in my top 5 favorite Owl City songs.
The lyrics are so full of truth as well as whimsy. The song talks about feeling like a “lone survivor forgotten in a dark and deadly world” which is something I can relate to. I often view the world through the eyes of a sojourner who is far from home. The lyrics that I always come back to are these:
But life demands a final chapter
A story that we all must leave behind
It’s do or die, and this is mine
The anthem of a bird with a broken wingsource
Everyone is going to die one day, and they will leave a story behind them. Have you ever really considered what people would say at your funeral? Though it seems cliche, the question rings true. What would you be known for? If someone wrote down the story of your life, would it be a pamphlet or a thick tome? Would it be an inspiration or a warning to those who read it?
A very sweet, romantic song is “I Found Love.” I never used to like it, but it has grown on me. It’s not nearly as upbeat as Young’s other songs, but this change might be why I enjoy it so much.
I have to take a moment to appreciate the unique style of Owl City’s album covers. They’re always so whimsical and oddly charming.
A song with a similar theme is “Can’t Live Without You” which returns to being very upbeat. Instead of talking about a romantic relationship, I believe it talks about God:
Adam Young explains the thinking behind this song here.
Even though I’m not the same age as Adam Young, the next song is packed full of childhood nostalgia for me. I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of people. Check out the “Unbelievable” music video:
I’ll finish off this album with a very sweet song: “Back Home.” Its country feel marks another deviation from Young’s usual style. It is a masterpiece, though, making me long for pine trees, stars, and fireflies. I’ve never actually seen fireflies before. We don’t have them out here, so it’s something on my bucket list.
Next, we’ll look at some songs from the EP (extended play) Ultraviolet.
Owl City did a collab with Lindsey Stirling. When I first learned that, I was shocked. Two of my favorite music creators working together on a song? Brilliant! They didn’t disappoint:
Despite the cheerful melody, the lyrics are very serious:
I fought all through the nightsource
Oh oh, but I made it alive!
The sun starting to rise
Oh, oh these are beautiful times!
This fight of my life is so hard, so hard, so hard!
But I’m gonna survive
Oh oh these are beautiful times!
Next is my favorite Owl City song of all time, “Up All Night.”
Why is this song my favorite? That’s hard to explain. The vibrant imagery, raw emotions, and sound effects harmonize together so beautifully. The song appears to narrate a time of love, loss, confusion, and fear. There was a time in my life when I clung tightly to an idea, thinking it gave me clarity and strength, only to discover that it was a ghost—insubstantial, no more than an illusion or daydream. Perhaps I love this song because it describes my former way of living and reminds me of its downfalls.
Sometimes, this song will play in my mind for days on end, probably because I like to listen to it on loop. My brain eventually gets rewired to think that way. Is that how it works? Any neurologists who happen to read my blog will have to correct me.
In my personal experience, it seems that my brain has 3 levels of mental processing: a song in the background, which can override background noise (or if no song is playing, the background noise will take its place), a general level of thought (like considering the events of the past day and categorizing them as good or bad), and a focused level of thought, which comprises me talking to myself in my head, narrating/typing a book idea, or memorizing information. The jumble in my head is probably not as overwhelming as what some people have to deal with, but it’s enough to convince me that whatever mind reading-devices exist, they won’t be able to decipher what goes on in my head.
With that digression aside, let’s move on to the final song of note on the Ultraviolet EP: “This Isn’t The End.” I’ll link both the original song and an excellent fan-made music video.
Fan music video:
So good. It tears your heart up and then puts it back together. The song is based on what Young’s mother experienced in her childhood. You can check out a more detailed explanation from the artist here.
Finally, let’s check out some songs from Owl City’s latest album, Cinematic, released in 2018.
“Fiji Water” is a great song. At first glance, the lyrics are haphazard and unrelated, but Young’s clever wording tells the story of when he got a record deal offer from a major label.
Consider these lines:
And oh, if I only knew then what I know now
I’d stand like a one-man band and I’d say
All this is new to me but
Here’s how it’s gonna besource
According to Young, he was “painfully shy” at 22 years old, when the record label approached him. The trip to New York taught him to “be confident in [himself]” and “to be proud of the things that [made him] unique.” (source)
What may be my favorite song on this album is “Be Brave.” A heartwarming song, it talks about when Adam first met his current girlfriend. Its waltz melody and strong piano part automatically make it one of my favorites. Just listen to it:
Another sweet song is “Cloud Nine” which also talks about finding the love of his life:
My favorite lines in this song are these:
Look up when the world gets you downsource
And you’re gonna get by
Hang in when the world counts you out
And you’re gonna be fine
Such a wonderful reminder.
Another great song is “New York City.” I like the Gabe Miller Music remix best:
“House Wren” has a lot of happy feelings connected to it. I never used to like it, but after my best friend kept talking about it, I came to love it:
I’ll end with two songs, both of which are not in the Cinematic album but are definitely worth mentioning. First, the saddest Owl City song in my recollection. The piano and lyrics of “Lonely Lullaby” are so poignant:
From what I can tell, Annmarie was a former girlfriend of his, and they went through a painful breakup. I want to learn the piano part for this song one day.
And finally, a cheery song so we don’t end on a sad note! “To the Sky” is from the Legend of the Guardians movie. (An owl movie, imagine that! Listening to the song makes me want to watch it again. It’s a classic.)
This may have actually been the first Owl City song I ever heard, back in 2010. I remember listening to it in the theater as the credits scrolled past and not being too enthusiastic about it, but it definitely planted a seed for my current love of Owl City.
Thanks for reading! If I missed some of your favorite Owl City songs, I apologize. Since Adam Young has made so many wonderful songs, it was difficult choosing which ones to include and which ones to save for another time. (I plan to talk about more music in future blog posts.)
Have a positively splendiferous week, friends.
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