Throwback Thursday: Owl City’s “Ocean Eyes”

I’m adding a new series into the mix since I’m feeling nostalgic. Each Thursday I’ll be going through my “Nostalgia” playlist and picking a different artist to focus on. Kicking things off is Owl City, the music project of Adam Young. Owl City was the first concert I went to as a burgeoning music-obsessed teenager. Ah, the good old days!

Ocean Eyes was Owl City’s first album, released in 2009. “Fireflies” was the major single off that album. It’s very tempting to call Owl City a one-hit wonder because of that, but “Vanilla Twilight” is another gem, and I believe “Umbrella Beach” did pretty well too. Overall it’s a cohesive album and a strong debut.

Young has a whisper-soft voice that calls to mind Elliott Smith, cushioned by not-quite-twee electronic beeps and snaps. Another Owl City hallmark is a kind of sweeping sound; you can hear that lushness in the chorus of “Fireflies” and the body of “Vanilla Twilight.”

The album is full of surreal lyrics. I mean, just look at the song titles: you have “Dental Care,” “The Saltwater Room,” and “Strawberry Avalanche.” But don’t let that fool you: Young’s tone is sweet and wistful. “Fireflies” contains the line “I’m weird ’cause I hate goodbyes,” and “Vanilla Twilight” is something of a heart breaker. Listen to “If My Heart Was a House” for a tender love song: “if my heart was a compass you’d be North.”

Admittedly, I haven’t listened to Young’s later efforts, so I can’t speak to those and compare them with Ocean Eyes. But this album is really lovely and worth a (re)listen if you want a trip down memory lane. And if you’ve never heard Owl City before, it’s a cute album and a nice escape.