It isn’t very hard to make a record. A couple guitars, a set of drums and a voice can be thrown together pretty easily. It takes time and some work, but most of the people you meet could manage to put the pieces together.
It’s a little harder to make an interesting record. Adam Young (AKA Owl City) released Ocean Eyes earlier this year, and its first single “Fireflies” debuted at the top spot on the billboard charts. Legend has it that Young recorded his music on the keyboards in his parents’ basement long after dark, as his insomnia kept him awake. After posting his songs on Myspace, Owl City generated an astounding fanbase in a matter of months. This solitary process certainly shaped the music he made, and nostalgic symbols of childhood toys and sleeplessness in his lyrics reflect it. It’s an interesting album mostly because of how heavily it relies on the story behind it.
It’s just a bit harder to make an accessible record. Young has succeeded in this by painting a landscape of furry animals and Day-Glo sunsets using a brush soaked in Splenda. Overproduced electronic drums writhe and contort with apathy as sickly sweet synth tones smudge each other out. Ocean Eyes is clearly accessible, like a box of sugary breakfast cereal.
It’s unbelievably hard to make an important record. Owl City’s lyrical non sequiturs and vocal affectations fall short of feeling genuine enough to earn this adjective. Instead he strives for instant gratification, a sugar buzz and a catchy hook. His simplicity is not a tool, it’s the end result. Young sounds like he’s so pleased that all of the pieces fit together that he doesn’t care how the puzzle looks.
Ultimately, Ocean Eyes is an album that is very easy to listen to. Its hooks are clearly recognizable and its lyrics are not very complicated. It stands out on the radio, but not enough to confuse us. Not enough to make us think, and certainly not enough to make us work very hard.
LORENZO WOLFF is a musician living in New York. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org