Owl City’s All Things Bright and Beautiful is a cotton candy confection that’s totally at home on a twelve-year-old girl’s iPod. The songs are steeped in electro strings and canned beats, making All Things familiar territory to anyone who has heard Owl City’s breakout single “Fireflies”. Owl City (aka Adam Young) is sonically the sound of laptops replacing a band, giving the effect of someone very adept at using GarageBand but not at rocking out. The overall lyrical arch of the album is just as cliched, endless boy-meets-girl shlock reiterated ad nauseum. The occasional humorous bits of self-deprecation thrown in break up the tedium, like “Her pepper spray made it rather hard for me to walk her home.”
Light as a feather and catchy like chlamydia, All Things is as homogeneous an album as they come, with synth-pop strings saturating every track. Evoking nostalgia for ’80s electropop bands, Owl City fields comparisons to much better contemporaries the Postal Service. Unfortunately, All Things never reaches the musical heights of Tears for Fears or modern disco-ers Daft Punk. If you can take lines like “Let’s leave the weeping to the willow tree”, then maybe you have the vacuous-pop-culture fortitude to bear such an album. Filled with “Da da da”s aplenty, Young’s smooth-as-a-baby’s-bottom tenor leaps through the album in all too familiar and repetitive ways.
The similarity between tracks suggests variations on a theme (although I’m sure this was not Mr. Young’s intention) one could compare to the Ramones technique of repeating the same three chords into infinity. “Galaxies”, an ode to the doomed Challenger space shuttle, drops a four-on-the-floor beat over the same maudlin strings that hog up the whole album, with lyrics that don’t do justice to the tragedy of the event. “Hospital Flowers” brings out ballad-y piano meshing with a hip-hop beat, while Mr. Young recalls the virtues of life-reevaluation through near death experience. Lead single “Alligator Sky” keeps up Owl City hit-single-about-animals tradition, albeit with Shawn Chrystopher rapping, adding at least a little variety to the affair. Hip-hop indulgences aside, All Things shows Owl City sticking to the recipe that brought him success: Helium-light pop that won’t leave anyone head-banging, but makes for the perfect pre-pubescent summer soundtrack.