Style: Electro-pop; compare to Lights, Relient K, The Postal Service

Top tracks: "Kamikaze," "Alligator Sky," "Dreams Don't Turn to Dust"

On his Myspace page, Adam Young, the 24-year-old frontman of Owl City, lists his influences, which include G-rated movies, swimming pools, friends, photography, optimism, and God. He contributed music to the 2010 animated movie Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole. His melodies are more precious than anything you'll hear on a Kidz Bop compilation. He seems to purposefully make his voice sound smaller when singing, like a prepubescent Matt Thiessen of Relient K. Depending on your perspective, Owl City is either wonderfully childlike, or painfully childish.

The texture and mood of his new album, All Things Bright and Beautiful (Universal), sounds more informed by the more "mature" artists on his list—like ambient-drone group Stars of the Lid and electronic artists like Boards of Canada and Telefon Tel Aviv. But his trademark sugary synth-pop still reigns here, a perfect soundtrack for anyone who wishes he could just be a kid forever. Look no further than these cheesy-but-delightful lyrics for evidence: "Boy, I need a hug / 'Cause my heart stops without you / There's something about you that makes me feel alive" ("Honey and the Bee") and "If I were to pluck on your heartstrings / Would you strum on mine?" ("Plant Life").

Twinkling synthesizers and inoffensive club beats keep the mood high throughout the project. There isn't a down moment, even on "Hospital Flowers," a song about surviving a violent car crash ("In the back of the ambulance, I've never felt so content"). Hopeless optimism, or naïve hopefulness?

It's safe to assume that most of Young's joy is derived from his Christian faith, which shows up throughout the album: "My captain on the snowy horse / Is coming back to take me home" ("Kamikaze"). "A condo on the Milky Way / A house on a cloud / And God's my landlord" ("Alligator Sky"). "Dear God / You're the only North Star I would follow this far" ("Galaxies"). "I keep my knees black and blue / 'Cause they often hit the hardwood floor / And I believe, so I'm not praying to the ceiling any more" ("Angels").

It's easy to see why Young is so popular with pre-teens; as a guy with a childlike faith, his sprightly tunes—like sparklers in the summertime—light up the things in the dark.

All Things Bright and Beautiful
Our Rating
3 Stars - Good
Average Rating
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Release Date
June 14, 2011
Republic Records
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