When you queue up an Owl City (AKA Adam Young) album, you know you’re going to have some fun; Mobile Orchestra delivers on that promise (even when fun may not match the song’s content). This album is fun not only because the songs have great, mostly upbeat rhythm but also because he experiments with lots of sounds and genres in the album. You have everything from a lite dubstep, “Thunderstruck” (feat. Sarah Russell), to a country sound, “Back Home” (feat. Jake Owen) and everything in between. Besides teaming up with British Trance artist Sarah Russell and country singer Jake Owen, but also the amazing Aloe Blacc, boy band Hanson, and contemporary Christian artist Nicole Britt. So taking us on this musical journey is done with a little help from his friends.
The album immediately starts out with some help from Aloe Blacc since that’s the first voice you hear on the album. It might strike some odd that Adam Young’s voice isn’t first, but it seems appropriate for this album and the sound of the song definitely has Owl City written all over it. Also, there’s the fact that it’s Aloe Blacc; who doesn’t want to hear his voice? “Verge” is his “We are Young” song, celebrating beginnings: “This is our time (This is our time)/These are our hours (These are our hours)/Out on the verge…of the rest of our lives.” Everything comes together to make this a great song to kick off the album – great beat, fabulous melody and harmonizing vocals.
“I Found Love” sounds like one of those sweet love songs: “So lead me home, and lift me up/Above the stars, and even higher/I’m not afraid, because your love/It falls like rain, and burns like fire.” It’s not quite a love-em-and-leave-em song, but rather a young man who allows emotion to overtake responsibility. So while it’s not dump-and-run, he does feel loss and remorse, he needs to remember that the flip side of this song is “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Mis.
“Thunderstruck” is one of my favorite songs of the album; the dubstep beat is great but doesn’t overwhelm the song. Sarah Russell’s voice (somewhat reminiscent of Ellie Goulding) melds well with Adam Young’s. It’s just a fun love song. Alas, this is followed by probably my least favorite song on the album, “Unbelievable.” This should be a fun nostalgic song looking back to the childhood of their generation. It comes off as a dull song which list of things without any clever lyrics to tie it together. A clever rap with good transitions could hav3e worked with what is, essentially, a long list. This just doesn’t work. It is “Unbelievable.” Now, admittedly, someone that had their shared experiences could find forgiveness in the list with their own nostalgic memories.
“Bird with a Broken Wind” stands in stark contrast to the bubble-gum pop of “Unbelievable,” taking on those who see the world primarily fraught with danger and loss. Clearly this is someone whose experience have left them with scared and broken where the song grapples with how you live in the wake of those experiences: “It feels like I’m a lone survivor/Forgotten in a dark and deadly world/And on my own/I walk alone/To see the sun again/I’d give anything/But life demands a final chapter/A story we all must leave behind/It’s do or die/And this is mine/The anthem of a bird with a broken wing.”
Where “Unbelievable” may have missed the nostalgic mark, “Back Home” hits it dead on musically and lyrically. This songs slows it down a little bit (but still upbeat) celebrating a small town home: “I’m headed back to tree lines/To free time and starry nights/To bonfires and fire flies/Pack your bags it’s time to go/Cause we got brighter lights back home.” This is a nearly perfect cross-over song from Jake Owen and Adam Young.
“My Everything,” “Can’t Live Without You” and “You’re Not Alone” are about the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in this life and the need for rescue when we’re down and out. In “My Everything,” expresses that need, deep within, to cling to our Lord, our King, our God. We do this especially in those times when. ” When “my hope in lost and my strength is gone/I run to you, and you alone/When I can’t get up, and I can’t go on/I run to you, and you alone.” Of course, we need Him just as much when all is well, but we recognize it more when we’re down. While “Can’t Live Without You” leaves open whether that is another person on earth (one hopes not, since any human relationship based primarily on a need for rescue is doomed), but “You’re Not Alone” makes clear that God is the great rescuer of souls. Both songs are great with Adam Young and Nicole Britt singing particularly well together.
“This isn’t the End” takes on a tough theme of a daughter dealing with a father’s suicide. Unfortunately, the tune seems a bit too sunny for the theme. That may be because it’s fundamentally about hope enduring even in the midst this horror there is hope: “The role of a father, he never deserved/He abandoned his daughter and never returned/And over the years though the pain was real/She finally forgave him, and started to heal.” I do think there is a bit of a disconnect between music and lyrics on this one.
Overall, I commend Adam Young for taking some risks, moving into new areas even while maintaining the “Owl City” sound. This is a really solid album and worth a listen.