Adam Young, the electronica mastermind behind Owl City, returns to the music scene with Mobile Orchestra, his first full-length album since his 2012 The Midsummer Station. Young’s ability to play with a wide array of melodies, beats, and instrumentals underlying uplifting, kid-friendly lyrics is what makes his work unique. Young’s 2009 hit single “Fireflies” from his album Ocean Eyes is largely responsible for his success, and it is clear Young has not strayed too far from his roots, musically and stylistically.
Mobile Orchestra includes several artist collaborations, the first with Aloe Blacc in “Verge,” a steady pop track that celebrates being “on the verge” of some sort of adventure. “Thunderstruck,” a duet with Sarah Russell, seems to echo his 2012 collaboration with Carly Rae Jepsen, “Good Time.” “Thunderstruck” similarly has a ’70s dance disco vibe with multiple music breakdowns and could be comparable to a dance anthem appropriate for a preteen club.
There is nothing covert about Young’s musical faith statements, “My Everything” and “You’re Not Alone” (featuring Britt Nicole), as Young decides to “never wander on my own,” thanks to his belief in a higher being.
“Unbelievable” (featuring Hanson) is nostalgic nosedive into a ’90s pool party of Star Wars memorabilia, jelly beans, and the VHS system. This track has a similar dance-pop feel to “Thunderstruck” and can easily evoke a “Hey, I remember those days!” from listeners.
“Bird with a Broken Wing” is as angsty as Young gets in this fight song of sorts. Less dance-y and infused with more prominent guitar and power from the strings section, this track is a swift but welcome change from the previous ones.
Lastly, his “Back Home” collaboration with Jake Owen is an electronic-country mix. This one might share characteristics with other country song remixes (like Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” remix), which may be hard on the ears for some or a clever, creative musical experiment for others.
All in all, listening to Mobile Orchestra is akin to taking an imaginary rocket ship ride into the Barnes & Nobles kids’ section — one can either embrace the catchy happy-go-luckiness of the album or nix it in favor of more raw music. There is certainly truth to some of the critics who have described Mobile Orchestra as more or less a sugary child’s creation. But perhaps this unusually Positive Polly–tinged album could be considered a welcome change from the many mainstream artists’ need for edgy self-reinventions for the sake of more downloads.