Owl City- Fireflies

Quality: 3.5

Clean: 4

Genre: electronic, bubblegum synth-pop

owl city

I heard Fireflies on the radio which seemed a little out of place. Living in a somewhat rural area, all of the radio stations are either Country, Christian or Ryan Seacrest. Ryan of course only plays the most popular, never anything different or interesting.  You know how it goes: mostly R&B, some Miley, Lady Gaga and once in a while a generic alternative song.  Owl City doesn’t fit those molds.  Electronic beats, and lyrics not about dancing or baby-making, I found the song refreshing. Given, I haven’t been up with the latest Indie releases, I haven’t prowled the internet for interesting and new music for about ten months. My music canvas has been mostly blank so Fireflies was like an invitation to listen to music again.

The lyrics are cute, puzzling and peppy. Falling asleep, or not being able to, and that funny line between the two states of being where reality is blurred seems to be the topic, though it is not clear. Although I’m not exactly sure what he is talking about, I don’t mind because its different and unexpected.

You would not believe your eyes if ten-million fireflies lit up the world as I fell asleep,
Cause they fill the open air, and leave tear drops everywhere,
You’d think me rude but I would just stand and stare.
I’d like to make myself believe that planet Earth turns slowly,
Its hard to say that I’d rather stay awake when I’m asleep,
Cause everything is never as it seems.
Cause I’d get a thousand hugs from ten-thousand lightning bugs as they try to teach me how to dance,
A fox-trot above my head, a sock-hop beneath my bed,
A disco ball is just hanging by a thread.
I’d like to make myself believe that planet Earth turns slowly,
Its hard to say I’d rather stay awake when I’m asleep,
Cause everything is never as it seems.
Leave my door open just a crack (please take me away from here)
Cause I feel like such an insomniac (please take me away from here)
Why do I tire of counting sheep (please take me away from here)
When I’m far too tired to fall sleep.
Ten-thousand fireflies, I’m weird cause I hate good-byes,
I got misty eyes when they said farewell.
But I’ll know where several are, if my dreams get real bizarre,
Cause I saved a few, and I keep them in a jar.

The music is crackly and beepy with simple bass and a little bit of piano and strings–nice and uncomplicated yet not so basic that its just a loop played over and over. Owl City is just one dude, Adam Young, who’s voice sounds a bit like Postal Service, as does the music itself. Yet Fireflies is more bubblegum and less crafted than Postal Service. Fireflies sounds as if Adam composed the song himself in his basement and recorded it purely for fun, without over-analyzing. In fact the internet-lore is just that: living in his parents’ basement he couldn’t sleep, so he wrote and recorded this song. He became popular via Myspace and now it has escalated to a radio hit. That’s how it ended up on Ryan Seacrest’s station.

The criticism of Owl City is that 1. it sounds too much like Postal Service and is therefore unoriginal, and 2. he’s not Christian enough. I guess I don’t mind that it sounds like Postal Service. Its different enough for me that it isn’t in the same category. Postal Service is actual good quality music with style and meaning, while Owl City is just for fun, silly and all smiles. As for criticism #2…I didn’t know O.C was supposed to be Christian. I go back and forth between the whole Christian-band-sounding-Christian-enough thing.  Perhaps if I had the entire album, I’d feel the same way I did about Family Force Five, that it was too much fun to be fun. But, for now I just like the song Fireflies for what it is.  I enjoy listening to lyrics about something different and positive for once (unlike the rest of Ryan Seacrest radio Lady Gaga gag gag).

Links: Official site (you can listen to the song here), Myspace, Owl City hater review

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Family Force 5- Dance or Die

Quality: 3

Clean: 4

Genre: rock, electronic, pop

ff5

There is a Christian radio station in town that primarily plays alternative and hard rock music. I try to listen to it because I want to get to know more Christian music, and I feel like I should try to support a radio station that is at least trying to play good music. The problem is that most of the music sounds the same and I don’t even like it all that much. Consequently, whenever I hear a song that is remotely different or interesting, I try to find out more about it. I heard Fever once and had to look it up. It was different from most other songs on this station because it had electronic elements- the vocals are synthesized- and you know I am a sucker for electronic elements.

Dance or Die is Family Force 5’s second album. Their first was heavier, like Linkin Park, or Rage Against the Machine. Dance or Die is more like a throw back to 80’s synth pop, mixed together with music like The Killers and other such indie/punk music.  When I listened to the songs on their myspace page, I liked, but didn’t love them. I didn’t want to give up though, because I’m always trying to support Christian bands that are different/interesting/don’t sound the same as all the bands/at least good. So I cruised over to Christianity Today‘s music review website (which is actually pretty good). The review basically said the album was too much about fun and didn’t have enough substance either lyrically or musically to carry it. I quickly dismissed the review as being written by old people and bought the album.

I frequently wish there was more music out there, without swears or innuendos, that was fun just for fun’s sake. Fun music doesn’t have to mean anything, it can just be fun. I’m not sure if I’ve changed my mind or not, but the pure lack of substance on this album got on my nerves after a while. The lyrics are just silly. For example, Fever, is about a um, fever, that is well, burning up…”somebody call the New York Times, this fever’s gonna make the headlines.” What does that even mean? Actually, I wouldn’t mind it if there was at least one or two songs with some heft to them, but every song is silly,and meaningless. There are some lyrics that made me think: While listening to D-I-E 4 Y-O-U, I wondered if the song was about Christ, you know the whole dying thing and all…or perhaps even a martyr being willing to die for Christ…but there is nothing in the lyrics to suggest such an interpretation. If the band wasn’t signed to a Christian label I wouldn’t have even thought twice. Another song, How in the World, is a pretty sweet love song, that could be interpreted to be written to Christ, but again, there is nothing in the lyrics to suggest such an interpretation. In fact, there is nothing on the entire album to suggest that this band is “Christian.”

I’m breaking my own rules, because I usually think that a band or album should be taken for what it is, on its own terms, and not for what we think it should be or what it was expected to be. Dance or Die, is supposed to be fun. That was the one and only objective and in that, it succeeded. Also, because they are “Christian” the album is free of swears and innuendos. I should be happy and move on.

I’m not happy. I have to agree that Christianity Today’s review was right on. A single song can be fun, but an entire album should have balance. There should be other songs to bring out a theme, or to remind us why Family Force 5 claim to be Christians, or even that they have emotions. Dance or Die, is one of those albums with two good songs, and the rest sounds too much the same to palate all at once.

Fever:

How in the World:


Oceanlab, On a Good Day

Clean: 4

Quality: 3.5

Genre: Trance

Trance is a subcategory of electronic/dance music that has a relatively fast tempo but also sometimes a slow melancholy melody over the top of the fast beat. Trance music is repetitive and “the effect of some trance music has been likened to the trance-inducing music created by ancient shamanists during long periods of drumming.” (Wikipedia). I would classify the group, Oceanlab, as dream-trance: Trance music that is almost new age sounding. There is a calming effect even though there is a dance beat in the background. This particular song is good standard trance. The music, the lyrics and the mellow vocals of Justine Suissa all meld together wonderfully. Vocal trance is probably my favorite type of music so I liked this song the first time I heard it.

The song, On a Good Day, is melancholy, thoughtful and hopeful. The words are about working through some issue and moving on to live the rest of life. The funk is beginning to leave but isn’t gone yet. The words express some slight regret and sadness but also optimism for the future.

Lyrics and song below:

A little bit lost

A little bit lonely

A little bit cold here

A little bit of fear


But I hold on and I feel strong and I know that I can

Getting used to it

Lit the fuse to it

Like to know who I am

(Chorus)

Been talking to myself forever, yeah

And how I wish I knew me better, yeah

Still sitting on the shelf but never, never seen the sun shine brighter

and It feels like me on a good day (repeat)


I’m a little bit hemmed in

A little bit isolated

A little bit hopeful

A little bit calm

But I hold on and I feel strong and I know that I can

Getting used to it

Lit the fuse to it

Like to know who I am

Jem, It’s Amazing

Quality: 4

Clean: 5

Genre: Pop, dance

Jem: as a child of the 80’s the first thing I think of when I hear that name is Jem and the Holograms!

Ok seriously, I remember when Jem came out with her first album 4 year ago. I heard her first single, They, once on the radio and rushed out and bought the little mini EP, It All Starts Here (which was produced before the full album Finally Woken). My initial enthusiasm was a little much and I was slightly disappointed at the rest of the EP. I still liked it because it was, after all, good pop music and more on the electronic/triphop/dance side.

Jem’s second album, Down to Earth, came out yesterday. I haven’t gotten a copy of it yet…however she’s put out a couple singles already. It’s Amazing, was released as a single in June and on the soundtrack of Sex and the City, the movie. Jem’s contribution is a solid, affirming, motivational and fun song. Lyrically, it reminds me of Mariah Carey’s Make it Happen, or Jordin Spark’s One Step at a Time. Jem urges the listener not to give up, to work hard and to have patience! The chorus is inspiring for anyone needing a little encouragement: It’s Amazing all that you can do, It’s Amazing, it makes my heart sing, now its up to you.

Musically, this song is hard to classify. Poppy, yet slightly more dancy than most pop, the beat is slightly DnB but not really…let’s just say pop. Jem revels in these inbetween genre labels however. Her first album was a little trip hop, a little alternative, a little pop, a little acoustic folk rock. This song clearly has electronic roots looping over and over in the background, but it also has trumpet, guitar, strings, and piano, not to mention Jem’s soothing voice. Oh and as a bonus a computerized 80’s sounding voice at the end urging the listener to trust her instincts, and not give up! Its a good song, not super great. I love it for its positive message and poppy beat. Certainly more creative than most dime-a-dozen pop singers out there. For 99 cents on iTunes I can’t think of a reason not to buy it.

Jem’s Myspace