There’s a reason Owl City has sold more albums than the Postal Service, the short-lived band that more or less wrote the template for Owl City’s bubbly electro-pop. Give Up, the Postal Service’s 2003 debut, sounded like the soundtrack to an indie film, with subtle samples and knotty, literate lyrics to match. Owl City’s music is a big-budget reboot of that record -- the indie flick remade into a summer blockbuster -- and it caters to a far more marketable audience, bypassing the college kids who purchased Give Up and focusing on teenagers whose imaginations have yet to be sullied by adulthood. The 12 songs on All Things Bright and Beautiful, Owl City’s third album, certainly demand the audience’s imagination -- or at least their willingness to go along with the world Adam Young dreams up, a cartoonish place where the skies look like alligators, the rivers taste like fruit, and emeralds poke their heads out of every rock. “I stood under the waterfall kiwi-pineapple parasol as Cinderella dropped the crystal ball and made the concrete cavern a caterpillar concert hall,” Young sings during “The Yacht Club,” phrasing his words with the geek-chic articulation of Ben Gibbard while guest artist Lights, another synth pop revivalist, sings along in the background. To his credit, Young is a top-notch producer; his music pops and fizzes with glitchy electronics, which he splashes throughout the track list like effervescent paint, and the songs all have an otherworldly sound about them, as though they were born in space and sent back to Earth in futuristic clothing. But there’s no bite to Young’s sugary confections, no break from the electro-pop treacle that he churns out like an emo Willy Wonka. He falls back on the same patterns too often (virtually every song involves some mention of seas, skies, dreams, comets, rockets, rivers, fruit, emeralds, and other precious metals) and all the electronics start to whirl together after the second track, which is the only song to boast a pop hook as memorable as the production. Like the syrupy candy it is, All Things Bright and Beautiful is best enjoyed in small doses; anything more than that may turn the stomach.
AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey