Single Review: Owl City – ‘Dreams Don’t Turn To Dust’


“In the annoyingly precise madness of it all, the madness itself has been cured, and you can’t help feel like Young’s gone and ruined dessert”


Digital Release: October 10, 2011

Physical Release: N/A

Living life as Adam Young must be quite the task. Commenting romantically of other-worldly fantasies or staying barely grounded whilst reflecting dreamily on the charming little trivialities of life that most of us overlook, his lyrical sentimentality can often be a trifle bit saccharine: contrived and far too potent. Swimming happily against the tide and surrendering the chance to become a commercial commodity with his bevy of electronic noise making machines (enough to make big American electropop producers turn green with envy), he’s devoted himself and his elaborately decorated idylls to creating something with a little more imagination. His début and breakthrough hit, ‘Fireflies’, drew much attention to him for being a one-man version of The Postal Service, and to many extents he remains as such with his second album, though the playful melodies and eccentric quips about falling in and out of love or simply not being able to sleep have become strangely more full-bodied; songs like ‘Fireflies’ and the synaesthetic ‘Vanilla Twilight’ felt incomplete and constructed entirely of randomised blips and bleeps. This has changed with his second opus of high-flying optimism, particularly on ‘Dreams Don’t Turn To Dust’.

Accompanying a typically auto-tuned Young on this nicely-sized, modest little pop nugget is the sound of an orchestra of synthesised strings and drum loops. They often give the impression of drowning him out, much like with his others records only, with this and the majority of his second album, the accentuated production makes his voice seem even feebler in comparison. The warming melody from the strings is pleasant enough, but it’s lost some of Young’s naïve carelessness – before, he was happy enough to let any melodic sound enter and leave proceedings but ‘Dreams Don’t Turn To Dust’ sounds tightly regimented to a fixed structure, the form of which clashes with Young’s whimsicality and diminishes it’s spark. On top of that, there’s an unwelcome heaviness about the song; something routinely done rather than something completely off-the-cuff, of which Young is frequently associated. He’s someone who ideas come to quickly; the kind who scribbles things down on any paper at hand and sings into his phone when a good melody pops into his head so he can play it back later. It’s a little disconcerting to realise that this drudging connotation stops ‘Dreams Don’t Turn To Dust’ from capturing the ethereal. Owl City songs aren’t supposed to be heavy – they’re meant to be light and wispy like a good meringue or some whipped cream-topped sponge. But in the annoyingly precise madness of it all, the madness itself has been cured, and you can’t help feel like Young’s gone and ruined dessert.


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