Music of the Week: From mellow pop to surfer rock to teenybopper electronic

By Larissa Gula, Alison Smyth

Band: Owl City

Album: Ocean Eyes

Label: Universal Republic

Sounds Like: Lights, Postal… Band: Owl City

Album: Ocean Eyes

Label: Universal Republic

Sounds Like: Lights, Postal Service, Death Cab for Cutie

Grade: A-

Who says insomnia is a bad thing? Musician Adam Young claims it’s what led to his compositions and the creation of the musical project called Owl City.

Experimenting with electronic music until it sounds far more natural than expected, Owl City’s newest album Ocean Eyes bounces about in style between pop, orchestral and a sharper rock.

The funny thing is, no matter what style the electronics are imitating, it almost always works. Somehow it stays peaceful and charming.

In addition, the vocalist’s voice harmonizes perfectly with the pitch of the keyboard and intricate sounds. The result is a captivating set of songs with a multitude of sounds to share.

Lyrics are not average at all — the opening song has one line that ends, “ … Every mushroom cloud / Has a silver lining.” Rack the points up for sharp-witted creativity.

No song will ever come out and forthrightly explain what it means. It’s like a refreshing poetry reading available on your iPod.

Even if a sad element emerges in any of the songs, the vibe consistently remains passive, allowing for tranquility and enjoyment in one round regardless of the lyrics’ tone.

Perhaps the best lesson that can be picked up is, “I’d rather pick flowers / Instead of fight / And rather than flaunt my style / I’d flash you a smile.”

And while Owl City seems to drift in its own little world of music, its poetry can have a place in the real world, too.

Band: Ballyhoo!

Album: Cheers!

Label: Surfdog

Sounds Like: Sublime meets Yellowcard

Grade: B+

Every relationship has a story, and every story can be told in song.

Ballyhoo! uses Cheers! to tell tales about relationships, from the wonderful beginnings of what might be first love to the evils of a friendship going sour and of course, the inevitable breakup.

Relationship drama and wonders alike are conveyed through lyrics that aren’t really remarkable compositions but still hold some meat on their metaphorical bones — take a listen to “Paper Dolls,” a personal favorite.

Vocals alone will not impress listeners with a wide range of octave coverage, and instead the band’s focus goes to what instruments can be used to bulk

up and complete the song.

Ballyhoo! has a mean drummer who provides the perfect percussion base to go with the mellow surfer-dude guitar riffs. Every song is almost propelled forward by percussion alone.

They also have an awesome sound manager who perfectly mixes the guitar and bass with any effects needed to complete the emotional vibe the band strives to achieve.

In the end, the album’s accompaniment is done so well that every song has an easy-to-like melody.

There is no unnecessary dwelling on the relationship, and no tears will be found unless someone is just trying to cry.

And honestly, why do that when you could dance along to mellow rock music instead?

-Larissa Gula

Artist: Colin Hay

Album: American Sunshine

Label: Compass Records

Rocks Like: Men at Work, Sting

Grade: B-

Colin Hay performs ruggedly upbeat pop well. His music carries a masculine edge without boasting about conquests and beer.

Instead, it holds a paternal voice of experience that appeals to 20-something Zach Braff-types and crosses generational gaps. Braff might have publicized

Hay’s work through appearances on “Scrubs” and songs in “Garden State,” but you can hardly credit the actor for the musician’s success.

Hay plays in a laid-back, yet well thought-out style throughout the record.

American Sunshine surrounds listeners in dense melodies, but Hay knows when to add bongos to give his music a chill effect. “Oh California” could relax the most overworked among us, evoking images of sun and sand. Even when the sound becomes richer and more complex vocally, like in “Prison Time,”

that feeling of ease remains.

The female backing vocals on “No Time” add a Neko Case-like quality that nicely complements Hay’s lower melody.

The song rings cheerful without becoming sappy.

Throughout, Hay tries on styles reminiscent of country western Elvis tunes to those that resemble a lighter, acoustic version of Morrissey.

Bongos or ballads, Colin Hay’s music remains all his own. Rest assured there won’t be any melancholy verses in either style.

-Alison Smyth