The story of Adam Young's rise from basement-dwelling Coca-Cola employee to platinum-selling dream-tronica star is well-documented by now, mostly because it's the kind of thing you only read about in books.
Thanks to the success of his Ocean Eyes album (and the hit single "Fireflies"), Young — who, as you probably know by now, records under the name [artist id="3055386"]Owl City[/artist] — topped the charts, toured the world and even moved out of his parents' basement (success!). And, on June 14, he'll return with All Things Bright and Beautiful, the next chapter in his rather improbable story. But with his new album also comes new expectations — because, for the first time in his career, people are paying close attention.
"I like to think of it as positive pressure," Young laughed. "I know people are going to listen to this new record through the lens of Ocean Eyes and how that became more successful than anyone expected. But that was fuel on the fire, in a lot of ways, for me, to make sure that I didn't write this new record from the wrong place. I never wanted to get into a headspace where I was writing songs for the Hot 100 chart or the iTunes chart or anybody other than, first and foremost, myself as an artist.
"Of course," he added, "there was a scary moment where I was afraid if everyone was going to ask, 'Can he do it again? What if it was a flash in a pan?' and all that stuff, which is inevitable, but I wanted to make sure that was kept at bay. And this record really was just about me and the music, first and foremost, and regardless of what happens, I'm still excited about this next chapter, if you will."
And so, while Bright and Beautiful is, chronologically, the follow-up to Ocean Eyes, in a lot of ways, it sounds as if Young's breakthrough album never happened at all. There's an increased focus on straightforward dance music (the pulsing synths of "Galaxies"), hip-hop (first single "Alligator Sky," which features verses by Shawn Chrystopher, the rattling back-track of "Dreams Don't Turn to Dust"), and even organic instrumentation (the strummed acoustic guitar of "Honey and the Bee," the curling electric guitar lines on "Angel"), all of which point toward Young's growth both as a producer and a musician.
"I wanted this new record to sound a bit more mature, a bit older and wiser, without ever getting too over-produced or over-processed," he said. "But, at the same time, I wanted to round out the thin, kick/hat/snare sound that was Ocean Eyes, so the new album was really kind of geared towards being rooted in electronica, but with other organic flavors here and there. ... I pulled from hip-hop music in terms of drum loops and drum samples, and drawing from this kind of Blink-182, rock, live sound, and a lot of orchestral themes stitched throughout. I have, like, a mile-long text file on my laptop of all these ideas."
And to that end, no matter what ends up happening with his new album, Young says he'll view it as a success. There may be no "Fireflies, Part II" on All Things Bright and Beautiful, but that's hardly the point, really.
"I think if people feel they can connect with it in some way, I feel like my job will be done. 'Fireflies' really taught me not to expect anything, not to have any preconceived notions about singles. ... It was just one of the songs on the record, and that really taught me it's kind of out of my hands in a way," he said. "So if people embrace it as much as the last record, I'll be blown away ... and if it bombs and everyone hates it, I still feel good from an artistic integrity standpoint."
Are you looking forward to new music from Owl City? Let us know in the comments!