Owl City fans, or "hootowls," have learned to be a very patient fandom. There was the "I Hope You Think Of Me" and "Hey Anna" mystery finally solved in 2013, the pushed releases of "All Things Bright and Beautiful" and "The Midsummer Station" and the finally announced "Cinematic" after a year of hiatus following the Adam Young Scores.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Both the hootowls and Owl City have been through a lot since frontrunner Adam Young's humble beginnings in his parent's basement (who remembers Aquarium?) Discouraged in his jobs at Coca-Cola and UPS, a young Adam turned to making music on his laptop for solace. Soon, he became MySpace famous, which landed him his record deal with Universal Republic—and the rest is hootowl history.
"Regardless, the thing that makes me excited is the knowledge that there is all sorts of magic just waiting for someone to fall in love with, waiting to be unearthed, and I have the immense privilege of digging it up."
During the early MySpace days, Adam created a plethora of musical projects all under different names before finally landing with Owl City. Most notably, he also began the acoustic solo project Sky Sailing and instrumentals under the name Port Blue, as well as the electropop band Swimming With Dolphins with Austin Tofte and the instrumental band Windsor Airlift with his friends Andy and Tony Johnson. Some other projects were Insect Airport, Novel, Glacier Island, The Perfect Theory, Dolphin Park, Unwed Sailor, Keehar, The Grizzly and (one of my favorites) Seagull Orchestra.
But back to Owl City. Adam's first releases under this name were the "Of June" EP and "Maybe I'm Dreaming" LP. It was after these releases that he was invited to New York for the infamous meeting he illustrated in his new song "Fiji Water."
After he signed with Universal Republic, he released "Ocean Eyes" in 2009. Remember "Fireflies?" That's Adam. He also took this time to release his Sky Sailing album "An Airplane Carried Me To Bed" in 2010. His fourth release under Owl City was "All Things Bright And Beautiful" in 2011. This is when I entered the hootowl fandom.
I knew "Fireflies" in 2009, of course, so as I was looking for new music, I decided to see if this Owl City ever did anything else. I found "ATBAB" and all his previous work to be just what I needed to hear at that time in my life with the classic Owl City positive and optimist messages with just the right amount of melancholy thrown in.
"...What better way to deal with life than by writing about it? I like the bittersweet layer under the surface, I like the echoed themes of melancholy and disappointment. I like sad songs disguised as happy songs. I like honesty."
What I would soon learn was uncharacteristically, Owl City's next release was right around the corner in 2012 with "The Midsummer Station." Adam flooded social media with the hashtag #OCTMS to create suspense for the announcement, and my young and excited hootowl self ate it all up. The album was released within the first week of my sophomore year and I was able to bring one of my friends to see Owl City live on "TMS" summer tour. At the concert, I met so many other incredible hootowls out in the wild and was excited to be a part of such a fun and welcoming group.
The Midsummer Station Tour
And then, the waiting. Adam teased the hootowls with live versions of long-anticipated songs "I Hope You Think Of Me" and "Hey Anna" on tours, but with no release dates in sight. In 2013, he finally snuck them onto "The Midsummer Station Acoustic" EP. He also was able to create songs for movies like "Wreck-It Ralph," "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" and "Smurfs 2." However, we did not see another LP released until 2015, preceded by "Ultraviolet" EP with tracks from the upcoming album.
"Mobile Orchestra" had a distinctly different sound than his past work, but this was because he wrote and produced every track by himself, like in the MySpace days. Thus, I understood the long gap between LPs to be due to negotiations with Universal Republic. "MO" was Adam's first album partially affiliated with his personal studio, Sky Harbor Studios. The songs on this album represent more of the artistic and lyrical direction Adam had always wanted to take and I was proud to see he wrote about his faith in God more openly than in previous works.
Adam Young's iconic "I AM" t-shirt
Throughout 2016, instead of Owl City, Adam was just Adam Young in his "Scores" project, creating and releasing cinematic scores inspired by historical events (like the Titanic and Apollo 11). Adam has always wanted to create music for movies, so took time and he gave himself that chance.
"Stories are infinite. They offer us the ability to retell them according to the way we imagine them. Thus, I want to create musical narratives that aid in the telling of stories that move Adam Young, according to his imagination. And I want to share them with you."
In 2017, Adam could be found on Instagram sharing about recording ambiance on location out in the wild. Eventually, he shared that he was creating his next Owl City album, "Cinematic," as if it were the soundtrack to his own life's movie. Previously, most of Adam's songs were drawn from his vast imagination, but now, he took the time to share a glimpse into his personal life. "Cinematic" was released on June 1st, 2018 under only Sky Harbor Studios.
Adam isn't creating music for attention or personal glory. He is simply a boy from Owatonna, MN doing what he loves and sharing it with all of us. He respects his hootowls and genuinely wants to share his heart with us in his work. I see "Cinematic" as his way of saying thank you to all of us for sticking with him for so long. I didn't mind the waiting as much between albums because I knew he was taking the time to make something special. It is a gift to the fans and a tribute to those most important in his life, like his family and girlfriend Abbey.
We see Adam look back on signing with a record deal after he learned and grew in the industry in "Fiji Water." We are introduced to his family in "The 5thof July," "Not All Heroes Wear Capes" and "Madeline Island." We get to see how happy he is with Abbey in "Cloud Nine" and "Be Brave." We see his trust in God again in "Always" and his optimistic look to the future in "Winners Never Quit" and "House Wren." And that's not even all the tracks we get to enjoy!
So next time you need some fresh music to jam to in the car, check out Owl City. Adam Young is more than just "Fireflies," and it only gets better. Let him tell you stories from his head and his heart, let him encourage you and let the dreamy melodies take you away. Like every hoot owl knows, Owl City is not a place, it's a state of mind.
"If by chance you ever feel as though you've come to know these songs, please consider yourself a friend because in a manner of speaking, you know me. This music is my heart and soul. This is who I am."