The time has come for the…wow, what the fuck would you even call this? Emo/Electronica Faceoff? So, one of these albums is far, far older than the other, but with all the recent comparison, I thought this faceoff would be appropriate. Owl City vs. The Postal Service. Minnesota vs. Washington. (That doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as Paris vs. Chicago, but we’ll work with it.)
Let’s start off with The Postal Service. They’re older, they get first dibs.
Even though this album came out in 2003, it’s still in heavy rotation for fans of this emo/EDM subculture and I really have to hand it to these guys…they brought EDM back to the mainstream. Back to radio and MTV. The collective works of electronic artist Jimmy Tamborello and Death Cab For Cutie frontman, Ben Gibbard, Give Up was and is really a revolutionary album for music. Combining elements of 80’s New Wave with futuristic intent makes this album something else entirely. It’s no wonder why their debut album at a total of ten tracks has three major hits including “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”, “Such Great Heights”, and “We Will Become Silhouettes”. There is talk of a second album for these guys, but they admit it won’t be released any time during this decade. C’mon, they both have other projects. It really seems like this album was just some sort of…accident. A really, really well received accident. The Postal Service has this delightful mix of downtempo and upbeat tracks, but they have such a great buildup. Like the video below for “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”…starts off incredibly slow and quiet and before you know it you’re bobbing and singing along. And obviously, Ben Gibbard’s voice is simply heavenly. Dear god. And I love the backing vocals of Jenny Lewis and Jen Wood on this album (Mike Doughty would have a field day with that one). They add meaningful, relevant lyrics to electronic music. No longer is it all about ecstasy and bright lights. It can be about something more and here is some solid proof.
The Postal Service – “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”
Onto Owl City. With three albums in the last four years, Adam Young (no relation, I promise) has certainly taken that previously mentioned emo/EDM subculture by force. He’s already peaked to #1 on the Billboard Top 100 with his massive hit “Fireflies”. Owl City’s got a far more upbeat sound. I mean, shit, it gets up to borderline happy hardcore/gabber on a few tracks there. While still influenced by 80’s synthpop, Owl City also delves into parts of disco, J-Pop, and early European EDM. After releasing two independent, unsigned albums, Owl City finally hit it big with Ocean Eyes, released in July. Young’s lyrics are a little…juvenile…from time to time though. There’s really not a whole lot of substance. He likes talking about the ocean (PUGET SOUND, holla!) and sea creatures (and apparently oral hygiene), which is cool, but it doesn’t quite fill and entire album. Check him out.
Owl City – “Hello Seattle”
Where you can really see the difference between the two is live performance. I really dug Owl City (and still do enjoy the album) until I heard him without all that vocal distortion.
Owl City – Fireflies (Live)
See? He sounds like he’s thirteen. It’s amazing what all those electronics can really do to a voice. On the other hand, the guy uses KORG, so I gotta show some respect for that.
But then, you have The Postal Service’s Ben Gibbard performing live…
Ben Gibbard – “We Will Become Silhouettes” (Live)
I think Owl City will have their fifteen minutes of fame and perhaps a cult following of thirteen year old girls from what I’ve seen around these intertubes, but The Postal Service has real staying power. (See: Death Cab For Cutie.) Ben Gibbard sure knows what he’s doing. I mean, if Adam Young gets a little more substance, he may have a fighting chance, but I think it’s safe to say that he’s lost this battle. If he steps it up, he may win the war.