Owl City (really just a guy named Adam Young) is a bit of a conundrum. He's perfectly fine to listen to, as long as you pretend that his music is specifically intended for very young children, like the Wiggles or Raffi. Then you pay attention to the meticulous production and catchy hooks instead of the fact that dude seems to be intentionally throwing every adorable, twee concept into his lyrics that he possibly can specifically to make anyone over the age of 12 nauseous. We're all familiar with the line from "Fireflies" about getting a thousand hugs from ten thousand lightning bugs, but he's got plenty of other lyrics that attempt to give your ears diabetes. "Chills run down my spine as our fingers entwine/ And your sighs harmonize with mine." Yeesh. "On crystal sands we sleep hand in hand/ While soothing words hover like hummingbirds." Jesus, he's like an insomniac first-grader. His songs are either about holding hands, animals you see on stickers, falling asleep or all three. Can any act possibly stack up to the tweeness of this sleepy animal-lover? It doesn't seem possible, but let's try anyway...
The Apples In Stereo: You know any band who makes the proud boast that they are "in stereo" part of their name is going to have a retro sound to them, and the Apples do not disappoint. They sound a lot like The Archies, if they had been engineered for the ironic '90's. Basically, if someone had manufactured an entire band around nostalgic Saturday morning cartoon albums like this one, you'd have the Apples In Stereo.
Yes, But Are They More Twee Than Owl City? No, not at all. Their tweeness is too self-aware and tongue-in-cheek to put them among the ranks of Adam Young. It takes more than airy harmonies and a girly-voiced singer to trump Young for twee; the Apples have a playful sense of humor about the whole thing. Young is clearly as serious as a heart attack about his weapons-grade whimsy. The Apples are in on some kind of joke, whereas the world of Owl City is actually how Adam Young fucking sees reality.
I'm From Barcelona: At first glance, these guys seem like they may be a contender. Here are some of their song titles: "Treehouse", "Oversleeping" and "Collection of Stamps," all things children revel in. So far, so twee. Upon listening, you'll notice their lyrics are all delivered merrily in sing-along fashion, with what sounds like everyone who worked at the recording studio pitching in. Why not? We're all a big happy family here! Wheeee!
Yes, But Are They More Twee Than Owl City? More like "we're all a big happy hipster family here." Rocks Off has been shying away from using the buzzword "hipster" lately, but there's simply no other word descriptive enough to encompass the level of smug irony present in this music. The sort of Pet Sounds-like overproduction that has become fantastically popular among Pitchfork-friendly flash-in-the-pan Urban Outfitters bands in the past couple of years is dripping all over this music, smearing gooey harmonies and chamber instrumentation around liberally.
Of course there is a fucking harp. Of course there is. No, it's beyond evident that I'm From Barcelona only want to create something to get high to. "Yeah, man. We should totally build a treehouse. Like the... the frickin'... Ewoks or some shit. Here, pass that spliff, dude." Their albums could just as well be called Things We Will No Longer Find Amusing Once We've Come Down, Vol. 1-? So no, they are not more twee than Owl City.
The Flaming Lips: Ahhh, remember this bullshit? The confetti, the white suits, the giant inflatable bouncy balls, the people running around in bunny suits... the Flaming Lips were laying it on pretty goddamn thick for a while there. Every time you'd see them live or on TV, it looked like something that would have played in Walt Disney's head if he'd had less imagination and a whoooole lot of ecstasy. Their stage show made the animated Yellow Submarine movie look like Akira. Add to that their shamefully stupid cover of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" (for which we have never fully forgiven them nor Cat Power) and yeah, the Lips have some pretty serious twee cred here.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Yes, But Are They More Twee Than Owl City? Not even close. Although they went through a pretty intensely twee phase, the Lips are more than anything rooted in psychedelia, and their music reflects that by tending towards the weird and spacey rather than the cute and huggable. Their most recent album, Embryonic, in fact featured some of their most harshly distorted and angular songs in years, and was a damn good listen.
Justin Bieber: Gaaah!
Yes, But Is He More Twee Than Owl City? This isn't even fair. We shouldn't have allowed Bieber into this contest. Owl City is still classified by many as an indie-rock act, while Justin is yet another androgynous Disney goblin manufactured from space-age polymers specifically to appeal to tweenagers (and, of course, pedophiles). Adam Young only has himself; Bieber has an entire corporation attending him, making sure he stays young, twee, and harmless, unlike that Cyrus tart. He's never going to age, y'all know that, right? They simply won't let him.
To sum up: it was impossible to find an act inside his genre more twee than Owl City. So congratulations go to Adam Young! You can catch his audio equivalent of shoveling spoonful after spoonful of raw cane sugar straight into your mouth tomorrow night at the Verizon Wireless Theater. And if ten thousand lightning bugs swarm you, don't try to hug them. Run. Because that is some apocalyptic, invasion-of-Gozer shit.