Swimming With Dolphins - Ambient Blue (9.5/10)
by Matt Nistler
There are some bands that I immediately know I'll enjoy before even hearing a single track. This is often the case when I'm about to listen to a recent signee to one of my favorite labels or have just found out about a new album that was aided by one of my favorite producers.
Other times all it takes to get anxious to hear a band is simply looking at their lineup and seeing a familiar name. Just think back to the first time you decided to check out Circa Survive, The Postal Service, The Color Fred, etc. It's an exciting time for fans when someone in a band you already adore, announces another project.
This carried true for me this Spring when a Myspace bulletin from Minnesota's Owl City caught my eye. This bulletin happened to be announcing Adam Young's latest musical endeavor “Swimming with Dolphins” that he would be persuing with pal, Austin Tofte.
Since this is probably the point where you're questioning, “Owl, What?...Adam, Who?” maybe some backtracking is in order. If you take a look at the top unsigned bands in Minnesota on Myspace, at the very top position you'll see the name Owl City. Yes, ranked higher than even TDC unsigned favorites, A Verse Unsung, Jamestown Story and Lights Out Dancing. What's even more impressive is that Owl City consists of only one guy – Adam Young. So to catch word that the talented twenty-something was putting another project on his plate was exciting news indeed.
Fast forward a few months and Swimming with Dolphins are already building early buzz. Touring nationally with former TDC-buzzseekers Jamestown Story and NeverShoutNever and fresh off the release of their new EP Ambient Blue, this band is keeping busy. If you consider yourself a fan of fun electronic music in the vein of The Postal Service, this is definitely a release to consider checking out.
Those of you already familiar with Owl City may find it surprising that the majority of the vocal work on “Ambient Blue” is actually handled by Tofte, not Young. This is not a negative by any means, however, as Tofte proves very capable with this duty. Factor in beautiful guest vocals from Breanne Düren and the vocals on the album become a real treat.
Dancy, fast-paced, electronic, and fun are some of the words that I'd associate this EP with. While I normally think of dancy music and peaceful music as two totally separate entities, “Ambient Blue” somehow manages to bridge this musical gap and match whatever mood or energy level I happen to be in.
The lyrics on the album can at times seem silly, but in an instant can change to thought provoking. On “Pajama Party” Tofte sings “I'll always wake up so confused/ each time I have that dream of you/ if you dreamt of me too/ does that mean we dreamt the same dream?”
The only aspect about the album that slightly bothered me during the first few listens was the choppy, reverberating nature of the songs. I honestly wasn't sure if my CD player was skipping or if the noises were intentional. Check out the tracks “Everything's a Miracle” and “Sunset, 1989” to see what I mean. The odd thing is these tracks have since become a couple of my favorites. Still if I were in charge of production on “Ambient Blue” I'd consider toning down some of the reverbs to be less, for lack of a better word, harsh, because I could see it scaring off some listeners.
Nitpicking aside, I can't remember the last time I've listened to an album from an unsigned band that is as fun and addicting as this latest EP from Swimming with Dolphins. If you're a fan of this style of music (or if you're just feeling adventurous) do yourself a favor and take a little dip with Swimming with Dolphins.