To many people, Swimming With Dolphins is simply another project that Owl City’s Adam Young once partook in. While the project, which also included Austin Tofte, made waves in 2008 with the release of the Ambient Blue EP, which was filled to the brim with the sugary synth and vocal lines that Owl City has now made famous, Young’s departure to focus fully on Owl City left many fans feeling skeptical about Swimming With Dolphins’ future. Not to be deterred, Tofte carried on under the Swimming With Dolphins moniker as a solo act, signing with famed Christian label Tooth And Nail in 2010 and releasing his debut full-length Water Colours in 2011. With this release, he has proved all the naysayers wrong with his brand of lush, vibrant synthpop that does more than just separate Tofte from the dustbin of Young’s discography; it makes him a talent to be reckoned with in a criminally oversaturated and creatively stagnant scene.
To say that there are no similarities between Owl City and Swimming With Dolphins would be like saying America and the Soviet Union were merely friendly rivals. Both acts dabble (quite competently) in the realm of synth-driven, sugary pop that is perfectly fit for Top 40 radio. Yet, to say that the two acts are indistinguishable would be a fallacy. Where Young’s Owl City follows a “subtle” trail blazed by acts such as The Postal Service, bursting into grandiosity only when necessary, Tofte offers the grand as part of his standard menu, serving up synthpop songs fit more for a summer road trip than for a fan’s bedroom.
The album begins with the upbeat “Holiday,” a bouncing track that beckons the listener into the summer season as Tofte and unnamed female vocalist serenade each other with smooth, calming voices that simultaneously contrasts with the song’s upbeat sound and complements the track’s lush synth lines. Yet, perhaps the greatest aspect of the album’s opening track is how prophetic its title becomes. Indeed, with a few exceptions, this album becomes the listener’s holiday from the realities of life, a nearly-40-minute injection of pure pop bliss. “Sleep To Dream” nearly explodes in delight as Tofte and the same unnamed female sing over what is arguably the album’s strongest (and the year’s most saccharine) hook. The airy verses of “Watercolors” provide the perfect backdrop to Tofte’s croons about “praying that the pain stops [as he’s] counting all the tear drops on your pillow,” while the fluttering synth lines of “Jacques Cousteau” leads into the album’s largest chorus. “I Was A Lover” provides a little bit of quirk to the record, with off-kilter drum hits perfectly playing off of Tofte’s voice, and serves as the perfect counterpoint to the softer, but nearly unadulterated pop of “Captured.”
Of course, while the album is brimming with excellent tracks, there are times when the song quality slips below the “above average” level. “Easy” and “Diplomat,” while acceptable songs in their own right, do not measure up to the standard set by the rest of their album, and it is a clever move on the band’s part to sandwich each song in between some of the album’s finest tracks.
Yet, for all the good and bad in the album’s first eight tracks, the record truly crescendos in its final moments, as the pair of tracks “Happiness” and “Good Times” start off with their opening nights. “Happiness” is quite possibly the band’s version of an “epic” track, with airy verses serving as both a base to Tofte and the female’s harmonies and launching point for the song’s massive chorus and bridge. “Good Times,” meanwhile, is the most club-friendly, most straightforward pop track on the record, with a verse by rapper ModSun to round the track out. Without a doubt, it is a highlight of the album and is the perfect way to end this collection of tracks on a high note.
Overall, Water Colours is an excellent album. The record’s collection of lush synth sounds, catchy choruses, and Tofte’s soft voice creates the perfect soundtrack to the summer of 2011. With this collection, Swimming With Dolphins has definitely distanced themselves from the shadow of Adam Young. Tofte has proven himself to be one of the brightest lights in the synthpop scene, and if all is fair, Tofte’s is sure to be the next darling of first the scene and then the pop world.
3. Sleep To Dream
6. Jacques Cousteau
7. I Was A Lover
9. Happiness (Feat. Sunsun)
10. Good Times (Feat. ModSun)
Swimming With Dolphins is a synthpop band from Minnesota, USA. It was formed in 2008 by Austin Tofte and Adam Young, as a side project to Young's Owl City. After gaining considerable mainstream popularity, Adam Young left the band to focus on Owl City. Swimming With Dolphins' first EP, "Ambient Blue", was released on 2 September 2008 and contained five tracks. After Ambient Blue, the band released two further singles, "Fast Car" (cover of the Tracy Chapman song) and "Jacques Cousteau".... read more