fun. – Some Nights

fun. - Some Nightsfun.’s debut album was one of those musical first-stretches-out-of-the-starting-gate that made one wonder how the group would top that in the second leg of the race. It turns out they’re doing it quite nicely, even though there are a few stylistic quirks to Some Nights that left me feeling a little bit old. The rock-solid songwriting is more evocative of Queen than ever, and that alone makes fun. worth following.

When I reviewed the group’s first album, I found myself wondering if their chosen band name might be a liability. Perhaps I was worrying too much – in the months leading up to the release of Some Nights, fun. managed to step up its promotional game considerably. The song “We Are Young” was highlighted on Glee months in advance of the album, and it’s also been picked up for a major national advertising campaign as well. This sort of thing shouldn’t be considered “selling out” – if anything, in the download age, strategic licensing of one’s music is bread and butter, and I don’t hold it against anybody trying to get a song placed in an ad campaign. These alliances have served as a showcase of fun.’s music, giving the band the kind of exposure that, in these dying days of radio, no amount of payola can buy.

And it’s really good music. That’s already been mentioned, hasn’t it? It’s really good music. The title track is split across an extended intro and the main song itself; if for no other reason than the prominent F-bomb, the intro will likely be skipped in nearly every broadcast venue. (It’s rather stunning that there’s a video for it, and an uncensored one at that.) “Some Nights” is the first indication that the album of the same name is an entire album of anthems – nearly every song is a celebration of its subject matter, whether it’s youth and the excesses that go with it (“Some Nights” and the perfectly-pitched ’50s rock pastiche “We Are Young”), and resilience in the face of opposition (“Carry On”, “It Gets Better”). With the exception of the world-weary but beautiful “Carry On” (my early favorite out of the entire album) and “Why Am I The One”, Some Nights is upbeat and fun.

If I have a bone to pick with Some Nights, it’s the utterly bizarre use of auto-tune on several songs. I know it’s standard-issue in any studio at this point, but I can’t think of a band that needs it less. After Aim & Ignite, lead singer Nate Ruess was almost inevitably compared to Freddie Mercury of Queen, and given the very operatic, Queen-like “Some Nights Intro”, it would seem that he’s cool with that comparison (and really, what a voice to be compared to!). If there’s a voice in rock music today that needs auto-tune less than Nate Ruess, please point me that way because that person’s probably singing some good stuff too. It’s used here as a style choice, just another tool in the studio arsenal, but I can’t help but feel that it mars the proceedings when it rears its head. Nate Ruess does not need auto-tune. He may just be the best voice in rock today, and I’ll bet he could’ve hit every note without the studio trickery – it cheapens that voice 4 out of 4to turn him into a singing robot.

Give or take a couple of production choices that make it unwisely easy to downplay what an amazing voice fun.’s frontman has, Some Nights is definitely worthy of the hype and build-up that it got. You should definitely keep your eyes and ears on fun.

Order this CD

  1. Some Nights Intro (2:17)
  2. Some Nights (4:37)
  3. We Are Young featuring Janelle Monáe (4:10)
  4. Carry On (4:38)
  5. It Gets Better (3:36)
  6. Why Am I The One (4:46)
  7. All Alone (3:03)
  8. All Alright (3:57)
  9. One Foot (3:31)
  10. Stars (6:53)
  11. Out On The Town (4:21)

Released by: Fueled By Ramen
Release date: 2012
Total running time: 45:49

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fun. – Aim & Ignite

fun. - Aim & IgniteWhat happens if you splice the DNA of Queen and ELO? You get something not unlike this east coast indie rock treasure’s debut album.

Brimming with unconventional instrumentation for an indie group – there’s a small string ensemble on most songs, and a few songs even add a small brass ensemble and a gospel choir for good measure – fun. is nothing if not confident that their material is strong enough to shine through the unusual approach. (An arrangement assist from Jellyfish alumnus Roger Joseph Manning Jr. probably didn’t hurt – that alone, basically constituting a stamp of approval from a key member of the last band that I can remember storming out of the starting gate with this much originality, should excite fans of good music right there.)

It doesn’t hurt that fun.’s lead singer sounds a bit like a young Freddie Mercury. His range is incredible, and we’re not just talking about a purely mathematical measurement of how many octaves he covers. He can go from sweet balladeer to roaring rocker in an instant – the thought occurs that, on stage, this guy is probably one hell of a showman. (I don’t make comparisons to Mercury lightly, either – that’s hallowed ground for anyone who’s been listening to rock music longer than ten minutes, and [dude] is striding across that ground with remarkable self-assurance.)

Highlights include “Barlights” (normally I wouldn’t get too attached to a song about going on a pub crawl, but the odd juxtaposition of having the praises of the aforementioned pub crawl sung by a gospel choir makes this an instant classic), with “All The Pretty Girls” reminding me strongly of ELO’s “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” with its punchy backbeat and infectious harmony. “I Wanna Be The One” and “Light A Roman Candle With Me” will also be a favorite among people listening for the group’s ELO influences; though the songwriting style is not at all like Jeff Lynne’s, the way the songs are performed and produced is like a comfortable old shoe for those of us raised on Lynne’s repertoire. I also have to give a shout-out to the mad reggae-inspired stick work on “Walking The Dog”.

4 out of 4fun. has a new album coming out in February, Some Nights, which fans are looking forward to eagerly. If it sounds even remotely like fun.’s debut, we might just have a new pop supergroup in the making. The fact that fun. songs have been covered on Glee would seem to indicate that the groundswell of support for them is just beginning – and the amazing thing, in this music-video-dominated age, is that all this goodwill seems to be about a bunch of damned good songs and amazing performances.

Order this CD

  1. Be Calm (4:09)
  2. Benson Hedges (4:00)
  3. All The Pretty Girls (3:22)
  4. I Wanna Be The One (3:36)
  5. At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used To Be) (4:06)
  6. Light A Roman Candle With Me (3:09)
  7. Walking The Dog (3:39)
  8. Barlights (4:17)
  9. The Gambler (4:11)
  10. Take Your Time (Coming Home) (7:51)

Released by: Nettwerk Records
Release date: 2009
Total running time: 42:15

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