CD and LP giveaway, details at end of review
Aim and Ignite
out August 25th
Nate Ruess doesn’t really care about traditional structure, tempo, and instrumentation. He doesn’t need to create a memorable, radio-friendly chorus for every song. No, that’s too easy for the former lead singer of The Format. He much prefers throwing in gospel choirs, swing beats, swelling violins and pulsing drums wherever he pleases, not necessarily where the song requires it. He likes to mix it up, play around a bit. He likes to have fun.
That’s why the opening track to fun.’s debut record, Aim and Ignite, is so perfect. Ironically titled “Be Calm,” the song frenetically shifts from a sweet ballad, to a full-blown show-tune number, to a stomp-along head-banger for just two awesome seconds (2:03) and finally to a euphoric marching band anthem.
The opening 20 seconds of “Be Calm” also work as a sort of overture for the album, which in turn could work as a full-fledged Broadway musical. Stories are told, characters are created, multiple voices are heard, and most importantly, Ruess’ theatrical vocals and instrumentals paint a picture with their flamboyance. And through it all are scattered elements of normal pop songs.
But “normal” tracks aren’t really on the menu when Ruess is in charge. Same goes for Jack Antonoff, lead singer for the phenomenal Steel Train, who plays guitar for fun. and makes his influence felt too. Gospel choirs barge into tracks like the epic “Benson Hedges” and the stunning, uplifting “Barlights.”
Female vocalists chime into “Be Calm” and “At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used To Be).” But the spotlight is never taken away from Nate, whose voice is on par with that of Freddie Mercury’s, reaching unreachable high notes and making you feel emotions that you didn’t know existed. It is truly powerful and versatile- Nate can croon the soft, sweet, tune of “The Gambler” just as nicely as he powers through the raw intensity and soul of “Benson Hedges.”
The over-the-top feel of Aim and Ignite can definitely become tiring, but only in rare occurrences (“Light A Roman Candle For Me,” “I Wanna Be The One”). And even in those occurrences, it’s never the entire song that’s full of cheese, just particular moments. Nate’s lyrics, good as ever, save these tracks from being too trite. From “Roman Candle”- “You look for a legend, I'm looking for common ground, your heart isn't breaking, and mine isn't making a sound.”
In reality, all ten tracks are epic pop songs that you haven’t heard the likes of since The Format’s Dog Problems. “At Least I’m Not As Sad,” Aim and Ignite’s literal and emotional climax, is brilliant and memorable. “All The Pretty Girls” is joyous and poppy- reminiscent of both Queen’s best and The Format’s best. “Walking The Dog” is perfectly-tamed wackiness. Ruess even has time for some slower stuff, with “The Gambler” taking a page out of Ben Folds’ strings-and-piano playbook.
Topping it off, album closer “Take Your Time (Coming Home)” takes it’s time indeed (7 minutes and 51 seconds, to be exact), and deservedly so. It’s a victory lap for the band, which has worked so hard on creating a pop masterpiece and has 100% succeeded.
80-84 — Excellent. One of best offerings of the year, but may only appeal to fans of that genre. (Rating Scale)
Stream the full album @ Spinner.
To enter to win a copy of fun.'s Aim an Ignite on vinyl or CD format (a total of two winners), leave a comment with your thoughts on the tracks you’ve just sampled, this review, or (if you’ve listened to it) the album. Make sure you leave your name/email address in the provided fields! Entries will be accepted until September 4th