Album Review: Fun. - 'Some Nights'

19 February 2012 | 11:57 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

Fun. stretch the “pop” genre boundaries as far as possible and create a great album while doing it.

More Fun. More Fun.

Fun.’s unique, quirky take on the indie pop genre won the trio a lot of praise and attention with their 2009 debut release Aim and Fire. This time around, Some Nights steps it up a notch and tries to stretch the boundaries of the pop genre even further by creating an album that blends more instruments, genres and moods together than most would think necessary. It is a formula that could very well set them up to fail. However, right throughout its 46-minute journey Fun. pull off the seemingly impossible almost effortlessly.

Right from the opening track it is made blatantly obvious that this album is going to be big in every way. Opening with simple, twinkling keys and quiet applause, vocalist Nate Ruess’ signature vocals soon layer on as smooth and crisp as ever. Slowly the track transforms into a chaos of sound effects layered over one another all the while carrying Ruess’ vocals before building into a mini rock-opera a la Queen. The track ends with a big vocal performance before soft applause carries it out. The journey has only begun.

The first half of the album follows the rock opera suite. Title track “Some Nights” picks up where then introduction left off, beginning with a cappella vocal harmonies before building into a sea of electronic sounds, layered vocals and a variety of instruments. Soon enough the album flows into an unpredictable journey taking shots at a variety of genres and styles, jumping through melodies and moods and experimenting with an immeasurable number of instruments all the while remaining the theatrical, flamboyant Fun.

From teenage anthem “We Are Young” to pop ballads “Carry On” and “Why Am I The One?” indie dance track “It Gets Better” or hip hop styled “All Alone” it is hard to know what is going to come next as Fun. stretch and mold the pop spectrum. The use of a variety of instruments to create any number of moods and feelings right throughout tracks is also notable. “Carry On” opens with soft piano and acoustic guitar carried by Ruess’ soft, crisp vocals before drums, electric guitar and synth layer on, the track then heads into the land of Irish-folk style music, throw in a big electric guitar solo allowing guitarist Jack Antonoff to momentarily take the reins, before vocals are just left with a simple drum beat, the track then ends in a sea of synth distorted vocals and vocoder sounds carried by that same simple drum beat. The whole album follows the same pattern.

No matter how layered and dense or pulled back and simple the tracks seem, it is still the three main men who are creating it all, and they should be commended for how effortless most of this performance seems. When the album is at it’s peak (in tracks such as Some Nights, We Are Young, Out On The Town, All Alright) it is hard to focus on anything other than the beautiful soundscape created by Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost. While Antonoff takes care of guitar and trumpet duties on the album, Dost is in charge of piano, bass, keys, synth, drums and percussion. The intricate layering created by these boys is both weighty and carefree in equal measure.

However, it is not hard to see whom the albums main focus is. Whether he is singing a capella, led by a choir, backed up by a sea of children or carrying an orchestra of sound Ruess’ vocals are clearly the bands most defining quality. Throughout Some Nights, Ruess pulls off, quite possibly, the most commanding and charismatic performance of his career. His vocals are strong, crisp and smooth right throughout. No matter what mood or feeling the soundscape behind him is trying to create, he matches it allowing it to grow beneath his voice.

However in all its glory and theatrical density, Some Nights does suffer at times. While its lack of predictability allows the bands character to shine through it also, at times, causes the album to become tired. Because of this lack of consistency and the constant jumping through styles the album suffers on a full listen. The longest track on the album “Stars” is testament to that tired nature. It jumps from strings, into a sea of voices and cheers, before Reuss’ vocals are first carried by an electric beat and then a more layered synthesizer sound. The tipping point of the track is the intense amount of auto tune used over the vocals. Where is has been used sparingly throughout the previous 9 tracks it becomes a stand out here, all the while being carried through an array of musical layers. It is clear Reuss vocals have the strength and ability to stand alone, so the vocoder dense vocal performance becomes challenging quite quickly.

With Some Nights it seems Fun. has found exactly the sort of band they want to be, and right from the opening track they are going to show you. Over 46 minutes Fun. take you through a new age rock opera, stretching and re working the limits and boundaries of the pop spectrum. With a soundscape made up of a variety of instruments and moods spanning across an assortment of genres, vocals that create depth and emotion even on their own and intelligent lyrics that paint a picture and urge you to relate, Some Nights has definitely lived up to the hype. It may have its shortcomings but overall Fun. has proved they are here to push boundaries and you will like it.

1. Some Nights Intro
2. Some Nights
3. We Are Young
4. Carry On
5. It Gets Better
6. Why Am I The One
7. All Alone
8. All Alright
9. One Foot
10. Stars
11. Out On The Town (Bonus Track)