Let me start by just saying this: neither this nor any review can fully do fun. justice when compared to seeing them perform a live show. I write this piece from The Java House in Iowa City, a mere block and half from The Blue Moose Taphouse, where this time tomorrow night, fun. will be performing in front of a very familiar and packed-out venue. I have had the pleasure of seeing them perform at that particular venue twice in the past 4 years, as well as once more at the University of Iowa Memorial Union. Every time, they have exceeded my expectations on every level and blown away audience after audience with their exuberant and elevated passion for making music that they love for people they love. In short, if you consider yourself a fan of fun., you are doing yourself no favors by holding back on that $20 ticket. Though their current tour is sold out at nearly every show from here on out, you best have your wallet ready they next time they announce a show near you.
Now, let’s attempt to meander our way through this new album of theirs, Some Nights.
Two and a half years ago, fun. exploded onto the indie pop-rock scene with Aim and Ignite (2009), a refreshing take on a very familiar genre of music. The album’s success would grow and grow as fans spread the word and Nate & Co., toured around the world. Then, with thousands upon thousands of people clamoring for Nate, Andrew, and Jack to up the ante and release a second record, the guys got together and recorded what Sound and Vision Magazine has called “that rare modern album that you want to set loud, keep loud, and sing along at the top of your lungs.”
And I’ll be damned if that isn’t exactly what I’ve been doing with Some Nights, even before it was technically released. (Disclaimer: I did not in fact pirate the album. I would’ve tossed my laptop out the goddamn window before I let myself do that. Fun.’s label, Fueled by Ramen, had the album streaming on Soundcloud and on fun.’s website for the entire week before it was released. Totally legit, I swear)
I rest my case. But, I’ve got plenty more to say about the album, that’s for sure.
Despite the fact that this record has been on loop in my headphones for weeks, I’ll admit (with some chagrin) that I still haven’t been able to provide even myself with a comprehensive track-by-track commentary, much less enlighten you wonderful people with such insight. However, I have managed to pinpoint a few of the more outstanding aspects about the album as a whole, as well as come up with a general critique on my favorite tracks. So, here goes:
Much like, Aim and Ignite, this record tends to lean in a lyrically philosophical direction, albeit with a common vernacular that is both refreshing and engaging. Like all bands approaching the creation of their sophomore album, they had to be tenacious and precise. Each track manages to bring with it a new perspective, whether it be instrumental or lyrical; and with that, fun. has put together a successful transfusion of lyrical potency and instrumental diversity that is at once filled with both mellow energy and passionate determination. It’s clear that the creative trio behind fun. wanted to push themselves with Some Nights, focusing heavily on layered instrumentation and bringing in different aspects of each of their backgrounds with various, successful outfits. The record is distinctively pop-rock, but it also has elements of grunge, jazz, soul, anthem rock, and even choral arrangements.
The title track, “Some Nights,” both introduces and encompasses the concept of soul-searching, a theme that runs in and out of each track, almost like a narrative thread that connects the audience to the band in a way that only fun. can seem to manage. The song is an anthem; it’s beat-driven and clap-able; it’s simple and straightforward to sing along to; and it kicks ass when played at high volume.
Who the fuck wants to die alone all dried up in the desert sun?
“We Are Young” features the wonderfully sultry Janelle Monae, and was the first single to be released off the album. And in all honesty, if you’re reading this review, you’ve heard the song. You’ve fallen in love with it. You’ve heard it overplayed, stopped listening to it, and then heard it at some bar and fell in love all over again. So I’m just going to tell you I’m right there with you, and leave you with this:
Tonight, we are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun
One of the most outstanding tracks on the album for me was “It Gets Better.” I really saw this song as a turning point on the record. It showcases the different elements of each bandmember’s background with bands they were in before fun. came along. The Format, Anathello, and Steel Train all shone through in little ways, and yet it still maintained that poppy ever-so-uniquely fun. feel to it. I wouldn’t by any means say that this was my favorite song on the album, but it definitely piqued my curiosity and kept me listening.
Another big turning point for me was the horn section-heavy “One Foot.” Nate let out a bit more of his Format-angsty side with the vocals here, lending a beautiful edge to his voice that suitable complimented the percussive, repetitively stomping beat that led the song. It makes sense, given how the chorus goes:
I put one foot in front of the other one.
I don’t need a new love or a new life just a better place to die.
Now, I wouldn’t say that I can call any particular song on the album bad, per se. I really love the band too much to do that. Plus, I really can appreciate the craftsmanship that went into the creation of Some Nights, which includes the strange turns they may have taken at times. But I will say that, out of all the songs on the record, “One Foot” was probably my least favorite. It was just slightly repetitive, and a little too circular for me to go 100% on.
All in all, Some Nights proved to be not only a solid sophomore album for fun., but a fantastic predecessor for what is sure to come. Since I saw them open for Anberlin and Taking Back Sunday back in 2009, they have exploded onto the music scene with a mushroom cloud to boot. There’s no turning back now, not for these guys. With every tour date sold out from now until… well, pretty much whenever, it’s clear that there is a huge future for fun. And trust me, you’re going to want to be a part of it. So if you haven’t picked up your copy of Some Nights yet, go do it right now. Like, stop reading, go to iTunes, and buy the CD.
And to the rest of you, I’ll sign off with this one last piece of advice: don’t let fun. out of your sight.