I try to make a habit of sticking my ear into a song or two of every new release that hits the stores each week. When I first dove into Fun.’s debut Aim & Ignite, I was completely blind to a single detail about the group. You can imagine my surprise when some pretty darn recognizable vocals came through the speakers, and I was immediately aware that I had stumbled upon a side project of the Format’s lead singer Nate Ruess.
Now, I have never kept a close eye on the Format, which is why I had no idea that the group went on hiatus in February of ’08. All I really knew was that I liked 2003’s Interventions and Lullabies well enough, but mostly thought that opening track “The First Single” was one of the best power-pop songs of the decade. There’s something, excuse the phrase, but magical about Ruess’s vocal styling. And when it’s paired with a well organized song like “The First Single” – you’re guaranteed to see some fireworks. Unfortunately, I never felt that many of the Format’s songs had the necessary instrumental pzazz to allow the group to step over that boundary line into a constant spinner for me.
But I guess ditching your friend-since-grade-school bandmate, moving from Arizona to New York City, and making buddies with ex-Anathallo Andrew Dost can change all of that. Ruess and Dost paired up with Jack Antonoff of Steel Train and started a new band – fun. . (mp3 after the jump)
And that’s exactly what this music is. The little extra specialness that was lacking for me in The Format is now heaping on Aim and Ignite. These aren’t just songs, they’re arrangements, and carefuly crafted ones that feature uncommonly catchy melodies from strings, brass, and a whole lot more. Finally, Ruess’s vocal talent seems to have found a more appropriate counterpart, and as mentioned this album shoots off fireworks galore.
There isn’t much to complain about. With theatrical tracks that play with tempo and crescendos, the 10 songs on Aim & Ignite grab your interest and keep it. There’s defintiely an argument to be made for how much this band sounds like a indie-pop version of Queen. The main fault I can find in all of this grand musicality is the hit or miss-ness of Ruess’s lyrics. Sometimes, when the whole song is so catchy and good whether or not the lyrics are makes little difference. This is almost the case here. Because there are times, like in “The Gambler”, where Ruess proves to us that he can write one hell of a song. When he fails to do so with with tracks like “I Wanna Be The One” it’s frusteratingly inconsistent.
It’s hard to pick album standouts on this one because I honestly find each and every one exciting – and they each seem to play their own important role. For me, opener “Be Calm” is the most compositionally impressive, the simpler “The Gambler” is the most touching, “Walking the Dog” is the most unique, and “Benson Heights” has the most soul. I think many will find “At Least I’m Not As Sad” to be their favorite – which features some nice female guest vocals. If I had to, though, I’d say the previously mentioned “Be Calm” is the one I’ll revisit the most, because if fun. is trying to be like Queen than this is their “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
Aim & Ignite was released independently on August 25th, and can be picked up from your local, independent record store or your online music-seller of choice. You can view their current tour schedule here, and stream album opener “Be Calm”, below.
*1. Be Calm [SOT]
*2. Benson Heights
3. All The Pretty Girls
4. I Wanna Be The One
*5. At Least I’m Not As Sad
*6. Light A Roman Candle With Me
*7. Walking The Dog
*9. The Gambler
10. Take Your Time