fun. – Aim and Ignite (2009)
Bottom Line Up Front: This is a 4.5 out of 5 stars album that’s going to win you over with its completely over the top compositions and simple but often clever lyrics. Some Nights may have put fun. at the top of the charts and won them multiple Grammys, but Aim and Ignite is still very much worth your time.
Artist Background: The band, fun., is made up of 3 main members: Nate Ruess, Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost. There were 19 additional musicians that played on the album providing a wide range of instruments and vocals. You can’t do compositions like this without getting more people involved though Dost does play quite a few different instruments. The band started in 2008 shortly after Ruess’s band, The Format split up.
Album Background: The album, Aim and Ignite, is described as indie pop/baroque pop. (Now where have I heard that before?) It runs about 43 minutes with 10 tracks. It received many positive reviews when it was released. On an interesting note, Take Your Time (I’m Coming Home) is unusually long at nearly 8 minutes.
Favorite Track: My favorite track is I Wanna Be the One. It’s the 4th track on the album and is 3 minutes and 36 seconds long. While initially hearing this song, I thought Nate was singing about his daughter. But with further research, I think it is most likely about his newborn niece and him becoming an uncle given how long the song has been in the works. The song is about wanting to document a child’s life by writing songs about everything from their successes to their failures and all that lies in-between. In the age of Facebook, documenting everything about a child seems quite feasible. It includes several of my favorite lyrics such as “And I know that it’s been sang before but you’re my human holiday” and “Cigarettes are raining hard on the Upper East Side.” I particularly like the trombone, oboe and piano parts in this song. Overall, the arrangement is very upbeat and overflowing with joy. You can’t help but be happy after listening to it.
- Vocals Given how fun. was basically everywhere after We Are Young exploded, maybe some people are sick of hearing Nate. Don’t include me in this group. I absolutely love Mr. Ruess’s voice. He’s in my top 5 for favorite male vocalists of the past 10 years. I love his tone and his phrasing throughout the album. In addition, many of the supporting vocals work quite well on several tracks. The female vocals in At Least I’m Not as Sad (As I used to Be) are particularly appealing with them having a singsong nursery rhyme like quality to them.
- Lyrics The lyrics in this album are incredibly accessible because the word choice is simple as are the rhyming schemes. Given how complex the arrangements are on this album, the lyrics seem to be the perfect compliment. At the end of At Least I’m Not as Sad (As I used to Be), the line “I’m not a prophet, but I’m here to profit.” always stuck out for me. And in a verse from Light a Roman Candle with Me, I’m particularly fond of the rhyme between “…both wrote a sonnet, Together a sandwich with everything on it.” I think it’s a rather playful way to work sonnet into a rhyme. Walking the Dog also has a memorable couple of lines in the chorus with “If you could see me, Whoever I am. It’s not like a movie, It’s not all skin and bones.” This song reminds me a lot of the band, Vampire Weekend, for some reason. I think it’s the guitar part.
- Composition From the very beginning of the opening track, Be Calm, the music lets the listener know that tracks on this album are going to be beautifully layered songs with elements of classical music mixed with indie pop. There is so much going on during the songs with so many instruments fading in and out as the song is in a continuous state of rising and falling. However, it never becomes overwhelming but it does mean that it’s going to take multiple listens to really appreciate everything fun. brings to the album at any given moment. Of particular interest is The Gambler because I believe it doesn’t contain a single percussive instrument and instead relies on the piano to keep the tempo moving along. I would also like to note that until I started writing this review, I had no idea that Take Your Time (I’m Coming Home) was so long. I think that says a lot of the quality of the writing that I never became bored with that song or wish that it would be over already despite listening to it numerous times during the past week. Since I’m talking about this song anyways, this is the only song I noticed that uses a swear word. Thankfully, Nate uses the greatest and most versatile of all of the swear words available.
- Nothing There really isn’t anything that is so disagreeable that I would make a change to this album. The only reason I took off half of a star is because I’m not sure it’s going to appeal to everyone. But I think everyone should give it a listen to see if it does.
In Conclusion: fun. put together a fantastic album with Aim and Ignite. It sounds like Nate was going through a lot of emotional stress after the break up of The Format, but it paid off tenfold in my opinion. This album is so much fun to listen to and can be returned to multiple times thanks to the elaborate arrangements. I liked this album from the very first listen and I don’t see that ever changing.