Fun's sophomore album is an instant classic

There are some bands you listen to. There are some bands you love. Finally, above all that, there are bands like Fun (stylized fun.). And yes, that is the band’s name.

Comprised of Nate Ruess, originally of The Format, Andrew Dost of Anthallo and Jack Antonoff of Steel Train, fun. burst onto the scene in 2009 with their debut album, “Aim and Ignite.”

With a sense of musicality that many bands lack nowadays, honest lyrics and a certain whimsical nature, fun. gained a small but incredibly devoted fan base that anxiously awaited a sophomore album. Finally, after all that waiting, “Some Nights”  was released on Feb. 21.

The hype for the album began, however, quite some time ago with the single “We are Young.” The single became a surprise hit for fun., gaining a popularity no single track from “Aim and Ignite” ever did.

I have to admit, this song made me nervous — it’s a good track, and I’ll even admit to listening to it almost compulsively for awhile, but it’s certainly not the best I had heard from fun., and I was concerned that this was going to be the best the new album had to offer. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The band’s sound has certainly changed, thanks in large part to their new producer, Jeff Bhasker, who is much more accustomed to the world of hip-hop than indie rock.

Having this new influence brought a much more electronic sound to the album, with the vocals in particular using autotune and vocoder — a  machine which, when used musically, creates a robotic sound used generally to influence vocals — fairly heavily in some places — for artistic effect. Sometimes it worked, but sometimes it felt like too much.

“Stars,” in particular, was a little disheartening — the first two minutes were very much classic fun., but then there was a lengthy, almost self-indulgent tribute to their new sound. While this is a great song, it had the potential to be the best on the album if it wasn’t so marred by an excess of technology. Sorry fun., but if I wanted to listen to a whiney, robotic voice, I would go grab a Ke$ha album. That bit of snark aside, the album on a whole is an exceptional example of what music can and should be.

Musically, it’s fascinating. Though not a concept album, there’s a cohesiveness that was slightly unexpected. The songs overlap in suprising ways, such as the theme from “Stars” making an appearance in the ending of “Why Am I the One,” and with references to songs like “Barlights” and “All the Pretty Girls,” both of which where featured on fun.’s first album, in some of the lyrics on “Some Nights.” Not to mention the intriguing way fun. plays with the music and it’s relation to subject matter. In “All Alone,” the song starts with the line “I fell in love with a wind up souvenir,” accompanied by music that sounds a bit like a wind-up music box, but not to the point where the sound would become obnoxious.

Similarly, in “One Foot,” a song about needing to keep moving on no matter what, the trumpet plays a repeating tune, which adds dramatically to the impact of the track. Simply put, the album is remarkable.

It begins with an introductory track that somehow encompasses everything “Some Nights” does in a short two minutes and 17 seconds. I’m generally not a big fan of intro tracks — I find them to be filler, sort of a throwaway song you might listen to once, but never return to. The introduction to “Some Nights” is the opposite of that. It’s not only a fantastic overture, but a standalone song that is one of the best tracks on the album. The sheer honesty of it radiates from every line, but add in the strange sound effects and Queen-like harmonies, and you’ve got a song that sets every nerve on fire. Upon first listen, it seems like the rest of the album has no chance of living up to this first track — fun. set the bar too high too soon, and now is destined to fall. Shockingly, that isn’t the case.

Hot on the tail of the intro is the titular track, “Some Nights.” Quite frankly, I’m addicted to this song. I listen to it over and over, mostly because every time I do, I find something new to admire. It’s got all the makings of a classic — a catchy melody, interesting harmonies and honest, relatable lyrics. Though the song is peppy and upbeat, the darker lyrics give it a depth that makes it all the better.

That’s actually a compelling theme when it comes to “Some Nights,” and, to a lesser degree, fun. in general. This album deals with some heavy subjects, like lost love, mortality and religion. The lyrics definitely reveal a lot about Ruess’s journey with music —  the good and the bad — and it just makes the band all the more endearing. They keep the sound cheerful, for the most part, but are not afraid to have a frank discussion with the listener at the same time.

I think that’s part of why fun. fans are so devoted to the band — there’s something so humanizing about their music.  These aren’t superstar musicians — they’re people with hopes and dreams, and sometimes they face failure. fun. isn’t the kind of band people are ho-hum about. In general, it’s a love them or hate them kind of deal. And while this album stumbled a few times, it was a striking second shot. I can only hope that there are more fun.-lovers than haters, because at this rate, their third album is going to be out of this world.

Howard is a member of the class of 2013.

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