Review Summary: Drawing from new and varied influences, fun. create another album that's just that.
fun.'s 2009 debut effort Aim and Ignite caught the attention of many for its heart-on-its-sleeve romanticism and blatantly poppy mentality. With a backdrop of harmonies and clangy pianos, fun. drew inspiration from bands like Queen to make a critically acclaimed and widely beloved album. It would have been easy to simply duplicate that successful sound for their second album, but instead fun. have expanded their sound to incorporate new influences and instruments.
Immediately the "Some Nights Intro" launches the listener into the album with increased expectations. Aim and Ignite was praised for its grandiosity, and Some Nights will draw no accusations of losing it. Almost operatic, Nate Ruess' voice, aided by auto-tune which is used liberally throughout the album but never feels lazy or out-of-place, soars in a way familiar to fans. The upbeat "It Gets Better" shares and magnifies this new feature. The use of electronic beats and samples might be a source of concern to devotees to traditional piano/harmonies pop in the same way that Sufjan Steven's The Age of Adz's did, but while it does pop up several times, many songs do not feature them at all, like the more anthemic, classic-pop sounding "Why Am I the Only One". Songs like this would not sound out of place on Aim and Ignite, or even on a Queen album.
This does lead to an issue that the album does have, which is consistency problems. The jumping from style to style seems a bit frantic at times, and contrast is used a bit too often, which results in a lack of cohesion that makes the album suffer a bit on a full listen. This is much more a collection of songs than a full front-to-back album, which while excusable for a straight-forward pop band is a little less so when the album is as ambitious music-wise as this one.
Fun. can always be counted on to deliver fantastic and uplifting music, and the cheerfulness is still prominent. Even the sadder songs, like the excellent "All Alone" are upbeat and a joy to listen to. The sadder songs (like "Carry On", the slowest song on the album) are still resiliently upbeat either in message or general sound. "All Alright" and "It Gets Better" both share the "get through it" meaning, which is admittedly a bit redundant feeling. The eponymous track draws influence from African drums, a feature that normally feels forced in pop (especially indie-pop music), and yet the clear fun that the band and guest musicians are having is obvious and contagious. This is a joyful-sounding album, and could we have expected anything different?
This is a fun. album, in name and in nature.
It Gets Better