Review Summary: A jubilant and wholehearted trip through the last ten years.
Some Nights opens to a scattering, just a scattering, of polite applause. When opening an album as huge as this, many would opt for the full treatment; a cheering crowd or an orchestra perhaps. But just a few warm claps accompany the twinkling piano of the album’s opener, and nothing more. What follows is an album worthy of a standing ovation.
From intro to end, Some Nights is an album filled with emotion. Joy, sorrow, regret and anger all find their place in the 10 tracks and each find themselves on a song built delicately in sound to the lyrical emotions. But despite the vast flux of feelings and sounds on Some Nights, the key mood is always uplifting and most importantly, well, fun. From the pounding drums and gospel vocals of the title track to the electro flux of “It Gets Better”, the songs are presented with a determined fixed happiness that sweep you up in all their eclectic grandeur, yet not without a keen sense of sincerity.
And it is the range of music on Some Nights that makes it such an inspired work. The eclectic indie pop trio have shown to be a band of variation as demonstrated by the outstanding 2009 debut Aim & Ignite, but the band’s ability to adapt brilliantly to a range of environments really shines through on the new release. Selecting hip hop producer Jeff Bhasker of Kanye West fame appeared an odd decision to say the least, but his addition of beats and bass to the already rich fun. sound really does work, albeit with a couple of setbacks. The use of heavy vocoder/autotune on closer “Stars” for example, is a tough listen on the first hearing and admittedly screams of Bhasker’s biggest client; while the use of deep pounding subs on the majority of the second half slightly detracts from the band’s dynamic sound. But as nagging as these points are; the new sounds are ideas that, given a chance, add sparkling new elements to the already rich fun. pallet. Disregard any opinions you may have on autotune and hip hop, as the songs and arrangement (painstakingly composed by instrumentalists Andrew Dost and Jack Antonoff) on show is still undoubtedly stellar. Possessing infectious Brian Wilson melodies set to huge ELO/Queen esque harmonies (“Why Am I the One”) and backed by music that is seemingly complex yet fascinatingly simple, it’s clear that underneath any extras brought on by a new producer fun. still retain their fantastic sound and influence.
However all ears are trained on the man up front, and Nate Ruess has a hell of a lot to sing about. Some Nights marks 11 years since Ruess’s formation of the beloved yet painfully underappreciated The Format with ex-partner Sam Means, and the events of the past decade are given much thought on the album in typical open hearted fashion. Whether telling tales of regret (“All Alone”), conflicting doubt (“Some Nights”) or growing old (“Carry On”), each line is written with a fierce sincerity that remains as tender as it is frank – and delivered so. Ruess’s voice soars above the songs with the type of charismatic gusto missing from too many artists in the industry today, switching from a to stay in an excited rapture no matter what the subject. By the end of the two part opening title track, he’s yelping, belting and bellowing his words to pitches seldom heard from an intact adult male – and most of all, he’s enjoying it. Various lyrical bites stress the importance of the band’s emotional namesake; “It’s hard to keep a straight face when I just want to smile” grins Ruess on “It Gets Better” and with a mood this jubilant, it’s hard not to be swept up in the wonder of it all. Granted, some of the writings fall flat (lead single “We Are Young”) and those looking for a record as personal as the past Format albums may be left disappointed. But Some Nights knows exactly what it is and it’s up to the listener to decide their take themselves. After a career of consecutive fantastic releases but little wide recognition, this performance by both Ruess and his band may just be the one to gift them the appreciation they deserve.
Some Nights is not so much a sequel to Aim & Ignite as a standalone work, a release that goes new places and has its own goals, harking back to the past but with a firm forward thinking mind-set. Sure the album has misses, but these are issues that lie within ideas rather than whole tracks and only add to the excitement of a future that will refine all the elements into a perfect sound. fun. have here crafted a record that is bursting with grandeur and spectacle; with hooks for the crowds, lyrics for the thinker and depth enough for many a sharp listener. “Ten years of this, I’m not sure anybody understands” laments Nate Ruess on the titular opener. How wrong can a man be.