Fun. – Aim and Ignite
Record Label: Nettwerk
Release Date: August 25th 2009
The past year has been huge for New York City indie-pop trio Fun; the group surprised so many people when the first single “We Are Young” from sophomore record Some Nights achieved a massive amount of success on the Billboard charts. Once you listen to the song, and really think about it, it’s not very surprising, because this song has “mainstream success” written all over it, essentially. Despite the title, it’s not an anthem about being young. In fact, it’s a relationship gone awry, but sadly, people are stupid and think otherwise. I digress, however. Fast-forward about a year after Some Nights was released (on the famous Fueled By Ramen Records, may I add), the group had a handful of Grammy nominations, and won two, for best new artist and song of the year for “We Are Young.” They were also nominated for a bunch more, both for “We Are Young,” and the record Some Nights. Their first record Aim and Ignite was one that I managed to get a digital copy of last year, because the band themselves put the record up for free on Noisetrade for a brief time to celebrate the release of Some Nights, but I only listened to it a few times and kind of passed the record right on by. I’ve seen it at my local Target for only $5, so I thought now would be a great time to buy a physical copy of it. I’m glad I did, because diving into this record more makes me really appreciate it, but I wonder if I’m alone when I say that I don’t like this record as much as Some Nights. That’s not to say I don’t like it at all, and in fact, I love this record quite a bit, but it’s a bit rough around the edges. It’s “rough” mainly in its production, and just overall sound. While it does sound like a record that an indie band created, it lacks the thing that made Some Nights pop – massive hooks around every corner. Yes, Aim and Ignite does have that, but not in the same degree as Some Nights. Some Nights just takes it to a whole new level, and every song is huge and massive. It’s got an arena-rock sound without being a rock band, essentially. Of course, this is not to say that Aim and Ignite is a terrible record, but this is a great record, in its own right. It’s a pop record done right, and in the last five years or so, pop music has taken a downturn spiral. It’s not pretty, but Fun is one of the few acts to come out and change that. With that being said, let’s take aim and ignite my thoughts on this record, shall we?
The record begins with the very aptly named “Be Calm,” because that’s exactly the vibe I get from this song. It starts with vocalist Nate Ruess’s very quiet yet fantastic voice over a violin for the first minute, and the song is really calm. Suddenly, after the first chorus, around a minute and a half in, the song becomes a lot more energetic, and almost seems rather schizophrenic, in the sense that this song doesn’t know what it wants to be. In a way, that’s how I feel about the whole record, really; while the band’s sophomore record Some Nights is much more dramatic, and massive, it knows what’s it’s doing and the band knows as well, but with Aim and Ignite, it seems like they’re just trying a lot of stuff to see if it works, which definitely is understandable, because they’re experimenting. “Be Calm” is an interesting track, and while it’s not my favorite, it’s a nice opening track, because it does start things off on a rather quiet note. Second track “Benson Hedges” is a much more energetic track, but compared to third track “All the Pretty Girls,” it’s not as good. This song really shows off the band at their best. This song, and whole record, really, is pop music done right. It’s no surprise why the band is so popular now, and one of the biggest bands in the world. This is an essential Fun track, because it takes everything great about them – Nate Ruess’s voice and lyrics, and the rest of the band’s very quirky yet catchy brand of indie-pop. Next track “I Wanna Be the One” is another track that I absolutely adore, and one of the most memorable tracks. Fifth track “At Least I’m Not as Sad (As I Used to Be)” is yet another track I enjoy, but I will admit, there are some awkward moments in this song, specifically the small little “duet” by Ruess and a female singer. The tempo changes so sudden, and it doesn’t sound like it fits with the song, really. While it’s an enjoyable song, it sounds rather awkward at times. A few songs do, like “Be Calm,” and this one.
Moving on, seventh track “Walking the Dog” is considered a fan favorite, or at least, most fans I know tend to talk about this quite a bit, but it’s worth it. This is definitely one of my favorite tracks as well, and easily one of the best in the band’s catalog. Following that track, “Barlights” is another interesting track, but it’s not my favorite, either. It’s certainly unique, it’s certainly catchy, but it just doesn’t do a lot for me compared to other songs, and the same can be said for the next track “The Gambler.” Last track, on the other hand, “Take Your Time (Coming Home)” has some of my favorite lyrics on the record, specifically, “It’s a beautiful thing when you love somebody, and I love somebody.” I don’t know what it is about those lyrics, but I absolutely love them. This song kind of reminds of me the track “Stars” on Some Nights, which is also the last track, and they’re both quite long and spacious songs. “Stars” is about 7 minutes, while “Take Your Time” is about 8. The length is irrelevant, but the main difference between the two is while “Take Your Time” actually goes somewhere, “Stars” does not. That’s one of the few songs on Some Nights that didn’t quite affect me as much as it should’ve, because it seemed to be a very disappointed closing track (but thankfully, the bonus track saved the record). This is a nice closing track, and it leaves me wanting to listen to this record again. And now that I own a physical copy, I certainly can listen to this record much more. Fun is certainly a band that’s gotten a more popular over the years, and this is the record that started it all. If you’re a fan of Fun’s sophomore record Some Nights, or really curious about this band’s older stuff, this is the record for you.
I think that Be Calm knows exactly what it's doing. The whole album is an inspiration of rock opera's by bands like Queen and Electric Light Orchestra. The band even went as far as to say the album has a broadway musical influence in it as well. Be Calm is the shining example of their success to create that sound. Some Nights is okay but it's overly produced. fun. I believe works best in a DIY sound. Yes the songs on Aim & Ignite are big, VERY big actually but in general they remain grounded its humble production quality.