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Fun: Some Nights
For energised tracks that set a listener on an inspired road, the American indie-pop band Fun hits the spot with a genre of upbeat music accompanied by the gifted vocals of Nate Ruess that, in the right moment, resemble Freddie Mercury’s vocal flexibility. The positive vibes on the band’s second album, Some Nights, is doubled with an undeniable enthusiastic theme matched with memorable melodies.
One example of such memorable tunes is the successful collaboration with soul musician Janelle Monáe. ‘We Are Young’, which might be considered the band’s introductory single for some, has a tempo change that complements the already unique rhythm belonging to the motivating lyrics. The first track of the album, titled ‘Intro’, offers a sneak peak to what the rest of the album holds.
Once the album kicks in with ‘Some Nights’, the drum line and marching beats that listeners have been waiting for surface. It goes a bit overboard in ‘It Gets Better’ with exaggerated 90’s pop keyboard tricks, but luckily it calms down in ‘Why Am I the One’; which has a soft guitar intro and allows Ruess’s voice to stand out in a swaying melody that is simple and capturing at the same time.
Even though some lyrics are depressing, such as ‘I feel so all alone’, the band manages to express them in a bubbly manner that doesn’t leave a sad impression. However Some Nights falls in a pit with ‘Stars’; which is by far the worst track on the album. It’s difficult to understand why a band that has a great vocalist would resort to using an annoying auto-tune technique that just ruins the song.
With the exception of ‘Stars’, the good thing about Some Nights is its lack of cheesy and predictable lyrics; and while the songs are moving and lyrically deep, they come out clean of any repetition or exaggerated drama.
It doesn’t feel like Some Nights has any filler tracks that are just there for the sake of quantity; each song has a life and a character of its own. Maybe there are some weaker links when compared to the stronger tracks of the album, but still, the album overall is definitely a good mood-setter that shouldn’t be missed out on.
Album opener ‘San Angeles’ will get feet moving and booties shaking, but the rest of the album is decidedly more post-rock oriented. The influences of Pink Floyd only really make a grand appearance on psychedelic tune ‘Lunar Drift’, with its spooky synths and echoing bass line.
‘The Eliminator’ takes the listener back to the eighties again, as the repetitive electronic beat that is used sounds a lot like the 8-bit sounds that were the backdrop for many early eighties video games. Imagine the aforementioned desert wasteland turning 8-bit coloured.
The eighties also dominate in the strummed intro to ‘Martin Rev’, evoking memories of Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’. You’d almost think the guys of Maserati had wished they were making music a few decades ago.
At only 19 years old, English singer-songwriter, Jake Bugg, has achieved more than most would dream of; he’s the British indie scene’s Justin Bieber, but with more talent and less obsessive fan-girl hype. Having released his first self-titled album last year, Bugg is back with his second release, Shangri La.
The album was produced by Rick Rubin, and named after his home studio where it was recorded; perhaps a name-dropping exercise of sorts by young Bugg. Featuring 12 tracks, the majority barely hit the 3-minute mark, making Shangri La an easy-listening choice that won’t challenge the ears.
The album’s first single, ‘What Does Not Kill You’, addresses the UK’s troubled street culture – car park stabbings, public binge drinking and general disorder. Riddled with heavy, punkish guitar sounds, the chorus sums up the philosophy; “What doesn’t kill ya, what doesn’t hurt/Sometimes you feel you’re up against the world/This life it seems, to bring you to your knees/you try you bleed then finally you breathe.”
On its own, the track might suggest to an unfamiliar listener that this album is a fast, to-the-point, rock epic. This is far from the case.
The album at times remains too calm for too long. Bugg rarely revisits the loud, rebellious spirit that the album opens with; possibly in an effort to keep Bugg’s sound marketable to as wide an audience as possible in both US and Europe.
Instead, Shangri La’s overriding tone is a mesh between old school 70s punk and the watery guitar tones of grunge. More often than not, the album wanders into folk, as heard in opening track, ‘There’s A Beast and We All Feed It’, as well as ‘Me and You’ among others.
It’s easy to pin-point the extent of Bugg’s – and several hired song-writers’ – influences; Johnny Cash, Donovan, the Beatles and Oasis are all definite inspirations.
Despite the derivativeness, credit must be given to Bugg’s vocal efforts. His voice is reminiscent of a young, nasally Bob Dylan – especially on closing track, ‘Storm Passes Away’ – though slightly mellow in comparison.
And so in the end, Shangri La has few characteristics to distinguish itself from the cascade of similar sounding, mainstream releases over the past decade that have treaded across the en vogue, indie-folk rock phenomenon; don’t expect anything fresh or enriching with Shangri La.