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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.
You've got to love Kurt Vile. Whether or not you like his songs or general aesthetics, no one can deny that he has mastered the ‘like, I’m just an ordinary dude’ artistic ethos exceptionally well. And not only has he been able to carry that grungy/punk torch into the modern world of indie music, he’s been able to do it as himself; a solo guy, a ‘singer-songwriter’, in a time when the very notion of such is enough to make one cringe.
On Wakin on a Pretty Daze, not much has changed since Vile released his debut album with Matador Records, Childish Prodigy, back in 2009. Vile is still creating acoustic guitar, ‘singer-songwriter’ songs punctuated with beautiful guitar lines and lazy but seductive melodies. Vile’s also still singing half-pedestrian/half-stoned-out lyrics about the people he meets, the bars he frequents, the planet he lives on, or the squalor of his apartment that tend to turn everyday banalities and words into epic events – at least in the eyes of a stoner.
Comparing Childish Prodigy’s lead single ‘He’s Alright’ with Pretty Daze’s ‘Wakin of a Pretty Day', it’s clear that Vile’s still trying to say: “Hey Guys. Chill out. Life’s alright. If I can do, it you can do it – right? Oh, yeah, and thanks for listening.”
There’s an instant soothing that comes from Vile’s sound; especially in Cairo, when one has to hop into a car twice a day to join the static rush hour traffic – it’s the perfect music to zone out to.
But unlike many of his contemporaries, Vile is a slow burning candle. Even before his debut album, the songs he released were pretty similar just with lower production quality. In a recent interview, Vile explained that “I know what to do to become the next big thing, but I have no interest in doing that. I want to do this my whole life.” The slow and subtle evolution of Vile’s albums – noticeable to probably only the most voracious listeners – is testament to this.
However, this desire to just cruise through his career on his own terms removes that element of surprise and heavy experimentation from Vile’s work that would really help make it stand out album to album. But at the same time, this aesthetic loyalty is also a large part of his charm.
Therefore, as a result, none of the albums really have any peaks, or troughs, and Pretty Daze is no different.
The entire album is one long, approximately 70 minute, beautiful moment, but there are no real fireworks, no explosive flashes. Stand out tracks are certainly the opener and title track, ‘Wakin on a Pretty Day’, as it sweeps the listener off their feet straight away and plunges them into the world of Kurt Vile.
Another notable track is ‘Shame Chamber’ which uses a steady head-nodding groove in order to bouncily deliver lyrics about mankind’s shortcomings as a finger pointing, shame inducing species. “Shame on you, shame on me, and shame on us, for feeling bad in the best way,” says Vile.
But as said, there are no money shots on Pretty Daze, only one long smooth, sensual session. Pretty Daze has also arrived just in time for spring, when hopefully, the daze that Cairenes have come to wake up to becomes a little brighter.