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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.
Formed in 2009, the Broken Bells is the name given to the collaboration between the Shins’ front man, James Mercer, and Grammy award winning producer, Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse.
Hailing from significantly different musical backgrounds, their sound features a subtle fusion of genres and styles; while Mercer brings a rustic singer-songwriter approach to the album, Danger Mouse – whose contributions have been extended to popular groups such as U2, Gorrilaz, Gnarls Barkley and the Black Keys – incorporates elements of electronic and indie-pop.
Their self-titled debut album in 2010 earned both chart success and acclaim, but was criticised for bearing a notable inconsistency; while proving capable of binding their creative efforts, it sounded more like a Mercer-Burton compilation, as oppose to a definitive Broken Bells sound.
Having refined their pursuits and pinpointed their artistic direction, their newest album, ‘After the Disco’, sees the band bring a stylistic cohesion to its eleven tracks. At least for the time being, the duo has put their fingers on a sound that can define the Broken Bells.
As its title suggests, the album sounds like a product of the late 70s, reaching out to the sounds of the next decade. A master of tone, Danger Mouse makes use of his wide palette through elegant, catchy riffs that possess a futuristic, fantastical sound. The vintage quality is harmoniously defied by the timbre of Mercer’s vocals, which remain firmly rooted in his rock origins; a constant reminder that the songs were recorded in 2014.
The opening track, ‘Perfect World’, sounds like a curious trip into space, drenched with meandering synth lines, fuelled by a hypnotic bass line and a simple punk beat. While not exploring space, the song’s lyrics suggest a young Londoner’s desire to elude the daily routine of the big city, and embrace a life of vagabonding.
Impressively, the album creates a fine balance between electronic and acoustic instruments; an indicator that both Mercer and Danger Mouse have brought their identities to the mix without overpowering one another. For instance, while dominated by Mercer’s voice and guitar, ‘Leave it Alone’ incorporates a sporadic synth squiggle in the background.
A complete string orchestra is employed on five of the eleven tracks, which adds a seemingly organic quality to the album, whilst further highlighting the contrast with the electronics.
Lyrically deep and playful, ‘After the Disco’ is an album that will treat its listeners to plenty of dichotomies; from serious and quirky, artsy and geeky, to retro and contemporary. The band has elaborated and improved on their debut and proven that there is still plenty more to come.