fun. – Aim & Ignite
Release Date: August 25, 2009
Record Label: Nettwerk
When The Format went on hiatus a year and a half ago, many fans of their music cried tears (maybe even pastelcoloredtears?). But dry your eyes, because a musician as talented as Nate Ruess wasn’t going to be out of the music-making business for long. His newest project, fun., is a collaborative effort between Ruess, Andrew Dost (ex-Anathallo), and Jack Antonoff (of Steel Train). Their self-released debut, Aim & Ignite, is a ten track pop adventure with help from producer Steven McDonald, arranger Joseph Manning Jr., and contributions from other musicians.
Album opener, “Be Calm,” is exactly the opposite of what the title suggests. It’s vibrant and unpredictable, delighting your auditory senses. Ruess’ voice is as great as ever; poignant and full of confidence. “Benson Hedges” begins as if Ruess is leading the church choir before transitioning into a fast-paced tempo with riffs peppered throughout. “All the Pretty Girls (On a Saturday Night)” is a breezy track with a strong chorus, as strings, hand claps, and gang vocals shine in the background.
But fun. is not The Format Pt. II, as Aim & Ignite is truly a beautiful adventure for your ears. It maintains the same kind of pop sensibilities that The Format possessed, but fun. delves deeper. It’s eclectic, as it change tempos and vibes consistently, whether it’s busting out the horns (a Format favorite) or diving into Beach Boys-influenced pop. While Ruess maintains his signature biting lyric style, he also appears to be happier than ever. Tracks like the piano-paced “I Wanna Be The One (BaBaBa)” and the delicate “Light A Roman Candle With Me” are prime examples.
But Ruess does feature some fine wordplay in the vibrant “At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used To Be),” as he mentions, “I don’t keep friends/I keep acquainted./I’m not a prophet,/but I’m here to profit.” The instrumentation here is just delicious; there is always something new you’ll catch with repeated listens. The beach-flavored “Walking the Dog” grooves beautifully, with repeated “nah-nah-nah’s” yearning to be stuck in your head.
“The Gambler” is a beautiful piano-ballad about falling in love, with Ruess crooning, “I will never leave your side.” In an album full of standouts, this track has that little extra that can make it one of the best songs of 2009. Closer “Take Your Time (Coming Home)” is an eight minute epic that takes all the elements heard throughout Aim & Ignite and turning into a fine exclamation point for the album. Ruess’ lyrics offer hope for the future and urging everyone to forgive those around them. He exclaims, “I’m through with causing a scene,” perhaps referring to his life during the Format years. It’s a refreshing change of pace lyrically for Ruess.
It is impossible for anyone to remain in a bad mood after listening to Aim & Ingite in full. It is one of the most fulfilling albums I’ve heard in a while. The brain trust of fun. - Ruess, Dost, and Antonoff - have something to be extremely proud of; an album that is and will be well received from critics and fans alike. Aim & Ignite is what a pop album should sound like. Hell, Aim & Ignite could even cheer up Rob Gordon. So turn those frowns upside down, as fun. has released the most essential pop album of 2009.