Plumbiferous Media

Aim and Ignite – fun.

Aug 27th 2009
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Aim and Ignite -
Aim and Ignite
Score: 94

After The Format went on indefinite hiatus, Nate Ruess formed fun. along with Jack Antonoff of Steel Train and Andrew Dost of Anathallo, with their first album released on the 25th. The self-released Aim and Ignite is a strange album, with unexpected transitions, active lyrics, interesting (if sometimes confusing) instrumentation, and curious themes. All of this perplexity ends up working quite amazingly for fun., resulting in a well developed and truly engaging album.

From the not-quite-classical introduction to “Be Calm” to the guitar solo at the end of “Take Your Time (Coming Home),” Aim and Ignite is filled with extremely interesting and entirely unique instrumentals. From the first track on, some of the most noticeable parts of the album are not the sections of the tracks themselves, but the transitions between the (often contrasting) sections. And while the first transition doesn’t quite manage to cleanly connect the introduction of “Be Calm” to the first main section, the rest are expertly done.

Whether it’s Nate Ruess’s voice, a drum roll, or a sequential lead, every part connects amazingly to the next (an especially impressive feat given the number of completely different parts on “Be Calm” or “Benson Hedges”). And while there is a section of Aim and Ignite running from “I Wanna Be the One,” to “Light a Roman Candle with Me” two tracks later that doesn’t manage to retain the odd excitement that accompanies most of the album, there is nothing to regret in Aim and Ignite.

Nate Ruess’s voice, polished by his time with The Format, rings through Aim and Ignite with an impressive combination of strength and emotion while managing at the same time to vary his style enough that he almost never stagnates. Beginning with his strong entrance on “Be Calm,” Ruess’s carefully crafted delivery is clear, distinguished by especially long phrases and an uncanny ability to modulate tempo such that it fits with the music perfectly, even with the large shifts during the transitions between sections on several tracks.

A cappella vocal sections make up some of the truly excellent parts of Aim and Ignite, including on “Benson Hedges,” which includes a gospel-inspired intro, compared with the barbershop-like sections of the later track “All the Pretty Girls,” both of which do wonders for the energy levels of their respective tracks as well as creating incredibly interesting and enjoyable music.

And Ruess is certainly not the only excellent vocalist on Aim and Ignite. Each of the singers alongside Ruess is extremely well-placed, especially the female vocalist who first appears on “Be Calm” and who shares several amusing lyrical interplays with Ruess, including: “I’ve said that everyone is out to get me” “These days before you speak to me you pause” as well as the perfectly voiced (and frankly hilarious) “Come on / Can you count all the loves that didn’t last?” “It’s such a gas when you bring up the past.”

Aim and Ignite is filled with lyrics that easily complement the energy exuded by the music and by Ruess himself and which simultaneously display the creativity (and strangeness) of fun. Thanks to Ruess’s tendency towards long phrases, some of the best lyrical gems of the album span an entire paragraph: “So I drove until we both broke down; / I was standing in a black town / Believing the wrong type of TV would bring me to safety / But between MTV and Mr. O’Reilly / I’ve come to the fact that I can’t be defined / So I turn it off.” Simultaneously image-packed, amusing, and oddly meaningful, this depicts the lyrical style of Aim and Ignite perfectly.

Not only is Aim and Ignite an amazing album, it is an amazingly diverse album. “Be Calm” alone moves from accordions and violins to rock, while “Benson Hedges” transitions directly from gospel a capella to electronics. And though “Walking the Dog” and “Barlights” are two of the best tracks on the second half of the album, they sound nothing alike. On Aim and Ignite fun. has provided something for almost every listener, while still maintaining an extremely high level of quality through the quite drastic variation.

From its carefully orchestrated beginning, Aim and Ignite blossoms into an energetic and honestly delightful album. With a more experimental base than frontman Nate Ruess’s last project, The Format, fun.’s debut album is occasionally confusing, sometimes bizarre, and always interesting. Very few moments of Aim and Ignite are boring – and how could it be, with the amount of unbridled creativity that has obviously been poured into it? And though Aim and Ignite is expertly composed from a huge number of varied parts, it isn’t just a great album musically. At its core, Aim and Ignite is simply fun.

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