RETRO-GRADES: fun., Aim and Ignite

I’m a theatre kid at heart. For nearly a decade, my life was a series of auditions, rehearsals, and performances, the cycle looping until I went to college. Although I don’t perform anymore, there is still a soft spot in my heart for showtunes, a very particular genre of music — that, I have learned, is a very controversial choice for a party’s AUX cord. So, if I’m hankering for something a bit theatrical when away from my fellow theatre nerds, I have a backup plan:

Listen to fun. More specifically, listen to Aim and Ignite.

I purchased the album at a fun. concert my sophomore year of high school, five years after its release. I went to the show only knowing Some Nights, their sophomore album, unaware of their previous release. At the show, Nate introduced “The Gambler,” which I hadn’t heard before, as a song he wrote about his family. Once his fingers hit the keys, I fell in love. One lyric stuck in my mind:

“And now, he's turning to a man, though he thinks just like his mother, /

He believes we're all just lovers; he sees hope in everyone.”

That lyric convinced me to grab a copy of the CD after the show at the merch stand. I listened to it on repeat in my mom’s sedan and, better yet, played “All the Pretty Girls” and “At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used to Be)” for my dressing room before nearly every theatre performance for the rest of high school. Naturally, my dressing roommates loved the songs’ theatrics.

Top to bottom (including the Deluxe Version’s bonus tracks), the album is brilliant. “Be Calm” kicks off the tracklist with controlled chaos, playing with tension and release like a pro. The aforementioned dressing room bops engage with harmonies and playful background vocals, as well as their tried-and-true pop melodies. “Barlights” and “Walking the Dog” bring steady beats suited for strutting down the street. On the original release, “Take Your Time (Coming Home)” ties everything in a bow with a gospel-infused song. Nate’s eloquent preaching hits your heart one last time before you, well, return home from the album’s journey.

My favorite part about Aim and Ignite is that, while the songs are laced together with continuous theatrics, each track has its own personality, much like the characters of a play. This makes the listener care about every song as if it truly is characterized, feeling every emotion conveyed through instrumentation and lyricism. Empathy comes easily. And, although the diversity between the tracks distinguishes them, they still seem to flow across the album in a clean, logical way. The album maintains a certain structure and brand without growing dull and repetitive.

I believe this album warrants far more attention than it already receives. I should play “The Gambler” from the hilltops until the rest of the world — hell, the universe — knows of its beautiful nostalgia. However, although five out of 10 of fun.’s most streamed tracks on Spotify are the hits from Some Nights (all absolute bangers, by the way), I am hopeful in noticing that three out of 10 are from Aim and Ignite.

Please, listen to the album. Aim and Ignite is deserving of a standing o.

— Fiona Pestana

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