Last Three Albums: Some Nights, Broken Social Scene, Metals
Starting from today on (hopefully) a weekly basis, I'm going to take the last three albums that I've finished listening to and I'm going to write reviews for them. These could be ones that I've previously listened to or albums that are completely new to me. As long as I haven't written a review for it, anything's fair game. Feel free to discuss or object to any of my opinions on these albums in the comments, and criticism is very much encouraged.
This week, I'm reviewing Some Nights by fun., Broken Social Scene's self-titled album, and Feist's Metals.
I've decided to put aside my sometimes irrational reluctance to listen to artists featured on the radio and on the Top 100 and listen to fun.'s sophomore effort, Some Nights. I've heard some equally great things and bad things about these guys, and the former really outweighs the latter. But that's probably because fun. (That period after "fun" is really starting to bother me...) is incredibly popular; they were at the top of the charts after all.
It's undeniable that the album definitely tries to start on a high note with all the hits and singles and whatnot with songs like "Some Nights" and "We Are Young" and "Carry On," and these songs really aren't half bad. Personally I don't really find them to be incredible and some aspects of the songs make me cringe but we'll come back to that. The point is that these songs are supposed to be solid and basically popular in order to grab the listener's attention, and that it did. After these comes "It Gets Better," and ironically, it really doesn't get better and I can probably say that it's quite the opposite.
The rest of Some Nights consists of me trying really hard to like the songs but none of them really offered enough for me to want to keep going. Of course, I had to keep going so I forced myself to listen to the pretty unmemorable songs in the reasonably long album, which somehow felt much longer than it really was. This kind of surprises me, since the songs are somewhat varied; they have different sorts of instrumentation in every other song, and it's not like each song has the same tempo or mood, and that's great. But there's just nothing worth mentioning after the first four songs.
And those four songs still have the same flaws that irritate me throughout the entire thing. Going into this album with an open mind, I've heard that fun.'s pop/rock sensibilities are quite uplifting and almost bubbly; I've heard people call fun. "Disney-core" because of some aspects of their music, more notably in their first album. So knowing this, it's really strange when I hear swears basically riddled throughout their music. I can tolerate swearing, but it just feels out of place in fun.'s music, mostly because the vocalist doesn't strike me as a person with this sort of rebel attitude or whatever, seeing that his voice is pretty clean, just like the rather dull production of the album itself. The arrangements are also pretty standard sometimes and at other times it's slightly more diverse with synths and what have you, but consistency is something left to be desired. And then there's the auto-tune. All I can ask is "why?" The auto-tune contributes nothing and only serves to be more annoying. The lead vocalist clearly has range, so why not just leave his voice alone and let the music sound more sincere and smooth, free of random lapses of auto-tune that are so jarring because of how spontaneous they can be.
This is all pretty sad because I really tried to like Some Nights. I'm open to what they have to offer but frankly fun. wasn't very fun at all because of the direction they decided to take. They don't really do enough to set themselves apart from any other power pop or pop-punk band out there, though I can tell they really tried to make some sort of impression (sadly, wasn't a very good one on me) with the occasional variance in instrumentation and the auto-tuning and the unnecessary swearing. The latter is particularly irritating, since again, it's clear that fun. doesn't have the attitude or carefree nature of most "indie" groups, which leads me to...
Broken Social Scene
Now that's what I'm talking about. This is what I'd actually call "indie" in the sense that it's more lax in its production and its feel. Broken Social Scene is a beautiful mess, filled with contagious energy and plenty of experimentation. The large size of Broken Social Scene helps make the entire album vary and sound more interesting, cycling through multiple vocalists, (such as Kevin Drew, Leslie Feist, Emily Haines and Amy Millan) and musical styles. Unlike their previous album, however, Broken Social Scene has a very unified sound in comparison, for better or worse.
Starting out strong with songs like "Our Faces Split the Coast in Half," "Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day)," and "7/4 (Shoreline)," the rest of the album is also incredibly strong, though it seems to sort of dip in the middle and peak again at the end with "It's All Gonna Break."
Songs like "Ibi Dreams of Pavement" and "It's All Gonna Break" are extremely energetic and, along with the careless loose production, this is the charm of Broken Social Scene as a whole. Other songs like "Swimmers" are more subdued, but are equally lovely. A lot of the songs, while mostly guitar-driven, tend to flirt around with electronic and almost psychedelic elements, as well as having some strings and horns thrown in there somewhere, and this adds to the diversity of the album. Broken Social Scene's affinity for writing strange and often innuendo-filled lyrics is incredibly apparent here; with a song titled "Handjobs for the Holidays," I'd say that's pretty undeniable.
The only real flaw to the album is how unified the sound is to the point where some songs will pass by quite quickly and on the first listen, I had no memory of songs like "Superconnected" and "Bandwitch" because of how it just sort of streamed by me. But after further listening, I can safely say that all of the songs are incredibly listenable and solid with many highlights, and this is definitely one of my favorite indie albums I've listened to.
Speaking of Broken Social Scene and Feist, Feist's latest album, Metals, has really impressed me and changed my perspective of Feist as a solo artist and songwriter. Frankly, I had always been pretty indifferent about Feist and her music, as it seemed pretty dull and commercialized because of her involvement in Apple ads and all that jazz. And then Metals came out after her musical hiatus and I decided to give her another chance to redeem herself. Mission accomplished.
Metals shows a great deal of maturity, a great step from her previous album The Reminder, which was mostly pretty sappy and introverted. The arrangements are intricate and excellent, the instrumentation is great and unique and her vocals are soothing and smooth. Feist does an incredible job of combining aspects of old and new styles of music in her songs, resulting in this remarkably curious folk/pop sound that has the capability to convey as much energy as any other rock song. And she does all this while keeping the entire album sounding just as personal as her last effort, except now it's more sophisticated and it's grown; it's come a long way from "So Sorry" and "1234."
Overall, Metals was an impressive, pleasant surprise that shows that Feist can perform outside of Broken Social Scene as a unique singer/songwriter, and I'm very excited to hear what she'll release next and see her evolved sound develop further.