#8 – fun. – SOME NIGHTS [spotify]

(feat. track – “All Alone” [spotify])

What is there to say about Some Nights that hasn’t been said? It was one of 2012’s most successful albums, racking up Grammy nominations like they’re going out of style (which, well…) and moving units for almost a year; even now, it’s still selling a steady ~20k/week, and should go platinum shortly after receiving the Grammy bump (not to mention the additional 8 million+ singles it’s sold), all in an age where nothing much sells and nothing sells much. Both “We Are Young” and “Some Nights” have been near-ubiquitous on radio, TV, the internet, and probably your toaster oven if it can hum a tune.

If anything, I think what’s maybe gotten lost under the endless hype is that Some Nights is a legitimately interesting record, one that embraces pop by pulling the center toward it as much as it pushes toward the middle, an album with not only great songwriting but also the sort of little quirks that only bloom on repeated listens. Pop requires a degree of immediacy; Some Nights delivers, while still leaving bits for the listener to untangle.

Most of the chatter around the (not huge, but big enough) shift in sound from 2009’s Aim And Ignite (which made my Best Of The Rest that year) to Some Nights has focused on either 1) Nate Ruess’ artistic growth or 2) the introduction of producer Jeff Bhasker into the fold. And it’s probably fair to presume that the hip-hop beats and liberal use of autotune are the result of #2’s encouragement of #1.  But to my ear, much of what’s new here (especially on the album’s first half, i.e. the part with all the singles) actually sounds like it was injected directly from guitarist Jack Antonoff’s one-time main focus Steel Train, specifically their last, self-titled, album (whose lead single “Bullet” made my Best Of 2010 Mix).

To that end, the anthemic, non-verbal chorus hook of “Some Nights” might have been cut from lost tape of the “Bullet” sessions; the unhinged tones of its chaotic solo, from “Children Of The 90’s”. (Also, any live version of “Kill Monsters In The Rain”, from 2007’s Trampoline. Try this one on, for starters.) “All Alright” and “Behavior” basically share an intro. The skittering refrain of “It Gets Better” is some distant cousin, twice removed, of “Touch Me Bad”; the jaunty perk of its verses echoes the herky-jerk of “You Are Dangerous”. More than any individual track, even, it’s the experimental mood of Some Nights as a whole, the instinct to push what, at their base, would be very straightforward (and radio-friendly) songs, to a slightly weird place. Ultimately, if you’re looking for sonic precedents to Some Nights, I think you’re more likely to find them in Antonoff’s prior work than in Ruess’, or in Bhasker’s.

Regardless of from whence its inspiration derives, the end result is the best work either Ruess or Antonoff have produced yet (come at me, Format bros). Some Nights’ perfectly balanced mix of pop melody and creative whimsy has kept the album from turning stale over the course of the year for me, and while I admit to being burned out on “We Are Young” (which, frankly, I never quite loved to begin with), I’m at the point where I think I can pretty well state that I will never get sick of “Some Nights”, or “Carry On” (not to mention non-single cuts like “It Gets Better” and “One Foot” and the excellent bonus track “Out On The Town”) – if it hasn’t happened yet, the odds have got to be pretty good, no? Ten months after Some Nights’ release, and I’m not only still enjoying it, I’m steadily enjoying it more and more.