Alt Tuesday: fun.

It has been a long time since I have been so excited about a new release the week that it is released. The norm for bands these days is to continue re-releasing their first album with a twist on their lyrics and the rhythm of each track. But fun. has clearly gone against the grain and decided to be ambitious with its second release, Some Nights (released Feb. 21 on Fueled by Ramen).

The first track, “Some Nights Intro,” does an unbelievable job setting the tone, building gradually with Freddie Mercury-style vocals. The song comes to a climactic ending with lead singer Nate Ruess confidently hitting notes that are no where near the register of most singers. This leads directly into what I presume will be the second single, “Some Nights.” An anthemic track layered with a plethora of vocal harmonies, “Some Nights” keeps the energy of the album at an incredible high.

The lead single comes in the three spot (as on every other album that anyone’s ever made… ever) and features R&B singer Janelle Monae. Although the song has an undeniable hook, the cameo by Monae is very much unrecognizable and understated.  However, the chorus has been resonating over the airwaves for a couple of months now and there’s a reason for that.

Successful genre experimentation is one extremely unique quality of Some Nights. Stand out tracks include “Why Am I The One,” laced with clever lyricism and honesty that makes the listener believe the sincerity of Ruess’ heartbreak. It ends with a wonderful, fluttering string arrangement that gave me chills the first time I heard it. “All Alone” experiments with a hip-hop beat in the verses and “One Step” uses a big horn section to drive the song from start to end.

After several listens through Some Nights, I had difficulty picking out my favorite track because there were simply so many strong candidates. fun. has done something truly ambitious by experimenting with different genres and creating an album that is truly unique in an otherwise stale field of pop rock artists.

For the week of February 28, 2012

  1. The Black Keys: El Camino
  2. Tennis: Young and Old
  3. Tycho: Dive
  4. Frank Sinatra: The Best of The Best
  5. Dr. Dog: Be the Void
  6. Twink: Itsy Bits & Bubbles
  7. Black Belles: The Black Belles
  8. Atlas Sound: Parallax
  9. R.E.M.: Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage, 1982-2011
  10. Markus D: Shoshin

Paperhouse: On ZZK Records

The future of music is blasting out of the sound system at Zizek Club in Buenos Aires, Argentina. DJs and producers are mashing up cumbia (a popular Colombian genre), reggae, hip-hop, and electronic music, creating a space in which musicians can work with new ideas and giving them the chance to show what they’re doing in the current music scene.

Zizek Club — arguably the epicenter of the borderline avant-garde transformation of the Latin American sound of cumbia — has created a whirlwind of energy in just a few years, spawning the acclaimed record label ZZK Records.

Established in 2008 by producer Grant Dull, ZZK Records now manages 11 “new cumbia” groups. ZZK belongs to a new movement of rhythms born out of cities that are being reinterpreted using electronic music to create something new, fresh, and fun. Baile Funk from Brazil and Kuduro from Angola were popularized by M.I.A. and Buraka Som Sistema, respectively, evidencing the rise of this global movement of sonic reinterpretation.

The movement is exemplified by Tremor, an Argentine trio on ZZK Records. Tremor bridges generations, genres, and geography through technology to produce its signature style. The group’s sound is equal parts electronic music and native drum. It owes as much to anthropology as it does to popular music.

Today, ZZK is home to the psychedelic cumbia of Fauna, the experimental beats of Chancha Via Circuito, and the hard-hitting cumbia hypnotics of El Remolon, among other artists. To experience the ZZK sound, the best place to start is its newest release Amazonico Gravitante by Argentinian artist Mati Zundel.

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