Album Review: Nate Ruess, ‘Grand Romantic’
It can be scary to do things on your own. However, Nate Ruess explores that and other emotions on his solo debut album, Grand Romantic. Fans of fun.'s 2012 album, Some Nights, will find this to be an extension of where Ruess' feelings have gone and just how deeply he wants you to tap into them.
An inspired choral introduction eases you into the album and it's like being on a nice ferry ride until you realize the boat you're on is about take a steep drop over a waterfall with the single, "AhHa," which features a whiny yet purposeful laugh on the hook that can be a bit off-putting. As the album title suggests, Grand Romantic touches on the ideas of falling in love, being heartbroken and moving on, which is evident on tracks like the piano-driven ballad "Moment" and the light and bouncy finger-snapping tune "You Light My Fire," which sounds like it belongs in a John Hughes film.
Ruess flexes his folk rock side with the help of Beck on "What This World is Coming To," and placed amongst all the piano-driven and anthemic songs on Grand Romantic, it seems to come from left field. Although that might not seem to mesh well with the rest of the pop songs on this album, it gives listeners another taste of Ruess' sound and adds to the album. "AhHa" is another one of those other tracks that sounds a little left of center but has a powerful message as Ruess delves into the throws of dealing with depression and suicide. Sure, it might sound like a downer as a song. But placing it at the beginning of the album does catch your attention the moment you hit play.
Although Ruess proves he's put his heart out there and he doesn't disappoint when it comes to his vocals, the album starts to fall flat when you start to realize how similar the songs sound (aside from a few power-packed curve balls here and there like "Great Big Storm"). Sure, it makes sense to go with a theme, but leaning on the piano-driven slow and sometimes sleepy ballad will hold us over for a while. But what about the long haul? the similarities could push others to overlook the meaning and emotional power of tracks like "Take It Back" or "It Only Gets Worse." The similarities can make it possible to overlook the meaning and emotion behind them. But if they're your kind of songs, then Grand Romantic might be the perfect soundtrack to your summer.