Given that many of the songs were meant to be on fun.’s next release, Ruess’ solo jaunt begins where Some Nights, his band’s breakthrough album, left off. The short “Grand Romantic (Intro)” utilizes the Queen-esque operatic harmonies fun. is known for before launching into the epic “AhHa,” which samples a couplet from the band’s hit single “Some Nights.” Lead single “Nothing Without Love” leaves one of the final marks of Ruess’ band’s past; the last grandiose statement on the album before shifting to more subdued tracks.
“Take It Back,” featuring soft guitar by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, is a simple standout, followed by the upbeat Eighties pop of “You Light My Fire.” Beck helps keep “What This World Is Coming To” a bit folky, even as it ventures into fuzzy indie-pop territory Ruess has grown accustomed to.
The melancholic “Great Big Storm” and title track both utilize big strings and become romantically theatrical. The latter reuses the choral harmonies of the intro, giving a sense of finality before the album’s coda of “Harsh Light” and “Brightside.”
While “Harsh Light” retains the cinematic structure of “Grand Romantic,” “Brightside” follows in the piano ballad footsteps of “Moment” and “It Only Gets Much Worse.” “Moment” and “Brightside” have a more optimistic outlook, but “It Only Gets Much Worse” is the one truly sad song in a collection of odes to love and romance. “I didn’t mean to let you go/I didn’t mean to bruise but I lost control,” Ruess sings. “What didn’t mean a thing destroyed us both, darling.”
Much of the subject matter on Grand Romantic — and Ruess’ motivation for going solo during fun.’s break — stems from his relationship with designer Charlotte Ronson. “It felt so believable; I was saying what I was thinking,” Ruess told Rolling Stone. “This is the first time I’ve been comfortable in my own skin, and it’s with someone who’s comfortable in their own skin. The reason I’m making a solo album is because it’s the first time.”
Fun. reassured fans just before Ruess’ solo announcement that they were not breaking up, but merely focusing on their respective solo projects. Grand Romantic will be released via Fueled By Ramen on June 16th.