The songs are not big in the sense that they are loud or should be considered arena rock. On the contrary, Aim And Ignite is sincere, while aptly making it fun to follow the rollercoaster of emotions. The songs are theatrical because they have little constraint. They move freely — up, down and diagonal.
Right from the start with “Be Calm,” it is easy to see that the album will be an engaging ride. The song starts out with the quiet but sensational sounds of a violin and accordion, and grows with a guitar and Ruess’ panicked voice. As soon as it seems as if the song has established a smooth flow, the music halts, speeds up, and then slows down again. Horns and bells are added as the song reaches an epiphany, making it seem like the listener can see fireworks. Meanwhile, Ruess sounds like he is having an anxiety attack as he sings about living life slowly and reassures that everything will turn out fine, regardless of how hard things may seem.
Even though the emotions are magnified, a lot of wisdom lies within Aim And Ignite. From “Walking The Dog,” which is so chipper that fans could start a conga line when heard live, to the soft “Light A Roman Candle With Me,” which almost sounds like a Christmas song and produces images of ice skating and couples frolicking in the snow, the album has a positive outlook. On “The Gambler,” Ruess spells it out by saying that people shouldn’t worry too much and should just enjoy life, with the lyrics, “Slow down/ We’ve got time left to be lazy/ We should live until we die.”
With Ruess on vocals, it takes time to separate fun. from The Format. The approach to songwriting seems to be very similar to the process on The Format’s Dog Problems; each song has tension, a resolution, and works its way to a big finale. Antonoff and Dost’s influences are not so obvious, either. Both being vocalists, they could have made a bigger mark on the album. However, listening to Aim And Ignite for what it is, a captivating pop album, one cannot help but smile and enjoy the show.