Before the stadium anthems of Fun came the softer noise of Anathallo
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In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.
In 2012, when pop-rock trio Fun was blowing up into the type of minivan-rattling act that any member of your family might name-check, I found it hard to begrudge the band its newfound stardom. Firstly because I’m trying leave that type of “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” train of thought to a younger, more obnoxious version of myself; secondly because I was aware that those three dudes put in their dues before moving on to pen the piano-pounding soundtrack for YOLO Nation. Anytime “We Are Young” or “Some Nights” encroached on a car ride or were introduced on live TV by Louis C.K., the first thought that came to my mind was, “I interviewed that keyboard player when he was buying groceries once.”
In our respective past lives as a multi-instrumentalist for the chamber-folk ensemble Anathallo and an obnoxious college journalist, Fun’s Andrew Dost and I had a quick and cordial phone conversation to preview an Anathallo performance near my alma mater, Michigan State University. However, the conversation could’ve just as easily turned to “Dokkoise House (With Face Covered),” the sweetly noisy slice of Steve Reich-via-Sufjan Stevens that got me interested in Anathallo in the first place. Released during the heady, post-Illinois, pre-Neon Bible period of the mid-’00s, “Dokkoise House” is a time capsule from an era when cramming as many musicians onstage as possible didn’t only seem like a good idea, it sounded like the best idea—though the way the song flits between sections led by electric guitar, glockenspiel, horns, and chanted vocals points toward the unsustainability of the I’m From Barcelona model. Still, there’s a magnetism to the song’s scruffy spontaneity, an unpolished dress rehearsal for the spit-shined arena anthems one member of Anathallo’s joyful little flock would make. As long as there’s a shred of the expansive “Dokkoise House” sound behind the songs that earn Fun Grammys and chart-topping status, it’ll be hard for me to get angry about the band’s overexposure.