Release Date: Sep 17, 2013
Record label: Republic
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
You may remember this Auckland quartet's MGMT-aping megahit Young Blood from 2011. Its mewing "yeah, yeahs" slunk onto the promos for Channel 4's teen drama Skins, where it provided a soundtrack to the cast sexing and running through shopping centres, and generally experiencing teenage angst. The Naked's new album continues this emotional sync-department dream, mining more of the dark side of electro with Numan-nodding metallic synths, Paramore-sized powerchords and sugary vocals.
New Zealand's the Naked and Famous made a big neon-colored splash in 2010 with their full-length debut album, Passive Me Aggressive You. That album showcased the group's catchy, dance-oriented sound that mixed gigantic analog synths with the group's dual male/female lead vocals from guitarist Thom Powers and keyboardist Alisa Xayalith. The group's 2013 sophomore effort, In Rolling Waves, still features Powers and Xayalith, but finds the band experimenting with a more moody, somewhat serious tone that makes room for some welcome acoustic guitar.
Their debut saw The Naked And Famous widely compared to MGMT, but something about the way Thom Powers wore a leather jacket suggested he wanted to be New Zealand’s answer to U2. With its vast sonic horizons, throbbing electronics and chugging guitars, ‘In Rolling Waves’ may put that plan in motion, albeit with Alisa Xayalith’s cute-as-a-kitten vocals softening the edges. The result of rock band power-move (moving to LA) and life experience (a broken relationship), it’s a self-important album, but an accomplished one.
With singles like the infectious Young Blood and Punching In A Dream, it was no surprise that The Naked And Famous’ debut Passive Me, Aggressive You went down well with critics and fans alike. Capitalising on the exposure provided by their nomination for the BBC Sound Of 2011, the album had already gone straight to Number 1 in their homeland of New Zealand before its release in the UK in 2011. The quintet’s anthemic synth pop was highly engrossing and while it was not necessarily doing anything new, songs such as Young Blood – with its fist-pumping melody and sense of teenage angst – were irresistible.
The sugar rushin’ electro-rock of the Naked & Famous’ 2010 invigoratingly alive début Passive Me, Aggressive You had ‘Contender’ stamped all over it. Fronted by Alisa Xayalith and Thom “No relation to Kenny” Powers, this crafty Kiwi quintet seemingly saved from the fire all the precious things MGMT had so ceremoniously torched between Oracular Spectacular and Congratulations. Y’know, “Let’s jump on the bed ‘til it breaks” joy, “What does THIS button do?” wonder and starry-eyed pop so blessed with the mercurial mojo of melody it could unite punks and pensioners in sweet harmony.
The 2010 release of The Naked and Famous’ debut Passive Me, Aggressive You was accompanied by the relentless playing of ‘Young Blood’ on Gossip Girl and in Topshop stores up and down the country. It was a record that, if lungs made music, often sounded like it was hyperventilating as an adrenalin fuelled and often energetically unbridled melodic bomb. But after three years away, the breaths have slowed and developed a meditative openness as the Auckland quintet return with their second album, In Rolling Waves.
If you pay attention to the pages of DIY, you’ll already know all about ‘Hearts Like Ours’. The first track to be taken from The Naked And Famous’ second album, it’s that most common cliche - the perfect summer anthem. This time, though, it really is. All air punching synths against a rainbow sky, it stands head and shoulders above its compatriots on ‘In Rolling Waves’.
You will hear few, if any, records this year as immediate as the sophomore outing from this New Zealand quintet. Building on the ultra-catchy 2011 single “Young Blood,” plus a slew of tracks that have been featured on TV soundtracks, In Rolling Waves accurately describes the Naked And Famous' sound: an epic swirl of synth-pop revivalism and arena-rock hooks that keeps crashing through your speakers until you‘re submerged. Majestic creations like the leadoff cut, “A Stillness" (which betrays its Laurel Canyon origins with driving acoustic guitars), “Hearts Like Ours” and the lovely, U2-tinged title track, match big ambitions with equally big results.