The Naked and Famous
In Rolling Waves
I was familiar with one track (first heard on the underrated popcorn series Suits) from The Naked and Famous before delving into their second proper release, In Rolling Waves. Based on that one track, “The Sun”, I kind of pegged The Naked and Famous as a less lo-fi ripoff of The xx. There is the girl/boy vocalists interplay. There is also the electronic foundation to the music. But, I have to put aside the notion of The Naked and Famous as simply an opportunistic band following in the success of better acts. With In Rolling Waves, The Naked and Famous aren’t reinventing the wheel, but they are proving to be accomplished artists who can produce an awfully slick album. There is more than enough for their particular brand of electronic pop rock in this genre that is getting more and more crowded.
The Naked and Famous differentiate themselves from the pack the most with the quieter moments on the record; becoming a bit more organic in their sound. The second half of “What We Want” breaks down into an beautiful acoustic-driven duet between Thom Powers and Alisa Xayalith. The acoustic pieces throughout the record don’t inhibit the pace, instead finding a pleasant balance with the fuzzy guitar riffs and synthesizers consuming most of the remainder.
The high point of that electronic/fuzzy guitar combo comes early in the second track, “Hearts Like Ours”. Xayalith does her best Karin Dreijer Andersson (she of The Knife and Fever Ray fame) impression, and delivers a performance that made me imagine The Knife if they were shooting for a Billboard Top 100 track. That is not a slight to The Naked and Famous. I’m just pointing out that you may be seeing a lot more of this band in commercials, on TV, and everywhere else you can imagine. Not saying it will happen, just that they have set themselves up for mainstream success.
Another highlight for me was the song I can only describe as two lovely voices combining to sing some pretty bleak shit. “The Mess” borders on too emo, but keeps it clean by being consistently negative throughout. It’s kind of like a super downer Stars song. “There’s nothing left in this place but a reason to leave” is one of the more poignant lyrics, even if it does reek of the melodramatic. The soaring guitar riff to close out the track couples with the tone to leave you a little shaken.
I could go through several more strong tracks, but I should probably get to the weaknesses of the album. Simply put, there are none that are glaring. It can get melodramatic at times (as mentioned above), but to that I say “get over yourself.” The production is just so pristine, with all the songs having a very natural beginning, middle, and end. And while there may be some overindulgence in the ideas conveyed, the accompanying music is always well-balanced. In Rolling Waves may not have the shattering highs of some of the best records of 2013, but it avoids any serious lows. Enjoy it for what it is, and you’ll do just that; enjoy it.
Can’t Miss: “Hearts Like Ours”, “We Are Leaving”, “What We Want”
Can’t Hit: none in particular