One of the beauties with The Naked And Famous is that they boast their own unique sound. You’d be hard pressed to find another synth-pop band that’s often mistaken for the New Zealand natives. It’s a distinctive sound they’ve crafted since their debut album, Passive Me, Aggressive You and one that rapidly grew popular back at the start of the decade. However in the ensuing years the quintet took a step in another direction, some would say backward, with their sound and sophomore release Rolling Waves. The album took a subdued and stripped-back approach, divergent from the melodies that created the beloved tracks: “Young Blood and “Punching In A Dream.”
Fast forward to now, The Naked And Famous revived the sound that captured the globe in 2010 with Simple Forms, their third studio album.
“Higher” opens the record and quickly fulfills everyone’s desire. In the band’s time off between 2013 and now, a lot transpired – loss, heartache, the dissolution of relationships – all of which is rolled into the leadoff track. It’s an emotional song – one that unleashes both pain and passion. Alisa Xayalith’s skyscraper vocals collide with the enchanting synths. The lyrics: “Tonight we raise the dead, tonight we bury this in fire/ Under the shape of years, and the weight that brought us here,” reveal the hardships that seem to have recreated the band’s identity, who now stand together stronger than ever.
As Xayalith stated in a press release:
There’s pain and passion behind this art.
The idea flows into the second track,”The Water Beneath You.” It’s a bit more aggressive in its approach, as if The Naked And Famous borrowed a page from Chvrches’ playbook. The heavy drums and upbeat melody get the blood pumping and Xayalith’s vocals compliment the sound beautifully. It’s a track that will quickly become a staple in TNAF’s setlist on tours for years to come.
“Last Forever” presents one of the vocal high points in Simple Forms. As the track fades out after four minutes, Xayalith and Thom Powers’ voices fuse showcasing the duo’s musicianship and chemistry. Even without the arresting synth-pop in the background, the vocalists soar, higher than before.
“Laid Low,” arguably the most superlative song on the album, and “The Runners” packs a powerful 1-2 punch on the backside of Simple Forms. The vulnerable lyrics in the former, “Take me home, I’m learning to live with ghosts,” harp back to the emotion that’s jam-packed and buried in Simple Forms – released upon pressing play, while “The Runners” offers a pleasant, softer surprise.
When The Naked And Famous broke on the scene in 2010, they shone as the decade’s synth-pop revivalists. Simple Forms is reminiscent of that time – danceable, bright and memorable. At the core, Simple Forms boasts supreme songwriting and vocal prowess mixed with captivating tunes that just sink into the subconscious, creating a mindset that’s filled with ecstasy and bliss.