Nothing could truly prepare the New Zealand synth quintet for the sheer fanaticism that seemed to surround the 2010 release of their debut album, Passive Me, Aggressive You. In addition to the new found fame, the half-million selling debut spawned the international hit single ‘Young Blood’, a track which seemed to be on constant repeat. A magnetic, hyperventilating attempt, The Naked And Famous managed to deliver an unrestrained melodious bomb, a weapon of mass media destruction, obliterating anything offered by rival groups. Racking up well over 25 million YouTube and Vevo hits, ‘Young Blood’ went on to become a Gold Record in the US and Canada, and gained Platinum status in New Zealand and Australia. However, three years on, the Auckland group have adopted a more contemplative mentality on their eagerly anticipated follow up, In Rolling Waves. Last year, after almost twenty four months of continuous touring, the New Zealanders settled their weary souls in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles to begin recording twelve fresh tracks. So, you ask, how does this album compare with their career-making first attempt? Rather well, actually.
‘A Stillness’ opens with unrelenting promises of a new beginning, a new chapter is unveiled as pulsating synths devolve into delicious acoustic strums. Whereas tracks on the previous album were firmly nestled indefinitely in between searing chords and granular guitars, ‘A Stillness’ has a more methodical approach. A fresh, sharp sound, we are treated to something far more controlled and purposeful. Opening with a measured purpose towards the band’s unique electro-explosions – the acoustics help us navigate our way, taking us on a journey that is both pleasurable and utterly absorbing. It’s rare that you find a band that can allure so easily. The Naked and Famous happen to be one of those rarities. The very instant this album opens, instantaneously, you know that this is music that cannot and will not grow tiresome. Experimenting with a post punk alternative style, this is music that embodies the sheer influence of 1980s pop culture.Alisa Xayalith’s nostalgic vocal range is ever prominent on ‘Hearts Like Ours’; the second track serves up an amalgamation of incisive choruses and malleable, resonant hums. Reacquainting us with the beguiling world of electro-rock, The Naked and Famous continue to impress with the proficiently layered ‘Waltz.’ If there’s one thing these guys do with unrefined poise, its fashion an anthemic, uproarious chorus that can stimulate audiences from Auckland to Amsterdam. This track simply oozes class; what with Xayalith adopting the role of teacher and educating us on life’s chaotic struggles – “climbing up the walls with you” and “half awake and almost dead” – before acquainting us with the capricious auditory highs from the band’s debut. Like a complex molecule comprised of many atoms, unpredictable melodic twists are masked by rhythmic drums, and eloquently hushed vocals hover over a progression of bass lines. Mirroring the dance itself, the aptly named ‘Waltz’ stridently carries the listener through each passage, one step at a time. Midway through the track, uncontrollably, you will find yourself in the midst of manoeuvring but a reassuring emergence of melodies solidified by the choral harmony displayed by Powers and Xayalith.
‘To Move With Purpose’ paints a rather eerie portrait; with the planet in a state of confusion, countless embittered individuals are experiencing unparalleled lows. The track itself is somewhat disguised by a Mad Max fashioned haze of electronic fusion. ‘Grow Old’ takes the pulse rate back down and fists are once again unclenched, subdued vocals surrender to a calming, passive expression of acceptance – “I wasn’t supposed to feel ashamed.” With fellow vocalist/guitarist Thom Powers’ proclaiming “I’m sorry to explain how you fucked it up again”, the track mesmerises as synth odyssey reigns supreme in the struggle for a more reserved confession. ‘Rolling Waves’ takes Xayalith’s unhurried, plaintive vocals and rips them asunder with persevering, resolute guitar chords – only to drop the intensity through the introduction of a melody provided by a distant piano. Imitating the movement of waves, the latter half of the track ebbs and flows in a sea of tranquillity.
TNAF’s second album has seen the band progress further down the retro path of electronica, all the time nurturing a more sonic sense of calm. Lyrically established, the group still echo emotions of being disillusioned with the world they live in, from the planet at large to the musical dynasty created by the five members. A buoyant collection of countless possibilities, In Rolling Waves presents the listener with a fresh perspective essential for the evolution of Oceania’s finest five piece.