I’ve told some of you this story before but I don’t care because it’s my party and I’ll repeat myself if I want to. I discovered THE NAKED AND FAMOUS 100% by accident in 2012 while headed to Wal-Mart on a hot August night in Red Oak, TX for a beer run. When “Young Blood” off the debut album Passive Me, Aggressive You came pouring out of the car speakers I was in another world, and I sat in there rooted to the spot until the song ended. A new obsession had begun, and I was determined to learn everything I could about this band. Less than a year later A&GS was up and running, and we were invited to not only review sophomore effort In Rolling Waves, but also cover not one, but TWO of their concerts in Dallas on the ensuing tour.
So now, here we are, just over three years removed from In Rolling Waves and the delightful synth-pop band from New Zealand has seen fit to give Simple Forms (out now, Somewhat Damaged) to the masses. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it at first, but that’s only because this is an album that doesn’t grab and goose you right away like the previous two did. No, this record is one that seeps into your head, but once it’s there it will take up residence for a while. I won’t say it’s more thinky or anything like that because there is tremendous depth in all of their songs.
Opener and first single “Higher” is exactly the kind of greatness we’ve come to expect from this band. Musically it’s downright busy, especially on the hooks, drummer Jesse Wood, keyboard player Aaron Short, and bassist David Beadle hitting all the right marks and ticking off the proper boxes. Alisa Xayalith’s vocals are superb, and Thom Powers’ guitar gives the song just enough edge. “The Water Beneath You” is one of those captivating numbers where Xayalith’s lilting vocals take you on a journey. Where we’re headed, who knows? Just follow that voice! “My Energy” has Powers on lead vocals, and the interplay between him and Xayalith is natural, never forced. There’s a key change towards the end that truly showcases just how big his range is, too.
The upbeat numbers continue with “Last Forever”, a glorious romp that has big bass pounding up your wazoo for most of it before fading to just Alisa and Thom and an acoustic guitar, perhaps giving us an idea how the song started. “Losing Our Control” has a lush, gorgeous melody to go with the vocals that both singers lay down, while “Backslide” is unlike anything I’ve heard them do before. It’s kind of dark and brooding, despite having a rather noisy chorus. “Laid Low” is another absolute gem, and definitely an album favorite. This song was made for driving somewhere, anywhere, especially if things are going bad on that particular day. “Take me home, I’m learning to live with ghosts” sings Xayalith, and it’s hauntingly beautiful.
Guitars are front and center for “The Runners”, with the synth still there, but this song is clearly a six-string thing first and foremost. “Falling” is really interesting because Powers totally shows a side of him vocally that I sure as Hell never saw coming, and while closer “Rotten” absolutely sounds like it could have been on the last record, it fits perfectly on this one. It’s a great way to end another stellar album from THE NAKED AND FAMOUS, a band who quite frankly is one of the most refreshing I have ever heard in my 43 years on this planet. I really can’t wait till their Philly show on November 14. I will be there, screaming, dancing, laughing, and crying my eyes out, and it will be GLORIOUS!! Pick up Simple Forms today, because it is a much-needed addition to your TNAF collection.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Laid Low”, “Higher”, “The Water Beneath You”, “Rotten”, “Last Forever”