Sometimes the bands and albums we love the most are found by accident. Such is the case with The Naked and Famous. I was making a beer run on a Friday night in August of 2012 when “Young Blood” came out of my car speakers. Enthralled, I had to sit in the parking lot and finish the song. Here was a band unlike any I’d heard before, yet something about them just felt familiar. Just over a year later their debut album Passive Me, Aggressive You is still in heavy rotation both in the car and at work. So, you can imagine my excitement at getting my hands on In Rolling Waves, the new album due out September 17.
We start off with “A Stillness” which features some fast and furious acoustic guitar strumming from Thom Powers that mixes well with the keys and complements Alisa Xayalith’s powerful voice perfectly. Up next is what WAS a contender for my Song Of the Year, first single “Hearts Like Ours”. I say was because the race is over. I’m calling it. It IS the Song Of the Year 2013, no question. Since July 23 I have listened to it every single day multiple times, and it is pure magic. The song begins and ends quietly, but in between it is a wall of sound with one of the most fantastic arrangements I’ve ever heard. Don’t believe me? Click on the video below and tell me you’re not impressed!
“Waltz” has a sound that’s reminiscent of when Depeche Mode was still making good music (20 years ago?), and title track “Rolling Waves” is far and away my other favorite. Alisa’s lilting vocals on this one take me someplace that feels like I’m floating, and I find myself getting lost in the feeling. “The Mess” is a call and response duet between Thom and Alisa, and is made even more powerful by the fact that they have been dating since before they were in this band together. It feels real, and when it all comes crashing in at 2:23 it hits with a vengeance.
Thom uses a watery vocal effect for “Grow Old”, a slower song with simple drum and key arrangements. The sparseness is what makes it so good, no need for the kitchen sink here. The band set out to make a record that could be played live without any backing tracks, something they’ve long eschewed anyway, and songs like this one, as well as the two-minute “Golden Girl” will certainly benefit from a live setting. When Alisa asks, “Am I your Golden Girl?” all I wanna do is scream, “YIS!!”. “I Kill Giants” is a reconstructed memory of dealing with the loss of her mother at age seven, and despite being up-tempo, it still tugs at the heartstrings, and is another highlight.
“What We want” is another acoustic-flavored number once again complemented beautifully by the band, and the harmonies on the chorus are sung to perfection. “We Are Leaving” is an atmospheric song which showcases some busy drumming from Jesse Wood, and the vocal harmony intro for “To Move With Purpose” steers us toward a crescendo that is almost as haunting as it is pulsing. Disc closer “A Small Reunion” is just Alisa, Thom, and a guitar for much of the song. Again…simple, yet effective. The band members come in, one by one, and a simple phrase is repeated as the group plays on and on.
With In Rolling Waves, The Naked and Famous have crafted a near-perfect follow-up to Passive Me, Aggressive You. Are the songs as instantly memorable at first listen as the ones on its predecessor? Not quite. This is an album that will have some jumping out at you right away, and some sneaking up on you, but rest assured, by third listen I was hooked on all of them, and I imagine you will be, too.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM