Alternative and pop music was in a different place in 2011 when The Naked and Famous’ debut U.S. album, Passive Me, Aggressive You came out. Really, music in general was a lot different then than is now. I’d like to think that the New Zealand based band had a lot to do with that. They didn’t shape the sounds of bands like Atlas Genius and a slew of other indie/hipster/sampler bands that came after them, but we’ll give them a lot of credit for of the style trending. Passive Me, Aggressive You was a terrific album. that’s why the kiwi band gets credit. Now, the landscape of music has changed substantially and there are literally at least a hundred bands out right now that make music comparable to The Naked And Famous, that’s why the band really needed to step up their game for their sophomore album for Republic Records, In Rolling Waves.
This new album from The Naked And Famous is a different animal than Passive Me, Aggressive You. For starters, Alisa Xayalith, the band’s main vocalist sounds drastically different on this record compared to the last record. A huge part of the last record were vocal effects on her vocal track. That goes for a number of different songs on the record. The hit “Young Blood” and underrated songs like “Punching in a Dream” and “No Way,” just to name a few, all feature a filter on the vocal track. It sounds amazing on an album, and I’m not sure why they went away from it In Rolling Waves. They do that in places on the new album, just not nearly as much. The vocals don’t undercut the entire record, they just make it The Naked And Famous sound drastically different. That’s not the only thing that stands different. The instrumentation is a lot more organic with this record, and while the samples and programming definitely are present, there’s a constant tug and pull between organic instrumentation and generated beats. Sometimes it’s off-putting, and sometimes it resonates. The same goes for the band’s harmonies with Xayalith and Thom Powers. When they clash on songs like “What We Want” and “The Mess,” then this album really connects with it’s audience. It’s actually when Xayalith is the only thing on for a little too long when In Rolling Waves gets dull.
In Rolling Waves is more of an album than Passive Me, Aggressive You. That’s a fact. That said, the singles on the band’s label debut are better than on this new record. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t in awe with this record on the first lesson, but it definitely grows on you. It’s dull in spots, and plenty of songs lull on for far too long. There are problems like that all over with this record, but then there are moments of brilliance like the programming on “I Kill Giants” or the accenting guitar on that same song or even the duel vocals on “The Mess.” There are plenty of moments like that all over this record. So while, the new album from The Naked and Famous remains a touch uneven, it’s not without it’s genius.