Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Naked and Famous - Passive Me Aggresive You

Never believe the hype unless you’re a sucker. Hype only exists for bands that are merely trendy and not necessarily talented.  They are a band of the moment and nothing else. Luckily for us, one highly publicized band doesn’t fall into that category. They are the hottest band to emerge from New Zealand since Flight of the Conchords (Okay, they are a comedy duo, but music is a huge part of their act so cut me some slack, gosh). After releasing two EPs, This Machine and No Light, The Naked and Famous released their debut album Passive Me, Aggressive You.

Even though some of their songs are extremely popular and have been featured on hit shows like The Vampire Diaries and Chuck, not too many people actually know the name The Naked and Famous. Besides possessing a cool creative name, this awesome alternative band boasts an impressive lineup dedicated to creating compelling catchy tunes. The Naked and Famous are absolutely addicting and are similar to bands like Cults, Foster the People, Grouplove, Joy Formidable, Passion Pit, Phantogram, Too Door Cinema Club, The Vaccines, and Young the Giant.

Recently, the band won several New Zealand Music Awards including Best Group, Single of the Year and Breakthrough Artist while their album Passive Me, Aggressive You won Album of the Year and Best Alternative Album. Needless to say, if that’s not worthy of your attention than you’re really missing out.

The Naked and Famous are comprised of Aaron Short (electronics), Alisa Xayalith (vocals and keyboards), David Beadle (bass), Jesse Wood (drums) and Thom Powers (vocals and guitars). Scattered throughout Passive Me, Aggressive You there are various genres represented with dance punk, shoegaze, sythnpop, pure psychedelic and alternative all making an appearance on this indie rock album. The variety of music styles featured on Passive Me, Aggressive You showcase the immense talent by this unique group.

Passive Me, Aggressive You kicks off with “All of This.” The dual vocals accompanied by the infectious drum beats are more than enough to ignite this delightful debut. The third single and second track, “Punching In A Dream” oozes dream pop with the sweet, sensual voice of Alisa Xayalith and really reminds me of MGMT. Cute, catchy lyrics set against a romantic background make this song a must listen.

The mentally anguished “Frayed” is followed up by the equally creepy and paranoid “The Sun,” which sounds similar to The xx rather than a synthpop band. However, the 80s synthpop sound comes back with the retro sounding “Eyes.”

Once “Young Blood” starts playing, the album truly hits its stride. “Young Blood” is the perfect electropop track and immediately grabs your attention. In the vein of MGMT, this uplifting magnificent and mesmerizing song captivates you from beginning to end. Xayalith’s surreal, sensual voice intensifies with each lyric only to create unforgettable vocals showcased on this song. Even casual music listeners can testify to its catchiness. Before writing this review I have listened to “Young Blood” approximately 25 times and it becomes better with each subsequent listen.

The mellower “No Way” is a 5 ½ minute sublime shoegaze song stuck between the electropop “Young Blood” and the feedback-filled “Spank.” Each of these distinct songs contains something unique that transcends genres in this mind-numbing alternative album. For example, “Spank” describes a pandemic and even possible a zombie infestation amongst other songs that could have been featured in a John Hughes movie or even heard on a 80s film soundtrack.

“Jilted Lovers” features psychotic feelings “I'm not hearing/Any other way/Shut my eyes/Head rests on my hands,” yet remains remarkable with a dazzling mix of manufactured music. The static noise somehow enhances this eerie experience. “A Wolf In Geek’s Clothing” starts off sounding like Guns N’ Roses’ “Shackler’s Revenge,” but evolves into a dreamy drum-machine, electronic and static mashup sung as a duet by Alisa Xayalith and Thom Powers. “The Ends” acts as a precursor and even uses the lyrical refrain “It's all about to end at last,” throughout as a signifier, but to be honest, I don’t want this amazing album to end.

The low key vocals of Thom Powers with a steady dubstep and post punk bassline, fuzzy background noise and the backing vocals of Xayalith is a fitting end to finish with “Girls Like You.” Needless to say if you are interested in a band that could be part Ting Tings, Sleigh Bells, Coldplay, Crowded House, MGMT and remain completely original than The Naked and Famous is an indie rock band you should know and love.

--Mr. Brownstone

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