Strong Sophomore Release for The Naked and Famous

14 Jan

The Naked and Famous


After The Naked and Famous’ impressive debut — Passive Me Aggressive You — you could be excused for lowering your expectations for the group’s follow-up, In Rolling Waves. But in truth, there’s no reason to be worried. In Rolling Waves more than lives up to the alternative rock/electro-pop band’s inaugural release with an outstanding 12-song set that I like even more than the band’s 2011 debut.

Originally from New Zealand but now comfortably ensconced in L.A., The Naked and Famous toured extensively in support of their first CD. One report said the band’s performances attracted 600,000 people in the several dozen countries they visited. But the creative fires were smoldering and they took most of 2013 off to write and record In Rolling Waves.

It’s fair to describe the band’s sophomore effort as darker, with a harder edge than their first release. But the tracks are not at all downers — they’re generally upbeat and catchy with some great hooks.

The CD opens with a riveting rocker. “A Stillness” features strummy acoustic guitar over swelling synths strings — with an off-kilter beat and stabbing synth attacks. The song builds at about the four-minute mark to a banging ending.

The VEVO video for the second track, “Hearts Like Ours,” has drawn 1.4 million views — not exactly the 7.7 million views for the band’s “Young Blood” hit from its first CD, but an impressive number nonetheless.

“The Mess” puts you in the middle of a couple’s argument over a failing relationship. Vibrating synths roar as the emotions grow. “How does it feel to be on the fault line?”

“We Are Leaving” is another haunting track about failed relationships. It features rain-like synths with stuttering beats and machine gun drums. “I Kill Giants” is highlighted by pulsating, buzzy synths and a chattering electronic drum track, building to rock choruses. The song is about lead singer Alisa Xayalith and how she came to grips with her mother’s recent death from cancer. “Nothing but ashes in the old fireplace/With all the memories he has erased.”

That kind of subject matter is what has categorized this CD as “dark.” But the high-energy beats, soaring synths and amazing vocals of Xayalith and Thom Powers infuse the album with everything that’s needed to make this something you can listen to from start to finish, again and again.

If you enjoy these  reviews and want to keep reading about the latest in indie pop, rock and folk, I invite you to become a follower of my blog. You can also listen to my show on Friday mornings at 9 a.m. Pacific Time on KZSU – Stanford University. Listen at Learn more at


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