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New Zealand's best electronic act is back in action. The Naked & Famous are sounding stronger and more confident than ever, their third album Simple Forms reigning as their best works yet.
The band has experimented with different styles of electronic in the past. 2013's In Rolling Waves explored a gentle, if not fragile side of it, building itself up with layers of slowly building, aesthetic field of synths. Their 2010 debut Passive Me, Aggressive You had a poppier, more energetic vibe to it than its successor. Simple Forms combines the best of both of those records into one awesome album.
As soon as it begins, you know The Naked & Famous have really set the bar high. Lead single 'Higher' leads off the record, introducing the record with vocalist Alisa Xayalith singing sweetly before the big instrumental kicks in. Brought in by an electrifying guitar and splashy drums, the track exudes energy and also shows the softer side of the band, the bridge replacing the thick synths with a light wave of synth and piano as Xayalith tones done her voice for a sweet moment. Thick, explosive synths are this album's life force, but sometimes it comes at a cost. 'The Water Beneath You' has even more energetic synths than the song preceding it, yet the chorus almost feels empty with the lack of anything besides the big synth. Where are the drums? The guitar? Anything? It's a solid track, but if it had more to it, it could've been that much better.
Single 'Laid Low' - which we reviewed upon its release - exemplifies the album's energetic side. The big drums give it an anthemic vibe, while the bittersweet cries of "Take me home / I'm learning to live with ghosts" make the chorus personal and giant at the same time. The song's words are enough to motivate you, despite their sadder meaning about needing to be saved. The final explosion of cries at the end of the song give it a sincere, passionate vibe.
On the opposite end, there's songs like 'Backslide', that give anthemic a different side. The immense bass synth bursts like cosmic warfare, the beautiful melodies and harmonies adding to the song's conviction. It's a darker song, exploding with thick bass guitars and synths like some epic symphonic rock song put to electronics. It's uplifting in an convicting way - it makes you feel like wanting to act.
The chemistry between Xayalith and Thom Powers is another critical point on the album. 'My Energy' shows Powers take the lead on a track, with Xayalith acting as support to him, resulting in some great harmonies with big guitars and a grand instrumental taking them even further. The ending is great - the slight increase in pitch resolves the song in a confident, energetic note that gives it an unexpected punch. There's more of a tradeoff in 'Losing Our Control', the slower atmosphere progressing with the gentle swelling of the synth as the duo switch off with each other, both vocals telling their own part in this tragic story. Power's backing vocals in 'Last Vocals' may not be in the foreground, but they still really tie the chorus together and make the song cohesive. The song ends sweetly, a raw recording of them singing in the studio with the song's acoustic guitar track playing along. Moments like this aren't usually done well on records, but this one was perfect.
Simple Forms is The Naked & Famous' best work yet. Combining emotion, energy, and pure musicianship into one cohesive record makes the album truly enjoyable and warming to listen to. It's a masterful blend of electronica, rock, and indie that solidifies this band's position as the top contenders in their genre.
Favorite Tracks: Backslide, Losing Our Control, Laid Low
Least Favorite Track: Rotting
Rating: 90 / 100