Music Review: The Naked and Famous | Passive Me, Aggressive You (2010)

My first real exposure to The Naked and Famous was when I went to their (fantastic) Lollapalooza set. Before that I pretty much only heard their singles “Punching in a Dream” and “Young Blood”. Those two songs have a LOT in common with each other so I expected their other songs to sound pretty similar to those. I ended up really surprised with the other stuff Passive Me, Aggressive You had to offer.

The two songs I mentioned above are poppy songs with heavy emphasis on synthesizers; they sound like they could have been ripped straight out of a teen movie from the 1980s. As singles I think both of those tracks are nearly perfect. The catchiness of those songs hooked me onto this band but the rest of the album is what makes me keep coming back.

Soundwise the rest of the album is all over the place. It’s all indie rock with lots of keys and synths but after that the songs sound so different from one another. “All of This” has a bit of a dream pop/shoegaze feel to it where both singers (one male, one female) harmonize throughout. “The Sun” starts really slow and reminds me of Phoenix’s “Love Like a Sunset” with how much it just builds louder and louder as the song goes on. “Wolf in Geek’s Clothing” sounds like a noise pop track a la Sleigh Bells. For the most part these different styles all work to great success. Some of the songs like “Jilted Lovers” and “No Way” took longer to grow on me but now I really like them.

One of the things that makes The Naked and Famous stand out to me is their use of two vocalists that often sound so different from each other yet complement each other perfectly. Thom Powers probably has the better voice of the two for the most part. His voice is used for a gentler effect, a foil to Alisa Xayalith’s energetic (and usually louder) vocals. There’s no way I’d like this band as much as I do if either of these members were missing and the other one did 100% of the vocals instead. Even though their two “big” singles have Xayalith leading the way, there are a few songs here where she fades into the background and just provides backing vocals (her soft backing vocals are what really make the song “Girls Like You” awesome). There are also tracks where the two harmonize the whole way through.

I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone out there but I’m a big fan now and I really want to see what they’re going to do in the future. This band’s only going to get better as they get more experienced and figure out how to put a fully cohesive album together (Passive Me, Aggressive You sounds like a bunch of singles just thrown together at parts). If you like 80s pop or indie rock in general, at least give this a shot.

Rating: 8.5/10

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