The pathway to success has been a relatively uncharted one for New Zealand based five-piece The Naked and Famous. After recording two EPs in the home studio of vocalists Thom Powers and Alisa Xayalith, the band returned to that same studio, with few expectations, to record their debut LP.
Lead single “All of This” failed to impact but then, a funny thing happened; the album’s second single, “Young Blood” shot to the top of the New Zealand pop charts. Suddenly, an indie band from Auckland was getting more spins than Katy Perry and B.o.B, and soon thereafter pivotal blogs in the U.S. and U.K. were lauding the group. So, by the time Passive You Aggressive Me was released in overseas, The Naked and Famous had been named the “Best up-and-coming band” by NME Magazine.
Consumed in a vacuum, “All of This” and “Young Blood” would suggest a debut album much different than the one they’re actually featured on. Powers, who co-produced the album with band-mate Aaron Short, has a clear affinity for the 1980’s Shoegaze Movement and the more recent Nu Gaze Movement. As such, he and Short provide a glossy sheen of synthesizers and distorted vocals that make for a wonder-wall of sound on both of the Passive You Aggressive Me’s singles. However, the album, as a whole, is far more eclectic in its offerings.
“No Way” starts simple enough with Xavalith’s fragile vocal over an acoustic guitar, but subsequently grows into a boisterous number filled with tambourines, echo effects and heavy percussion. While “Spank” is an outright dance track in the mold of LCD Soundsystem’s more commercial work, and softer cuts like “Frayed” and “Girls Like You” show true versatility. The Naked and Famous may not reinvent the wheel on their debut album, but they most certainly make it turn.