In Rolling Waves
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2013 album from the New Zealand Alt-Rock quintet. Beyond a life hard-wired to Pop culture via the 24 hour news feed, The Naked And Famous elicit a romantic connection inspired by the golden era of Alternative Rock; a shared response to a teenage soundtrack of epic, emotionally charged mid-'90s music. By June 2012, the New Zealand quintet had played to more than 600,000 people in 24 countries, but the band chose to hit pause and embark on a second album. The resulting album, In Rolling Waves, delivers darkly nuanced, intricately rocking electro gems once again born in bedroom studio sessions, then demoed in studios in Wales and Australia ahead of recording at Sunset Sound in Hollywood. Thom Powers sought out Alan Moulder (NIN, Foals, My Bloody Valentine) to mix this daydreaming dark-wave experiment. In 2013, The Naked And Famous are matured and determined to deliver new music to their fans as soon as possible.
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This album starts off with a bang-- "A Stillness", "Hearts Like Ours", and "Rolling Waves" are three of the best tracks off the album. Album opener, "A Stillness" also shows the broader musical range of the band on this album with it's acoustic guitar driven edge. "Waltz" has a classy duet of Thom's and Alisa's vocals floating over each others which creates something really special (this layering appears on a couple different songs actually). "The Mess" and "I Kill Giants" are both solid hits for me as well. Not spectacular, but consistently enjoyable and will be go to songs as they can fit many different moods. "A Small Reunion" is a beautiful epic close with the appearance of a building vibrant strings section that just makes so much sense paired with TNAF's signature synth/drum/guitar sound.
In fact, I wish they would have played around more with the strings on several latter middle half songs like "We Are Leaving", "Grow Old", "Golden Girl" and "What We Want." They have great ends but tepid and rather boring beginnings. The addition of some interesting instruments on the first halves of these songs could have really saved them. It's not that I insist all TNAF songs be upbeat--but to have several in a row with the same song structure (minimal and quiet for about 2-3 minutes, then get aggressive), it just takes away the drama of the songs. It let's them bleed together which is just as bad on an album as it is when your clothes in the washing machine all come out hot pink. Also, I felt that nothing even the singles on the album reached the same heights of "Punching in a Dream" from their debut.
That said--we're just a few months short of the end of the year here, and this is definitely one of the pop standouts for me. MGMT and Grouplove both have albums dropping today too, and I have to think this was somewhat of an intentional thing as these bands often get compared. In that tossup--hands down, it's TNAF. This album is just more cohesive with better hooks as well as an increasing depth of lyrics and atmosphere which I think really makes them stand out. Final round win for the Kiwis and here's hoping to even better progression and song structures on their next venture!
For fans of bands like CHVRCHES, M83, and Passion Pit.
I'm thinking particularly of "Hearts Like Ours," "Rolling Waves," "I Kill Giants" and "What We Want"...but ultimately, all 12 tracks on the breathtaking "In Rolling Waves" form a synergistic harmony of song and sound.
Color me somewhat surprised by the relatively lukewarm reception this album receives from ardent fans of the first. I jumped all over Passive Me, Aggressive You from the moment I first heard "Young Blood" (still one of my all-time favorite high-energy tunes). As others have noted, In Rolling Waves is mellower, more contemplative than the first -- think "Eyes" and "No Way" instead of "Punching in a Dream." But In Rolling Waves is so much more interesting and complete than PMAY -- I don't find myself reaching for the 'skip' button like I was inclined to do with about 1/3 of PMAY. Here, each track is uniquely fashioned to be, and merits being, part of the whole.
This a meticulously-crafted gem that rewards multiple close listens. Forget the MP3 download, you have to hear the full uncompressed CD in order to appreciate the care TNAF put into this album.
Rating: Five stars not nearly enough; try GALAXY.
I have been listening to In Rolling Waves on Spotify for a few days because I'm starting a new book and I'm looking for a playlist to listen to as I write. But I seriously had In rolling Waves on repeat for the entire day and last night I just need to own it. :) It's been on repeat all morning now, too. I don't even know if I can choose a favorite - I think The Mess, but honestly, I love them all. Awesome artistic growth from The Naked and the Famous. Love, love, love it. Sad, desperate, emotional, real.