In a year that’s been particularly devoid of great music, I’m delighted that The Naked and Famous have put out their third record called Simple Forms.
An album borne out of the end of a relationship between two of the band members was always going to be emotionally charged, but it adds a tremendous energy to the songs that sets it apart.
And it’s that theme, energy, that runs through it – from the high intensity opening tracks to the slower, but more powerful ones that close it. It’s not just an album with a few great tracks, which it definitely has, but it’s a story that makes the album all the more special.
If you’re not familiar with the Naked and Famous, my favourite way of describing them is as an electronic band like CHVRCHES blended with the essence of pop-punk of the 00s, think Paramore or the All-American Rejects. As a mash-up of band styles that I love individually, it’s great that TNAF can bring them together so successfully.
This album plays on both these strands well and makes it an enthralling and exciting journey. When it starts with “Higher” you know you’re in for something dramatic – as it hits the sort of anthemic highs that the band’s previous albums have made them famous for.
What follows though is that break-up story played out in song. Both lead singers Alisa Xayalith and Thom Powers trade the mic and give their own takes on the relationship, which starts with fiery energy in songs like “The Water Beneath You” and “Last Forever” and then fades into more sombre and sentimental tones.
Even though for me it’s the energetic first half of Simple Forms that really made it so good, the second half of the album serves as a strong set of tunes too, but just on the darker side of the emotional spectrum.
“Laid Low” and “The Runners” are brilliant at bringing the rock and pop aspects of The Naked and Famous to bear with the personal and emotional song writing. While I think “Higher” is probably the signature tune of the album, these two stand out as being tracks that show off the versatility of the band better.
Another nice touch is that both singers get their own final word on the album, both with a somewhat bitter and strong look back at what’s gone before them but spinning it into interesting and decent sounding songs. It’s catharsis for them I’m sure, and it works pretty well at closing the album’s story too.
All-in-all Simple Forms is a stunning return from a band that deserve an awful lot more credit for what they do than they get. They have such a unique sound and manage to make song-after-song that sound amazing and have a depth to them that’s often lost with modern music.
Expect to hear the tunes from this album as background to myriad TV shows over the next few years, or if you’re like me on your iPod for a few years too. It’s taken ‘til mid-October, but 2016 finally has some seriously good music to be remembered by.