Maybe it was just the joy of the transition of moving to Orlando, working for a theme park company, and finally being rid of my first house, but 2013 was an incredibly epic year. And while it was awesome for those reasons, it was one of the best annual playlists I've ever built. It was the year that The Naked And Famous' In Rolling Waves came out, an album that is easily one of my favorites of all time. I really liked their first, Passive Me, Aggressive You, but I was struck by the way Waves instantly pulled me in, start to finish. It's so flipping good. Having to wait three years for this year's Simple Forms was torture. By the way, they're also amazing live.
The new album didn't immediately grab me. To be fair, I love the band so much, and had such high expectations, that there's no way they could easily top an album that I consider "best ever" among my collection. The truth is, Simple Forms is really good, just not as good as In Rolling Waves. It's interesting that the leads, Alisa and Thom, apparently broke up during the making of this album, or maybe before it, so you wonder what effect that had. What's different? It's probably a taste thing on my part, but the songs pay more attention to melody, and spend less time with electronic production and texture (and wonderful noise). That makes sense in a lot of ways, because both singers are quite frankly much better than they were in the first album. They make smooth pop vocals seem effortless. This seems to result in shorter songs though, as the album is only 10 songs clocking in at 40 minutes. Waves was 13 songs at 55 minutes, and Passive was 13 songs at 49 minutes.
Like I said, it's not a bad album, it's just different while still sounding like the band, which is something that I like about all of my favorite bands (Garbage comes to mind). "Higher," the first single, immediately pulled me in (which may have also affected my expectations for the album). It's classic T/N/A/F. "Backslide" is the signature male vocal track of the album, with fantastic percussion. "The Runners" actually invokes the sound of "Punching In A Dream." The album has the kind of strong finish you hope for in what I consider the strongest song on the album. "Rotten" slowly builds with one of Alisa's sweetest vocals so far, and it has one of those wonderful moody textures underneath that I love the band for. It hits the bridge, then builds several rounds of vocals layered in with noisy guitars, and it's glorious.
It took a few listens, but I love the album. It may not be as good as the last one, but that's OK. It's still really good.