The Naked and Famous have broken out of New Zealand with a bang. Having consistently topped the charts in their native homeland, they eventually gathered greater worldwide recognition starting with their single, ‘Punching In A Dream’. The full length album eventually managed to travel across half the world, albeit a couple of months later with a even larger audience eager to see the outcome of their work. The end result will likely leave a lot of people surprised.
One of the songs that kick-started the bands journey, ‘Young Blood’ did so due to it’s overwhelmingly summer rhythms and a pace and lyrics reminiscent of a care free world. Parallels were quickly drawn with bands such as MGMT and ‘Punching In A Dream’ continues in the same vein, reinforcing their dream pop ideals, assisted by lead singer Alisa Xayalith’s soaring lyrics. Many would expect this successful formula to continue throughout the album, but there are only so many stand-out tracks you can make and unfortunately for the band this means a descent into slightly more tricky territory.
As the album moves on, there are some ever increasing darker undertones, which seem a world away from the happy-go-lucky songs of before. This is most pronounced when Frayed comes on after ‘Punching In A Dream’, which goes from breezy pop to an urgent alarm, with deeper guitars and drumbeats, and Xayalith’s voice transitions to a yell from a soft, innocent singing. This attempt to transition multiple styles is something of a hit-and-miss gamble; some may appreciate the variety, while others will be disappointed by lead tracks that concealed the band’s larger intentions. Throughout the album the synths become more prominent, but even then it is hard to say what direction the album goes in when each track seems to fit a different concept. Tracks like ‘Eyes’ can be compared to M83, whereas ‘The Sun’ would feel at home on a Hot Chip album. It’s all these alternate sounds which don’t fit any overall theme which many will find confusing and left wondering what to make of it all.
Passive Me, Aggressive You is therefore an album marred in contradictions. There is such a strong tempo change that it spawns quite a few different areas, but the band hasn’t been able to present this in a wholly convincing way. They’ve certainly tried, and full marks for experimentation, but their true success lies in enthralling melodies that will catch’s the listeners imagination and sense of rhythm.
Good: Some stand out singles that will get anyone dancing.
Bad: A lack of musical focus may put off some listeners