New Zealand's the Naked and Famous made a big neon-colored splash in 2010 with their full-length debut album, Passive Me Aggressive You. That album showcased the group's catchy, dance-oriented sound that mixed gigantic analog synths with the group's dual male/female lead vocals from guitarist Thom Powers and keyboardist Alisa Xayalith. The group's 2013 sophomore effort, In Rolling Waves, still features Powers and Xayalith, but finds the band experimenting with a more moody, somewhat serious tone that makes room for some welcome acoustic guitar. Part of this move toward a more organic sound was purportedly due to the bandmembers' desire to record an album they could more easily play live. Which isn't to say the keyboards are gone. On the contrary, there are still plenty of fuzzy, old-school synthesizers all over the album. The acoustic moments simply add yet another tonal color to the band's palette, which is clearly expanding. Working with engineer Billy Bush, Powers and keyboardist Aaron Short took on the production duties, as did Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck, Paramore), who lent his sophisticated, pop-oriented ears to two tracks. One of those tracks, "I Kill Giants," is particularly epic in proportion and cinematic in its emotional momentum. In minor contrast to the band's previous effort, the moments of pared-down instrumentation here seem to offer a necessary respite from the intensity, providing necessary moments of calm as we anticipate the next joyous sonic wave.
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Review by Matt Collar