Each of The Naked and Famous’ albums sound very similar, but fulfil a different purpose. Passive Me, Aggressive You was all about youthful euphoria, and whilst its highest moment remain incredible (Young Blood is one of my very favourite songs), the rest of the album didn’t quite match up to the singles, with lots of the runtime being filled out by bland noise-rock. Rolling Waves pared back the instrumentation whilst turning the lyrics in a more brooding, serious direction. It was a solid album (albeit with too many slow, acoustic songs), but the sheer negativity and cynicism of the lyrics felt like a cry for help. This turned out to be somewhat true, as shortly after the albums release, vocalists Alisa Xayalith and Thom Powers 8-year relationship ended, nearly taking the band with it. Luckily, Simple Forms is all about building yourself back to somewhere solid, and comes with a newly mature outlook that suits the band.
The strength of the album is centred around two key pillars. The first is the aforementioned new themes of hard-won positivity, and the second is a focus on consistency, which is something that has always eluded the band. Both of the band’s prior albums had stretches of tracks that felt superfluous, and like they padded the album’s running time. Simple Forms doesn’t have that problem, since it’s been weaned down to 10 tracks, each of which is a solid pop song in its own right.
Lead single Higher is fairly indicative of the album’s style overall. It’s a return to the synth-rock of their debut, but without the overdriven effects and compression that gave that first album such an electric sound. It’s not as overtly attention grabbing, but it feels more considered and mature, which reflects well on the band’s evolution. The one track that stands out as immediately superior is The Runners, which fuses a catchy, emotional chorus melody with moving lyrics about trying to escape the past – “I am still clinging to / these signs I hope to find”.
The other 8 tracks are all solid, although none of them quite stand out like The Runners and Higher do. The downside of Simple Form’s focus on consistency is that it lack the standout, fist pumping moments of their previous albums, like Punching in a Dream or I Kill Giants. Nonetheless, whilst it lack a notable single, Simple Forms is the best album from The Naked and Famous yet. It may not contain their best song, but does contain 40 minutes of mature, fun pop music.