Passive Me Aggressive You, the 2010 debut album from The Naked and Famous, was made up of two very distinct kinds of sound. The first was a glossy, bombastic, synth-pop, not dissimilar from CHVRCHES or modern-day Tegan and Sara. The second was an angsty noise-rock, like Nirvana filtered through My Bloody Valentine. Their second album – In Rolling Waves – very much focussed on the emotionality of that second part, whilst featuring more minimal instrumentation. Higher, the lead single from their new album Simple Forms suggests they intent to oscillate back to the first part.
Written in the wake of a breakup between lead singer Alisa Xayalith and guitarist/co-vocalist Thom Powers that apparently threatened the very fabric of the band, the track sounds like they’re trying to build on their experiences, a sentiment reflected in the lyrics – “under this shape of years / and the weight that brought us here”. They sing over pulsating synths and throbbing basslines, which help to lend the lyrics’ relatively vague sentiments – “but we can separate / to form these hearts of stone” – a sense of weight and heartbreak. The Phil Collins drum fills are deliriously cheesy, but owning the silliness of their music has always been what made The Naked and Famous special, and just like their best work, Higher is much more than the sum of its parts.