It always feels like a foreign rock band needs to win a bunch of music awards in their own country before they can grab more of a foothold in the United States. 2011 was no different as New Zealand indie quintet The Naked And Famous seemingly dominated indie rock stations toward year's end while almost sweeping its native music awards.
Released in the U.S. in early 2011, the band's debut album Passive Me, Aggressive You certainly sounds like it was borne out of the 21st Century with noticeable influences from indie faves like The xx, M83, The Kills, MGMT, and Passion Pit. The diverse background allows The Naked And Famous to sound quite fresh and unique, albeit only in brief increments (and all the better if you have a short attention span).
The album feels disjointed and rough amongst the addicting synth-pop hits "Young Blood" and "Punching In A Dream," especially considering each is followed respectively by the mellow "No Way" and industrial "Frayed." While not as disparate as night and day, the juxtaposed tracks, although excellent by themselves, represent peculiar pairings that are suprisingly distracting. The band is strongest and more successful when lead vocalists Alisa Xayalith and Thom Powers play off of each other ("Frayed" and "Girls Like You"), which makes it all the more frustrating to listen to them repeatedly interacting amid contrasting sounds. Once more, the intense build-up of "The Sun" is satisfying, but the subsequent shoegaze harmonies of "Eyes" makes one wonder if it's the same band or M83 playing.
Altogether Passive Me, Aggressive You amounts to an almost 50-minute collection of satisfying electronic indie tunes. Each one works well in its own way, but it's as if the album was recorded as two separate EPs ("Passive Me" and "Aggressive You") and simply combined for a full-length album. The Naked And Famous is a perfectly capable band, but needs a tighter and more focused sound before it can really take off.