March 15, 2011 - Universal Republic
This New Zealand-based group mix glitchy, dreamy electronic pop and occasional outbursts of static-ridden noise with male-female duet vocals from Alisa Xayalith and Thom Powers that sound like Radiohead’s Thom Yorke whispering back and forth with Natasha Bedingfield. Many songs have a steady drum-machine thump to keep the listener’s attention focused, even as the low-key vocals nudge toward narcosis. The best of these is the album-closing “Girls Like You,” which manages to meld Hi-NRG synths, a dubby post-punk bassline, some guitar fuzz and murmurs from Powers that lead into anthemic howling, with oohs and aahs from Xayalith in the background.
On some tracks, like “Eyes” and “Young Blood,” the band up the emotional content a little in an attempt to get ’80s-style epic and modernize the weeping-androids sound the Human League perfected back then. They never quite make it, though, and just wind up sounding like some half-forgotten song from midway through the second side of the Breakfast Club soundtrack. A few others overstay their welcome, like the nearly six-minute “No Way,” which transitions from sub-Coldplay piano pounding to fuzzy acoustic guitar strumming, all with gently shimmery female vocals (part shoegaze, part Primal Scream circa 1991) on top. It’s nice, but would have been nicer at three minutes. But when the Naked And Famous get noisy, as on “Spank,” “Jilted Lovers” and “A Wolf In Geek’s Clothing,” they successfully meld the Ting Tings and Sleigh Bells.