Anyone who decides to name their band, The Naked and Famous probably isn’t taking themselves too seriously and expecting to become famous unless they really are planning to strip down to their birthday suits and flash unsuspecting civilians. But there was no need for the members of TNAF to succumb to porn or flashing to gain attention within the indie rock scene.
In case you didn’t know TNAF are a post-punk/synth-pop quintet from New Zealand, whose name was inspired by one of their musical influences Tricky. Their name itself is attention grabbing enough and chosen because of a line in one of Tricky’s songs where he repeats that everyone just wants to get naked and famous. Yet it’s their catchy, electric tunes that will make them a memorable fixture in your head. The band originally formed in Auckland’s MAINZ music college when Thom Powers met Alisa Xayalith, and from there everything just fell into place. In 2010, they delivered a strong debut studio album Passive Me Aggressive You that has received several nominations and awards. Their music has been featured on television series like Gossip Girl and the Vampire Diaries, in video games and sampled by other artists. Their huge commercial hit Young Blood was even sampled by the likes of Machine Gun Kelly which created some bad blood between the musicians about copyright infringement via numerous tweets from MGK and TNAF. But the samples could never compare to the real thing, the album is worth listening to if you haven’t heard it yet. The energetic fast paced electric tunes accompanied by insightful lyrics has definitely become a favourite of mine.
So needless to say I was incredibly excited to see their name posted amongst new concert listings at Rotate This. I snatched up my tickets fast before they sold out and waiting in agony for April 5 to arrive so I could witness the awesomeness of TNAF live. I wasn’t disappointed. They opened up with All of this, one of the best tracks on the album and the crowd loved it. Singing along, hands waving in rhythm to the beat, people pressed forward and got lost in the performance. I was amazed by how many people knew the words and I watched transfixed as they sang my favourite part…
As the plans turn into compromise
the promises all turn to lies
the spite builds up
and it can’t get through
Passive me, Aggressive you
I know I nag, I moan I know
but with a plan like this
it’s way too slow
in the time it took to get this here
I could have made this work
but all I had was…
the hope that pieces would take shape
and we could watch them all fall into place…
a complicated sing-along to pull off but I guess when you have devoted fans like these, it can be done. Alisa was flawless, conveying meaning through expressive hand gestures and sidling up to Thom. Head bobbing to Punching in a Dream and swaying to The Sun I was in a perfect state of bliss. Especially when Thom sang a heart wrenching delivery of Girls Like You. The whole set seemed to fly by much too fast although they played every song from the album. Impressive yet I was hoping that they’d interact with the audience more. But I guess they preferred to express themselves through their music and expressive hand gestures and melodic swaying. The light show definitely helped increase the excitement and kept the crowd happy. I even heard they’d be autographing merchandise after the show but after the spectacle of their encore where they closed with Young Blood I was satisfied. Nothing could have made it a better night. I came, I saw, I left on cloud 9.
I was more than pleasantly surprised upon listening to Canadian singer-songwriter Lights’ sophomore album Siberia. I never really considered myself a fan of the 24 year-old, synth-pop star until I heard this album. Lights inclination for experimentation has led to vast improvement since her 2009 debut album, The Listening.
Siberia starts off with her traditional synth-pop style but grows harder and edgier right into the second track “Where the fence is low.” It quickly becomes evident that Lights Poxleitner has decided to go with a heavier dubstep-influenced album this time around. Which suits her angelic voice perfectly. Her vocals seem effortless and provide a nice contrast to the distortion of the dubstep sound. Thus making the genre tolerable for those who reject the controversial genre as meaningless noise. She also changes up her sound with the inclusion of hip hop, creating an unpredictable pop album that is quite different than the ordinary mainstream fare served up, non-stop daily on the radio. Any electro enthusiast will be able to appreciate the direction Lights has decided to take with her second studio album.
This album sounds a little dirtier, and a little grimier than The Listening. Most likely due to heavier beats and the collaborative efforts from Canadian hip-hop artist Shad and electronic band, Holy Fuck providing drum production and synths. You can expect an upbeat, feel good tone for most of this album but there are some surprises with a rap here and there and some chilled out numbers like “Cactus in the Valley” where Lights slows it down with a moving electro-ballad. Vocally, Lights Poxleitner seems perfectly suited for the dubstep genre, her voice is soft yet strong and capable of conjuring whatever emotion she wishes to express. Popular tracks like “Toes” and “Banner” will reassure her earliest fans that Lights has not abandoned her pop beginnings while tracks like “Flux and Flow” and “Everybody breaks a glass” will entice new listeners that crave something a little more than synth-happy pop.
Her debut album established Lights as the 2009 Juno award winner for Best new artist and gained her respect as a self-made musician. So it comes as no surprise that Siberia has also landed her a 2012 Juno nomination for Pop album of the year. It’s clear she deserves the recognition and respect.
Best tracks – “Where the fence is low,” “Timing is everything,” “Everybody breaks a glass,” and “Flux and Flow.”