I ‘m a huge fan of the transient electronic pop sounds that have been coming out of Alisa Xayalith and guitarist Thom Powers from The Naked And Famous. The band has been transforming over the last few years with members dropping off and Xayalith and Powers taking center-stage on this beautifully simple acoustic album. The minimalist arrangements give a sense of airiness that I would never have imagined in the original driving beat and pop-powered vocals that were prominent in the earlier versions of these songs. There are still some electronic elements, but primarily showing up in vocal effect and ethereal synth pads accompanying the guitar.
I had never thought of this before, but Thom Powers is a great vocalist, his solemn lead vocals on “Girls Like You” accompanied by Alisa’s vocal cuteness are captivating. This shared combination is moving and draws the listener into the heart of these performers. The rest of the album is flourished with the vocal strengths of this pair.
“Higher” is a much more haunting track, not dark, but so atmospheric and breathy. The album could go nowhere without a standout version of “Punching in a Dream” which I’m sure most people will skip ahead too. I wasn’t disappointed, the vocal effect and the loss of accompaniment was thoughtful and served the vocals for the listener to truly connect with and relate to. There is a sense of hope that is translated at the end of the song and although I believe it’s there in the raw emotion of the original it now feels like I’m sharing the experience on a personal level.