Hear me out, Bastian. New Zealand electronic rockers The Naked and Famous have made their nude, distinguished name by creating soaring songs stacked with anthemic hooks. When you’re immersed in an hour of their music, you truly feel like you’re in a fantasy film. Perhaps, oh, riding a luck dragon through the skies of Fantasia.
Of course, the epic cinematic sorcery in question doesn’t have to be 1984 classic “The NeverEnding Story.” Here are 13 reasons the Naked and Famous’ Saturday set at Austin City Limits Music Festival made us believe in magic of all kinds.
• Frontwoman Alisa Xayalith is 100 percent a benevolent goddess, but we’re not ruling out ghost conjured from the spirits of ACL bands past. Clad in a flowing, transparent peach poncho, the windy skies carried her (or at least her sleeves) aloft as she burst out of the wings. The Childlike Empress would be so proud. Also: sparkly gold shoes. That’s straight up L. Frank Baum stuff.
• On “Higher,” Xayalith’s wide open vocal range hit peak crystalline purity, sparkling one moment with sweetness and sharpening to a deadly, pointed ferocity the next.
• Even slower songs that even approached the ballad category recalled some second-act scene where the heroes lick their wounds after Artax sinks into the Swamp of Sadness.
• They performed a song named “I Kill Giants.” It is the score to a movie with kaiju. You cannot convince me otherwise.
• “Laid Low” contained the most emotion I have ever seen someone wring out of tambourine, courtesy of Xayalith. The sparkling, sweeping synth washes also conjured the best things about CHVRCHES, but like if Lauren Mayberry rode Falkor. And speaking of tambourines, drummer Jesse Wood did unkind things to one with a pair of sticks on “No Way.”
• “All Of This” traveled a path of measured adventure, drums pumping the crowd full of the crispest adrenaline with a focused, sobering tempo.
• Xayalith led a sway for “Hearts Like Ours.” There is nothing that ends a quest for a talisman like a good sway.
Yes, biggest hits “Punching In a Dream” and “Young Blood” made for triumphant milestones in the Naked and Famous’ set, wrapping up all the disparate elements from the hour into a powerful chimera of shoulders-back, hair-blowing victory. (Though guitarist Thom Powers, for all his intensity with the microphone, sounded slightly less than invincible for his part on the latter song.) The show was dreamy. Everyone was punching, or likely wished they were slugging it out with an ancient evil. Sounds genre-perfect, doesn’t it?