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Personal History of Music

A Personal History of Music, Day 18: “Higher,” by The Naked and Famous

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My inclusion of this song is pretty simple: Late 2016 was a pretty rough ride, emotionally, and I needed something anthemic to keep my spirits up. “Higher” fit that bill pretty well: Quiet(ish) verses raising up to big fist-pumping choruses, catchy, defiant lyrics, and a spirit of hopefulness that for me acted a bit to counteract the dread I feeling about the approaching years. Over the four years that followed, I would put it on every now and again whenever I needed a little boost to my mood. It helped! There’s not all that much a single song can do when was is confronted with a relentless stream of incompetence and malice, but, look, every little bit helps, and sometimes you just have to cling to what you have.

As a band, The Naked and Famous are probably best known for their debut album Passive Me, Aggressive You, and the song “Punching in a Dream,” which memorably accentuates singer Alisa Xayalith’s siren-like vocals. Both that song and album are pretty darn good, but Simple Forms, the album “Higher” is on, is the one of theirs I come back to. Aside from “Higher,” the songs on Simple Forms focus on the frailty of people and their relationships, and yet still trying to do and be better despite those frailties. That was also something I identified with, or at least, sympathized with, over the last several years, I have to say.

— JS

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