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MusicUnderFire | February 14, 2016

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Album Review: Local Natives, Hummingbird


After winning hearts of music-lovers with their debut release, Gorilla Manor, Indie/progressive outfit Local Natives has finally put out their sophomore album, Hummingbird.  We initially availed our ears of arresting harmonies, abrupt tempo changes, grandiose percussion and sing-along melodies in that first effort, but here with Hummingbird, the band is shying away from some of their elaborate arrangements, but that’s not to say that a few tracks don’t capture that same grandeur.  We find a bit more simplicity in structure, more introspective lyrics, and less pop-driven melodies, and that’s not a bad thing.

“You and I” opens with just some guitar arpeggios and subdivided but simple percussion.  The vocals of the song are quite in the limelight as they are in the aural forefront, soaring in the high register.  ”Heavy feat” sports some busy drum work later met by guitar strums and bass supporting very gentle vocals.  Some of the characteristic melisma (singing one syllable over multiple notes) comes into play in the line “After everything”.  The slow-down to just guitar and vocals building back up to the full band recap works very well here.

Some cool guitar riffing supported by fairly poppy drums is the basis of “Ceilings”, which showcases some pretty nostalgic lyrics- “Hold the summer in your hands, til the summer turns to sand.  We were staring at our ceilings, thinking of what we’d give to have one more day of sun”.

“Breakers” seems to be the first tune that resembles any song from Gorilla Manor.  Those epic drums and “oohs” that hit the ceiling introduce the song, but then the mood slows way down from that dramatic intro.  The intensity ramps back up to grandiosity in the chorus with sung syllables over “oohs”.  The exposed riffing countered by elaborate drum work sounds like the guitar player and drummer are playing in two different time signatures- a very cool effect that can be heard in prog/metal bands like Porcupine Tree.

Energy certainly escalates with “Wooly Mammoth”, another standout track that’s based on thumping drum work, sailing vocals and very big-sounding guitar riffs.  It almost calls to mind something that Grizzly Bear might write.  One thing that Local Natives have clearly mastered is the art of the build-up- there can be so much intensity in a song from starting out very small and building up to something huge, adding layer upon layer.  This device definitely comes into play in “Breakers”, and in a much more subtle way in “Mt. Washington”, an uncharacteristically acoustic song with guitar and voice exposed, adding bass and drums to kick the mood up a little.

Local Natives has come out with a sophomore album that showcases their maturity and versatility as songwriters.  I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeves next.