With the influx of indie bands making their presence felt among mainstream music fans, it’s a mystery as to why Local Natives haven’t enjoyed similar commercial success.
Their debut, “Gorilla Manor,” contained beautiful harmonies that are reminiscent of The Beach Boys or Fleet Foxes, (the latter of which have had their share of publicity since debuting in 2008).
The more folk-induced elements only differ from a band like Mumford & Sons in the fact that they’re not British (they hail from Los Angeles) and they simply do it better.
Yes, Local Natives received plenty of praise and underground buzz their first go-around, but in spite of commercial-ready songs like “Airplanes” and “Stranger Things,” they received little to no airplay on the radio.
But with their follow-up album “Hummingbird,” the rest of us have no choice but to listen. Local Natives have taken their sound to entirely new heights while still maintaining the same essence that made their first album so enjoyable.
The best word to describe “Hummingbird” is atmospheric. While their debut was also filled with captivating three-part harmonies and infectious drums, the powerful vocals of lead singer Taylor Rice and the slowly escalating background leads really make their new songs sound larger and more complete.
The tone is set just seconds into the album’s opener, “You & I.” Upon hearing Rice’s boisterous chant of “You & I, we were always strong” and the following chorus asking “where did your love go cold?” it’s clear that they’ve improved not only aesthetically but lyrically as well.
While this batch of songs is less likely to make a big splash on the charts, the singles are quite enjoyable despite being the least dynamic on the album.
Both “Breakers” and “Heavy Feet” start modest and quickly rise to their arena-suited peak, before resetting and doing it all over again. But the repetition doesn’t grow dull, even when paired with their constantly-changing counterparts.
The overall tone of “Hummingbird” is somewhat somber, much more so than its upbeat predecessor.
As singer/keyboardist Kelcey Ayer said in an interview with Bullett Magazine, “We didn’t set out to make a darker album by any means, but it kind of came out that way.”
The band has mentioned that they have endured some of the lowest points of their lives since their debut release. In 2011, the band parted ways with its bassist Andy Hamm. Both they and Hamm refuse to discuss the reason behind the split, but all members have said that it was a very trying time for them.
During the same year, Ayer lost his mother, which was the inspiration for the best track on the album, “Colombia,” a touching tribute to the life of his late mother, in which he sings “Every night I ask myself, am I giving enough, am I loving enough?”
Perhaps the most important aspect of both this and Local Natives’ debut is that they pass “the shuffle test”–you can easily scramble the order of songs and still be pleased with the overall result.
They’re still in the early stages of their careers, but some bands just have a knack for making complex, yet compelling music. With a stellar sophomore effort, Local Natives is clearly one of them.