If Gorilla Manor was the Local Natives first foray into the independent mainframe, then Hummingbird is the resounding voice that proclaims their rightful place. By commissioning producer Aaron Dessner – of The National fame – the LA quartet have taken an enormous leap forward, one that aligns their sound with contemporaries like Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear. The polished foreground has had a tremendous impact on their songwriting. They’ve plunged even deeper within themselves in order to maintain that same organic touch as Gorilla Manor, embracing the subtle emotions that have lingered within their own experiences as burgeoning musicians. The juxtaposition between the refined soundscape and rich songwriting create a striking balance between their oblique maturation and expansive creativity. And lyrically they thrive. So go five examples that prove that the Local Natives have all the necessary ingredients to build a lasting legacy.
There’s a fine layering process occurring here, and each delicate fiber tells a different story. The choppy guitar riff that serves as the binding thread extends itself at an urgent, but disciplined pace, and by the crescendo listeners are delighted with an amalgam of whirling synths, fluid chords, and magnanimous vocal harmonies. The dramatic landscape is an appropriate backdrop for an intensive look at the mercurial nature of our troubles and how easily they can seize control: [LISTEN]
Digging like you can bury
Something that cannot die
We could wash the dirt off our hands now
Keep it from living underground
‘You & I‘
The Local Natives open their sophomore album in a bold way, attempting to capture the transformative experiences that shape the human condition. It’s an undertaking that finds footing all throughout the album. For “You & I” they try and articulate the space that binds love and indifference, and the anguish that inevitably goes along with it. The minimal landscape plays upon the negative space to great success, creating an emotional free-fall where the only thing to hang on to is the driving rhythm and sweeping harmony. There is a sonic depth to this song that is exhilarating. It is unpretentious and without an ounce of fear: [LISTEN]
When did your love, when did your love go cold?
The closer I get, the farther I have to go
To places we don’t know
While the Local Natives looked to outside sources to polish up their arrangements, they didn’t find it necessary to go beyond themselves for lyrical inspiration. References to a “silver dream,” which is likely a nod to their sanctuary in Silver Lake, make their yearning for “one more day of sun” an appropriate analogy for a dream they never want to end. Who can blame them? The bond has grown even tighter, and this song is proof that they plan on riding this one out as long as possible – a level of excitement that we all can benefit from: [LISTEN]
We were staring at our ceilings
Thinking what we’d give to have one more day of sun
One day of sun
“Black Spot” opens in a simple way, but within that simplicity is a world of anxiety. It’s a palpable feeling, and the arrangements reinforce it, making lyrics like “I’m dying wrong” seem normal and commonplace. The brooding instrumentation slowly picks up, steam-training with no conductor, and the vocal harmonies fight to stay ahead of it, creating a chilling level of tension. It’s a downward descent yet somewhere within that fall the the band makes sure to cast a line of redemption: [LISTEN]
Oh no, I’m dying wrong
And I’m still laying here alive
With a black spot on my arm
And so calm, I look inside
“Bowery” is a bookend to a volume of paradoxical stories. The uncertainty as to whether or not the “ceiling is rising or the floor is falling” creates an ambiguous free-fall, making the paradox a reality. And that’s where the Local Natives are right now. Their sound may have evolved into a pop-friendly landscape, and critics will no doubt make note of the glossy sheen, but the lyrics reveal that they are an impressionable group of youngsters still trying to find their place among the elite: [LISTEN]
Can’t tell if the ceiling is rising/Or if the floor is falling.