It seems like an eternity ago that Local Natives showed up to our SXSW party handing out fliers for their SXSW shows. Down in Austin with no album, no publicist and flying on the strength of a phenomenal Daytrotter session; they embodied the old SXSW spirit. 40 minutes of watching them at the San Jose was all I needed to know I had seen something special and a band that was going places. One year later, their set at the NPR party was the talk of SXSW.
Fast forward through the success of their debut and countless tours, Local Natives stood before the dreaded sophomore curse. I really feared for these guys. Enjoyed by so many, I feared that people would try to alter them for more radio play, money, etc. But there is something special about these guys. In the lead up to the release of Hummingbird, they are reaching out to websites that supported them early on, played a set at their local station KCRW and gushed about playing at renowned LA record store Amoeba Music. The cherry on top being that Aaron Dessner was handled the board on Hummingbird.
About a year ago, Local Natives were playing in Chicago with Wye Oak and The National. I was gushing over them to someone who had never heard of them. I rambled like a 15 y/o describing the cute girl in class – Their percussion is the driving force of the band but its subtle in some spots like you don’t even know you’re being pushed forward while in other areas you feel as if you are on a roller coaster. The guitars shimmy and dance over the percussion going up and down your spine. All the while, there are two to four piece harmonies that lift you up – I don’t know if that cleared it up for them but a few songs in, my friend leaned over and said, “Yep, they’re awesome.”
That formula is back with Hummingbird with some subtle changes and plenty of growth. The percussion is what stands out as Matt Frazier has really upped his game. It is still varied but more subtle, yet still the driving force behind the band. You & I is a brilliant opener and reminiscent of the opening track off the latest from The Walkmen and Fleet Foxes as it eases you into the album. Kelcey Ayer’s falsetto vocals bridge the gap between the gorgeous chorus. Later in the album Ayer delivers a highlight in homage to his recently departed mother with Columbia. His singing of “Am I giving enough?” are heartbreaking.
Taylor Rice handles the vocals for two of the more upbeat and rocking numbers with the lead track, Breakers and Wooly Mammoth. The opening of Breakers is brilliant with the soaring vocals. Ryan Hahn’s guitar work on this track, as with the rest of the album, is top notch.
As good as Gorilla Manor and Hummingbird are; I feel like we are only scratching the surface with Local Natives. When I think of them, I think of bands like The National and The Walkmen – bands that held on to their core principles, kept maturing & growing, and most importantly kept churning out fresh and amazing music. The sky is the limit for this band and I am excited for the ride.