LA Band Local Natives’ new album effectively enchants listeners while showcasing talent
Silver Lake, Los Angeles band Local Natives released a new 12-track album on Jan. 29, 2013 entitled Hummingbird. This album has been highly anticipated since the band’s live announcement of its production at Lollapalooza last August.
This is the second full-length studio album by the Local Natives, previously known by the name “Cavil at Rest.” The first album, Gorilla Manor, released in 2009, received much acclaim and earned the band an enthusiastic fan base.
This was an encouraging start for these burgeoning talents, self-funding their debut album in the hopes that it would be a success.
Between the release of Gorilla Manor and Hummingbird, the band parted ways with its bassist Andy Hamm. Local Natives currently includes Kelcey Ayer (vocals, percussion, keyboards and guitar), Ryan Hahn (guitar, keyboard, mandolin and vocals), Taylor Rice (guitar, vocals and bass) and Matt Frazier (drums). Ayer, Hahn and Rice were classmates at Tesoro High School and were joined by Frazier and Hamm at UCLA.
The band has been likened to the Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear, but has earned their own position in the indie rock world through the individuality of Hummingbird.
Due to the loss of drummer Andy Hamm and the passing of Kelcey Ayer’s mother, the tone of Hummingbird is much darker than the “poppier” tunes of Gorilla Manor. The band’s lyrics explore much more exposed, existential themes than before, such as life, death and the passage of time.
The entire album is permeated by images of light and darkness, frequently through images of the sun. Ayer sings in the album’s second track, “You and I,” of the sun’s warmth versus the darkness of isolation. The song is beautiful and suggestive, providing most listeners cues through instrumental breaks and metaphorical lyrics.
The third track, “Heavy Feet,” also focuses on themes of life and death, beginning with a quiet but steady, haunting drumbeat and slowly adding nostalgic vocals and piano chords. Much of the album is built off this pattern of layered entrances, often beginning with just one instrument and adding the others and vocals gradually on top of it.
This is an effective device for creating a soft, dreamlike listening experience. The repetition of many lyrics, such as the phrase “silver dreams lead me to you” in “Ceiling” allows the listener to absorb them and, because of their ambiguity, develop their own meaning for the song.
“Breakers,” one of the singles released for Hummingbird, begins differently than many of their other songs. It opens with an enthusiastic introduction including every instrument and a chant sung by every band member. This is a great introduction into the album, giving the listener a hint of the power behind this seemingly mellow band and album.
The album slows back down in its close, with the nostalgic ballad “Mt. Washington,” personifying the hiding of one’s troubles as “digging like you can bury something that cannot die,” giving a tragic yet beautiful image to accompany the tone of the song.
The final song of the album, “Bowery,” is one of the longest of the album and has a wide range of energy, and is a wonderful conclusion to the emotional spectrum of the album.
Its pensive moments and exciting builds echo the ups and downs of both Hummingbird and Gorilla Manor, serving wonderfully to showcase the talent and ingenuity of Local Natives.
Local Natives will be touring the Neptune in Seattle on April 26 and April 29 and tickets are available on ticketmaster.com. The album Hummingbird is available for purchase on iTunes or for listening on Spotify.
PHOTO COURTESY / PITCHFORK.COM