Since their debut album, Gorilla Manor, in 2009, LA based indie pop/rock band Local Natives have regularly found themselves compared to hipster favorites such as Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, The National, and Fleet Foxes. They are considered by some to be nothing more than “the west coast Grizzly Bear.” Though similar in style, Local Natives proves that they are more than just the compilation of their influences through their sophomore work, Hummingbird.
The album gives old fans just what they expected, a continuation of Gorilla Manor‘s afro-pop harmonies and drumming patterns, complete with syncopation and modal melodic techniques. Local Natives manages to stay true to their psych folk roots while allowing band members’ individual maturity to generate overall musical growth, as Hummingbird takes a darker, more vulnerable approach. This change could be attributed to the departure of bassist Andy Hamm in 2011 for “personal and professional reasons”, as well as the sudden death of lead singer Kelcey Ayer’s mother three months later. Credit also can be given to the collaboration with Aaron Dessner of The National who produced Hummingbird as well as provided additional guitar in several songs. Ayer’s heart wrenching emotional loss is found seeping through the track “Colombia” with lyrics conveying scenes of hopelessness and anxiety: “If you never felt all of my love/I pray now that you do.” That is not to say that Local Natives have jumped off an emotional deep end; the first single from the album “Breakers” released back in 2012 reassures that the youthful vigor pervasive in Gorilla Manor remains strong. Other notable tracks include the passionate album opener, “You and I”, and my personal favorite, “Heavy Feet.”
Hummingbird is an emotional tale of a little boy indie rock band growing up to be a big kid indie rock band, and trying to find themselves along the way. Local Natives didn’t just produce a beautiful album, they have proven themselves in the genre.
Final Score: 8.5/10