Local Natives – Hummingbird

Albums / Words

01 Feb 13

Local Natives have an ability to incorporate jazz like inaccuracies with a more typically rock-y platter. Together, the LA four-piece construct a soundscape which is rich in variety, exotic in its instrumentation.

Vibrant acoustics, plucked guitar and various percussion clash wonderfully with Rhythm Guitar and charmed vocal ranges, as tracks whip into fatefully lush crescendos as in ‘Wooly Mammonth’ , or pertinent acoustic fades, ‘Mt. Washington’. These polarised outputs tear between momentary adornment and prolonged anticipation.

‘Breakers’ is the first single, and it’s a precocious fire-starter, encouraging hysteria through simple drum beats which charge like bulls towards their red.

A tentative anxiety unveils in wordplay, ‘every night I ask myself, am I loving enough?’ / ‘Am I getting enough?’, which often sits atop freelance piano, encouraging layered vocals to whip themselves into frenzied harmony.

What’s great is how these sounds are adored both in the studio and as free creatures in the public realm, where a too-often fooled public are quick to sap up the relevancy’s of maintainable, honest sound like this.

Latterly, we revelled in the guile and humour of Local Natives’s Take Away Show, orchestrated on the march in a Parisian shopping arcade.

Their new record Hummingbird is the folk four-piece’s second: an approachable though sophisticated creation, with amicable nods not only to the well-heeled songsmiths du jour, but also to bruising percussionists of bygone ages.

Via Jeff Buckley, perhaps? It’s hard to miss the great man in those sudden wails and surges of singer Taylor Rice, whose wavering in the high register splits much of the legwork with the outré drumming. Consult, particularly, ‘You and I’.

The pleasure is less in the basic arc of each song – which follows a fairly routine pattern of crescendo-building – but in the anxious rivalry between different instrumental agendas. There’s the elegant electric piano fooling around with Rice’s howl, and then there’s Matt Frazier’s drums – those relentless drums – shuffling away as if the guy’s tuned into something completely different on his iPod. It somehow works.

Formulaic, at times – but then, good drama doesn’t have to be otherwise; and ‘Black Spot’ is but one example of the Natives’ trademark inevitable descents into maelstrom.

It’s shamelessly ‘large’ of course, but there’s a sublime, scenic quality too. And during ‘Mt Washington’ and ‘Bowery’ especially – giddy peaks and troughs all the way through ‘em – you sense that this is music to map mountains to.

Far bluer than Gorilla Manor, Hummingbird thrives in the melancholic. Old Hamlet would have had this playing on his Walkman as he crept around graveyards; the self-involved jerk. ‘Oh I saw my Dads ghost and he was murdered and my mum is marrying that most evil of murderers and, and I must revenge his…’ Yeah whatever!

The sad passing away of Kelcey Ayer’s mother, the loss of Bassist Andy Hamm from the band, and with The National’s Aaron Dessner producing meant it was always going to be a far more sombre affair than the previous record, however out of that Local Natives created an album which is rich in sound and emotion which showcases real growth for the band.

‘Heavy Feet’ feels like the most radio friendly track with typical Local Natives dynamic percussion. ‘Mount Washington’, although it could be one of The National’s songs, is interesting as Local Natives attempt another style, and for me it works. And of course there is ‘Columbia’, grief translated into song, and the most affecting track on the record.

This is one for the musical trucker. As a reviewer it’s more like being on a musical bus; stopping off briefly at one album before moving onto the next. Chewing gum stuck to my seat; Old woman giving me the eye. Wait a second… Yes here’s my ticket. Well it is valid I bought it today. Well I didn’t need a return? I only came on an 11 track journey. No, you are wrong. No. No. No. No. How can you fine me?! I HAVE A TICKET.

I won’t calm down and I am not paying £80! My address? It’s House for One Lonely street Toytown Toydistrict PO90 5TU. I am not being childish. You can’t do that to me it’s illegal! I know my bus rights! Hey there’s no need for that! Look, just wait a minute, wait a minute…. Anyway I have to sort this out. This is an interesting record, definitely one that demands multiple listens to get the best out of it. Enjoy. Talk later.