Local Natives – Hummingbird

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Rating: ★★★★½

In 2010, Gorilla Manor put this band on every keen indie-music fan’s radar, and since then, due to an insane amount of touring (they’ve played in Austin at least four times since their debut alone, not including the SXSW the year prior) it seems like everyone has been wondering when this band was going to put out a follow up record. But now that time is upon us, a bit of pre-flight jitters and second thoughts fill the air: would it be as good as their debut, or leave fans wanting to break free from the sophomore slump?

Those who have heard the two singles, “Breakers,” and “Heavy Feet,” that the band were circulating in hype of this album should know that Hummingbird is a completely different animal than Gorilla Manor (pun intended). In every way that Gorilla Manor was percussively raw and indulgently explosive, Hummingbird is refined and yet powerful, constantly effervescing in some way—be it a percussive element or a gentle riff, or a cathartic “ooh.” You can hear the difference in the two tracks aforementioned. On “Heavy Feat,” the drums flutter hyperactively in the background while the blissful harmonies you’ve already come to love fill the foreground. On “Breakers,” the percussion is still there, but what is most noticeable are the building waves of “Oohs,” that layer upon themselves and give the song an elegant ferocity that will have you playing it on repeat.

But these two songs are far from the only hard hitting tracks that Hummingbird has to offer—on the contrary, the whole album shines almost as bright as the band’s debut, albeit in a different light. Part of this is due to the National’s, Aaron Dessner, who helped produce this album, as well as his recording studio wherein the band recorded this time around. With his finesse, the band’s nuances are amplified, and a sharper, cleaner record comes into focus in which the music is less gimmicky, and more emotionally accessible. Even on the numbers that are of a faster nature, the lyrics are still vividly expressive, though perhaps on a bit darker, more National-esque, note. Take the opening lines of “Black Balloons,” one of the strongest songs, for example: “I can see the words as they come out of your mouth/Black Balloons form into a poison cloud—” such imagery is much more prevalent.

And in the end, it’s pretty hard to be disappointed with Local Natives, as Hummingbird lives up to the hype even upon first listen and gets better upon repeat. That being said, it’s important to let go of your preconceived notions of this band as one-trick percussive ponies and let yourself be carried away by the refined ferocity, if not, you’ll be passing up on a band who has only put out, and will continue to put out impressive music.

Contest: Local Natives 7″ and Secrets!

This should be a show post about the killer evening of tunes over at Antones Friday featuring Local Natives and Suckers (2 of our favorites this year).  But, instead, we’ve got something for you.  We’re running a little contest to win a free Local Natives “Sun Hands” 7″.  All you have to do is leave us a comment telling us what your favorite album of the year is, besides Local Natives (as that should be near the top), and don’t forget to leave a valid email address in the email portion of your comment.  We’ll pick the winner by tomorrow morning and take care of the rest.

Oh, and our top secret spies tell us that the first person to buy Gorilla Manor starting today at Waterloo Records wins two free tickets.  Get over their now.  And be sure to show up early as you’ll love the Suckers too!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/02-Airplanes-1.mp3]

Download: Local Natives – Airplanes [MP3]

FT5: SXSW Bands I Have To See

What’s that ya say?  SXSW is almost upon us?  Get the F*** out!  With our fancy little music festival we call SXSW coming up in March, I wanted to take a quick look at some of the bands I just gotta see during the upcoming week.  Now obviously I had to stick to a few strict rules here.  For starters, the band has to be one I haven’t seen before.  Two, it has to actually be possible to see the band (sorry STP & Band of Horses).  Three, the band needs to be fairly new with high praises coming from us and others.  I’d say that about does it.  These are bands on the verge of breaking it big in the national scene.  Will they have what it takes to impress me and the snobby Austin music scene with their live shows?  Only time will tell…  Follow the jump for my full list of bands I’ll be waiting in line to see during SXSW.
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Local Natives – Gorilla Manor

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Rating: ★★★★½

This California band just barely began making waves back in 2009 after successful shows and a rollicking time at SXSW.  All those things slowly began to build a lot of attention for the group, and finally we have come to the release of Gorilla Manor by Local Natives.  Listening to this for several months now, it’s the most complete record to come out in 2010, and will continue to garner extensive praise for the group.

When you first listen to Gorilla Manor, at least for this writer, I couldn’t shy away from thinking of Fleet Foxes, which is entirely due to the multiple-pat vocal harmonies the band uses. But the more that I let it unfold, the more that I began to see there are so many little touches across the album that it’s clear the group is doing their own thing entirely.

You come across those touches in the first song,  “Wide Eyes.” It seems as if the drummer barely hits the drums, other for the snare fills, as you can clearly hear the banging of the sticks atop the rim of the drum.  It’s something the band utilizes throughout the whole affair, giving a sort of tribal feel to their California-tinged summery pop. In fact, it distracts listeners from some tight-knit guitar work, that rarely seems to nod towards a folk sound, which is what one would think the band would imitate, if you only listened to the vocals.

“Airplanes,” the second song, begins with some piano noodling, before the vocals soar atop the steady percussive drum beat. Everything about the chorus here is perfect; each time I hear “I want you back,” I just get this chill; it’s the execution of the perfect song.  You could say the same thing for the following track, “Sun Hands,” the band’s first single off the album, but I’m sticking with “Airplanes.”  Still, people will love the usage of gang vocals at the 3 minute mark of “Sun Hands,” which provides a different dynamic before the band lashes into a little post-punk jam session.

One of the best things about Gorilla Manor, aside from the music itself, is that the majority of the songs are well-over the three minute mark.  Cleverly, Local Natives are able to sustain your interest throughout, leaving you with an album you can really go inside, immersing yourself entirely.  Each song has enough movement to keep it interesting, as the band doesn’t remain static for long, if ever.  That says a lot about the group, who can go in multiple directions in a song like “Warning Signs,” and hold onto a sense of cohesiveness within the song itself.   It really is hard to find a song not worthy of listening to multiple times.  Well done.

In the end, you can say that Local Natives have spent a great deal of time honing their craftsmanship, and Gorilla Manor is the ultimate reward for listeners and the band alike.  You’ll find that the differentiation and light changes will keep you interested all the way until the end, allowing you to finally spend time with a solid record you’ll want to listen to time and time again.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/02-Airplanes-1.mp3]

Download: Local Natives – Airplanes [MP3]