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.