This song broke out a few days ago, but to hell with it! Local Natives, your favorite band that blends raucous percussion and lush harmonies have victoriously returned, and while they haven’t officially announced a new album, they have shared with us “Past Lives,” which is a song that I’ve had on repeat for the past three days. You’re greeted with the familiarly soaring vocals of Taylor Rice, accompanied by some swelling synths that their sophomore record, Hummingbird employed so well. The track gives you Local Natives as you’ve known them before, but some changes are also traceable in the mix as well; the guitars are more angular, sharper as they cut through the song. Of course you still have that staccato drum rhythm, but the vocals, while still beautiful, have some bite of raw emotion to them when the song builds to its end. Take a listen and look out for news about their third album, which should hopefully be gracing our ears within the year.
Riding high on the waves of their stunning sophomore release, Hummingbird, Local Natives, from Los Angeles, took the familiar stage of the Moody Theater to a fairly enthusiastic crowd. Sandwiched between the two ACL festival weekends there was chitchat amongst those who had seen the group on the big stage last Friday, who would be seeing them the second weekend, or those who were just lucky enough to catch them at such an intimate venue. Having taken advantage of this bands’ delight in playing in Austin, I knew we were in for a real treat, as these gentlemen pack a great deal of passion and energy into their live shows, and Thursday night was no disappointment.
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.