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Album Review: “Hummingbird” by Local Natives

Raucous lullabies fly into an abyss of unlimited adventure.
January 29, 2013

 

Artist: Local Natives

 

Album: “Hummingbird”

 

Release Date: Tuesday

 

Record Label: Frenchkiss Records/Infectious Music

 

Those seeking a repeat of the instantly catchy “Gorilla Manor” are likely to be disappointed by Local Natives’ latest full-length, “Hummingbird.” The band hooked us in with their delightfully harmonic indie-rock debut in 2010, but things are different this time around. The band has embraced change and branched out, and just as their musical vibe has deviated, so too has the music. The band has expanded their palette with this new album.

Local Natives decamped Los Angeles first to Montreal and then to Brooklyn to lay down their efforts. Their touring buddies not only influence their recording location choices but also their production. The National’s Aaron Dessner was at the helm of this trip. The end result of the fruits of their labor is “Hummingbird,” released today via Frenchkiss Records/Infectious Music.

Thematically, “Hummingbird” is somewhat dark with lyrical explorations of the price of fame. It’s an album you’d want to hear live to feel the band’s energy so often lost through the speakers.

“Breakers,” the album’s first single, was released in late November to reintroduce the band to the scene. Its busy instrumentation and multi-layered harmonies, spearheaded by twanged guitar riffs, is textbook to Local Natives’ sound.

As each track turns, it’s apparent which artists the band is influenced by. You detect Fleet Foxes in the on-point harmonies and the coo of Jim James vocally binds to lead singer Kelcey Ayer in a handful of tracks. Sounds of others, The National and Bon Iver, are subtly referenced throughout “Hummingbird,” but as much as Local Natives may wear their influences loud and proud, it comes down to inspiration over imitation.

This sophomore album opens with the track “You & I,” which possesses new rhythmic patterns and an intriguing sense of familiarity. The song grants an all-new appreciation for Taylor Rice’s individual vocal prowess; his falsetto soars, and is experienced again with the pastel track “Three Months.”

The word hummingbird is mentioned only in the song named after Ayer’s mother, “Columbia.” It’s a heart-wrenching track focused on the lyrics instead of instrumentals, which overall sound mushy and unfocused.

“Hummingbird” launches the sounds of a more mature Local Natives and is a sophomore album that should be seized. It would sound best if performed live, though played as a road trip soundtrack, windows and hair let down, would take a close second.

Rating: 7.5/10

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