Two years is a long time… Many things can happen within such a short period.. Relationships can begin and end.. People that you hold dearly to your heart can fade away.. New friendships can be formed.. And new and exciting experiences can be had.. Two years is also a long time in music terms.. Over these past two years many bands have come and gone.. Groups have reformed.. And some artists have successfully pushed the envelope for what can be done within the confines of sound.. Two years is a long time… Or is it?
Two short years have passed since Californian indie outfit Local Natives released their brilliant debut album Gorilla Manor.. And just as time has gone by for all of us, the same thing has happened for the band.. Their bassist Andy Hamm departed suddenly in 2011.. Lead vocalist Kelcey Ayer faced the horrible duty of having to lay his mother to rest.. And the stresses of long and arduous touring began to take its toll on the bands relationship with friends and family at home.. It can easily be said that in amongst all of the critical acclaim that had been bestowed upon Local Natives that their personal lives suffered infinitely more than they deserved to…
Having also gone through the same horrible experience of having to lay my own mother to rest I’ve come to realize that by going through such a intensely negative situation I found myself to be in an almost completely different head space to where I am now.. It seems as though the bands frontman Kelcey Ayer has also used the tragedy from his own personal life and channelled it into something that I’d imagine would sound wildly different to what he would have produced if not for such an intense experience..
Hummingbird, the bands follow-up to their highly acclaimed debut is vastly different to the album that preceded it… Local Natives have grown up.. And that certainly doesn’t mean that they’ve become boring.. In fact, this album demonstrates a newfound maturity that helps it to become an early contender for album of the year..
Hummingbird begins with the all too familiar yet incredibly atmospheric You And I which rather softly eases itself into the bands signature style of delivering twangy guitar lines interspersed with harmonies that continually reach for the sky.. On first listen my attention was easily won… I’ve missed these guys..
The album then continues into Heavy Feet.. beginning with a drum beat that’s almost too easy to mistake for a song by indie rock band The National.. (Which feels somewhat ironic as I only read that The National’s very own Aaron Dessner had a hand in producing the album in question..) and then builds into a chorus of handclaps and harmonies.. At no point during Heavy Feet did I feel overwhelmed with what was going on.. Builds are steady and methodical, choruses are perfectly timed and the song progresses from strength to strength before its eventual end…
Carrying on, the band find themselves in the same mellow groove with Ceilings which takes the prize for the most lyrically simple yet easiest song to sing along to of the entire album… Ayer’s vocals have such strong hooks that are almost impossible not to harmonize along with at times.. Proving that music doesn’t have to be overly complex in order to incite an emotional response from the listener… Which is also the case with the albums next track Black Spot which is built upon the foundation of a haunting piano line which builds as the song eventually erupts in its last minute..
Whilst spending the last week glued to Hummingbird I couldn’t help but notice how different it sounded from Gorilla Manor… The only glimmer of the old Local Natives that was to be found was in the form of the albums lead single Breakers.. A far more upbeat number than just about anything else that’s to be found on the album.. And also the first song that I had heard before actually getting a chance to hear the album in its entirety.. Nonetheless Breakers is a brilliant track on all counts… Need I say more..
From this point on the album has it’s fair share of highlights… Black Balloons, Wooly Mammoth and Colombia are all stand-out tracks in their own right.. I also have no doubt that Black Balloons will most likely become a radio hit in the next few months as it’s just too toe-tappingly good to ignore..
And as for Colombia.. Wow.. Ayers has truly composed a thing of beauty within four minutes and fifty seconds of sound.. Having listened to the album more times than I’d like to mention here I had always hummed along to the chorus of this song without paying an incredible amount of attention to its lyrical content… That was until this morning when I was on my way to work… Needless to say, there were tears of sadness on my trip to work… As I mentioned earlier in this review I also lost my mother last year close to when Ayers lost his.. And I just have to say that the lyrics that he’s penned here are truly brilliant, profound and downright heart wrenching… I think that he’s almost perfectly summed up the thoughts that were going through my head during the time that I knew I was going to lose my mother to the time that I actually did.. Sometimes music can hit a little close to home.. But that’s what makes you realize that we’re all human in the end…
And just as we all grow as people.. Local Natives are a band that have done just that.. As well as growing musically… Although Hummingbird is a slight departure from some of the more dance friendly tunes that were a big part of Gorilla Manor it manages to succeed in almost every aspect.. Coupling a new-found sense of song writing prowess with the bands already adept musical and lyrical skills, this is an album that’s great on so many levels and deserves to be heard.. I really can’t recommend Hummingbird enough.. I can’t say that I’m surprised that it’s as great as it is.. But I can certainly say that I was surprised that it managed to exceed my every expectation by taking me on a more intense ride than I thought it would..