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Album Review: Hummingbird

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Local Natives, Hummingbird 

Gorilla Manor, the debut album
by the LA indie rock quartet,
Local Natives, explodes out of
the speakers with its drive of
complex tribal percussion and
fuzzy, treble boosted bass-lines that are
sure to wake the neighbours, while wicked
three-way harmonies almost cut through
the lounge-room windows. It was an album
ruled by simplistic, natural sounding rock
instruments, with little effects other than
some distortion and echo.

Now, having released their second album, Hummingbird (29th
January), Local Natives take their turn at addressing much darker
themes like death, loss, and mourning, as the year 2011 saw two major
losses for the band; Kelcey Ayer lost his mother, and the band parted
ways with bass player Andy Hamm.

The first track, ‘You and I’, is a droning, atmospheric emotional
ballad. It sets the mood for the rest of the record, with subtle, ambient
arpeggiated guitar chords, and the constant sting of feedback in the
background. One familiar with Local Natives’ first album will be
surprised that they have written a song that isn’t entirely driven by Matt
Frazier’s hyperactive drumming. However, tracks like ‘Heavy Feet’ and
‘Breakers’ still have that heavy percussive drive that is so distinctive of
this band.

This record clearly depicts the band’s growth, both musically and
personally. Gorilla Manor featured that careless sound; ‘Airplanes’ was
introduced by boyish howling, and ‘Who Knows Who Cares’ speaks
for itself. Hummingbird, on the other hand, is uncommonly cathartic;
the howling vocals on ‘Columbia’ express confused emotions and a
struggling to understand the cruelty of the world as Ayer bawls about the
loss of his mother.

For the most part, the subject matter is dark – the songs embodying
this appropriately with an eerie and mysterious atmosphere, like the
sustained keyboard chords on ‘Three Months’ or the staccato chords
rigorously bashed out on ‘Black Spot’.

Thankfully, the whole album isn’t so sorrowful as to leave you
suicidal by the end of the last track.
Songs like ‘Ceilings’ and ‘Woolly Mammoth’ give the album the
slight lift that it needs. The mix of finger-picked guitar riffs, off-beat
drumming and major lifts hint at stereotypical images of LA sunshine
and convertibles.

However, while the album does well to show Local Natives’ ability
to adapt their music to reflect on the ups and downs of life, it lacks
the musical experimentation at which the band hinted in numerous
interviews. Except for a sampled drumbeat, which features on ‘Three
Months’, and a wobbly bass synth on ‘Bowery’, there is nothing out of
the ordinary regarding sounds and textures. Overall, the brilliance of the
record lies in its ability to not only express all these emotions verbally,
but also embellish those feelings within the listener. Where Gorilla
Manor displayed the rock and groove this LA four piece can bring to the
table, Hummingbird is an expressive artwork, balancing the natural turn
of events that is life.

About Steve Voser

Steven Mike Voser is in his final year of completing a Bachelor of Journalism at Monash University, Caulfield. He is an aspiring music journalist, with a deep passion for the industry. His favourite sources of music news include; Triple R Radio, Who The Bloody Hell Are They?, Rolling Stone, Mojo, among many others.

Steve Voser

The author Steve Voser

Steven Mike Voser is in his final year of completing a Bachelor of Journalism at Monash University, Caulfield. He is an aspiring music journalist, with a deep passion for the industry. His favourite sources of music news include; Triple R Radio, Who The Bloody Hell Are They?, Rolling Stone, Mojo, among many others.

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