Local Natives hit aural jackpot with ‘Hummingbird’

Label: Infectious Records

Release Date: January 29, 2013

Pitchforks: 4.5/5

 

It can be tricky to bounce back from a wildly successful debut album. With its second album, “Hummingbird,” Local Natives faced a thorny task: to continue to deliver its particular brand of psych-rock without succumbing to the dreaded “sophomore slump.” If it failed, it certainly wouldn’t be the first.

Well, it didn’t.

The track list for this follow-up album is impeccable. Band vocalist Taylor Rice eases listeners into it with the dreamy, dysfunctional “You & I” crooning, “I woke up with my green eyes blue / And all I think about is you.” Rice speaks to the jarring feelings that follow a broken relationship. The theme is found woven throughout much of the album, and it’s echoed in the single recently released by Local Natives, “Heavy Feet” — a mid-tempo snare-based track that features some vivid lyricism.

The album slingshots, pulling back for the eerie “Twilight Zone”-esque “Black Spot,” before picking back up with the first single released off of the album, “Breakers.” The latter deserves every bit of attention it has garnered for the new record. It crescendos into a loud, high-energy mix of instrumentals that should be dissonant but wholeheartedly isn’t. It wouldn’t be out of place on a typically disastrous episode of UK cult TV show, “Skins.”

Later in the album, the track “Wooly Mammoth” highlights the growth the band has undergone. It still carries their signature sound, but it features harpsichord-driven elements of the Beach Boys mixed with the dreaminess of Grizzly Bear and the nostalgia so characteristic of Beirut. It gives the album a certain pleasing maturity, and it is easily one of the best tracks on the LP.

The tail end of the album features one of the most subtly produced and performed masterpieces on the track list. Quiet “Colombia” is laced with regret and brings to light the idea of missed opportunities. It is this track that solidly places “Hummingbird” in the category of albums that begs a listener to slap on headphones, lay down in this middle of his or her bedroom floor and just appreciate the density of the music, lyrics and vocals.

Second only to “Wooly Mammoth” is the final track, “Bowery,” which features a gorgeous piano riff and multilayered, ethereal vocals. The song’s peak is satisfyingly full and melodic, and it is a great way to end the album.

It’s no secret that “Hummingbird” is about as geared to the faux-hipster demographic as the phrase “plaid and pretension” — the album was produced between Montreal, Brooklyn, and beard-ridden Silverlake, after all — but it’s an amazing piece of work. It manages not only to match up to the success of 2009’s “Gorilla Manor,” but also to surpass it with aplomb, so anti-hipster critics, take heed. If only it had been released a few months earlier, it might have given indie frontrunners The Lumineers, M83 and Gotye a run for their Grammy nominations.

Instead, Local Natives will have to settle for acclaim and the grudging acknowledgement of its accomplishments by formerly less-than-enthusiastic critics.

 

Reach the reporter at svhabib@asu.edu.