Four years after their debut with Gorilla Manor, Local Natives released their second album, Hummingbird, last week. The five-man group was cut down to four when bass player Andy Hamm left the band, and his absence had a noticeable effect on the sound and tone of this album.
I wouldn’t recommend going into Hummingbird expecting something similar to Gorilla Manor. Most of the songs feel much more emotional and atmospheric. The upbeat rock songs on the first album—like “Sun Hands” and “Warning Sign”—are nowhere to be found this time around. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; Hummingbird proves that this band is capable of creating a new sound for themselves.
The album opens with the lead single “You & I”, a great indicator of what the rest of the album will be like. One thing that makes Local Natives stick out is their incredibly unique percussion. Every beat solely fits its own song. Further into the album, “Three Months” kicks in. It starts with a beat using only the bass drum and hi-hat. Reverberating piano fills in the spaces. Once the chorus starts, singer Kelcey Ayer puts on an incredibly haunting falsetto reminiscent of (and almost rivalling) the Antlers’ album Hospice and Radiohead’s In Rainbows.
Another impressive aspect of Local Natives is their vocal arrangements. The lead vocals are traded between Ayer and Taylor Rice. On top of that, all four members sing harmonies, which really fills out their sound.
The ninth track, “Mt. Washington”, is another standout. It opens with a single acoustic guitar—a first for the band. Instruments are gradually added to the mix as the track progresses, each one complementing the last.
It felt as though something is missing from the lyrics throughout the album. There didn’t seem to be as much creativity as there was on Gorilla Manor. Most of the songs here are romantic and focus primarily on relationships. Although part of me misses the attitude of the previous album, the romantic style is a welcome change. It sounds as though there is a lot of meaning behind what they sing, and in that sense, the band earns some extra respect.
The difference between the two albums is similar to that between Bon Iver’s first and second albums. Although it is almost a complete departure from what they did at first, the change shows their adaptability and range, while also keeping the elements that made me fall in love with them in the first place. I highly recommend giving Hummingbird, with its haunting, mellow tunes and unique drums, a chance to fly. MMMM