Local Natives – ‘Hummingbird’
Following Local Natives’ acclaimed debut album ‘Gorilla Manor’ comes ‘Hummingbird’, their second full-length record. Created at The National’s Aaron Dessner’s studio in an abandoned bungalow in Silverlake, it charts the highs and lows that occurred during the two years that succeeded their first release. Co-produced by Dessner, it sets out its stall as a strong second chapter in their story…
You & I
“You and I, we were always strong, it was enough to keep me on,” sighs Taylor Rice longingly over morose guitar strums before ‘You & I’ really lifts off. When it does, it reaches for the sky in typical Local Natives fashion – with soaring melodies and stately elegance running subtly underneath. So far, so good…
Starting off sounding not unlike The National’s ‘Slow Show’, ‘Heavy Feet’ takes its predecessor’s gently rocketing nature and reinforces it with handclaps and driving guitars. Pushing onwards to a stratospheric climax, it takes the album even higher. If it carries on like this it’ll clear The Shard.
Ohhh fags! “I haven’t stopped you smoking yet so I’ll share your cigarette just to feel it in my fingers,” sings Taylor over an arpeggiated pattern that trickles along in the background. There’s a burst of energy towards the end though as the singer talks about “one day of sun”, his band following his lead and stirring up a rush of sound that sounds as if the clouds have parted and left the streets bathed in a glorious glow.
Taking things down a notch, ‘Black Spot’ brings ‘Hummingbird’ into darker territory. Beginning with trembling pianos, it escalates from uneasy and mildly troubled to a unnerving sense of dread. Growing from something sparse and restrained, it slowly builds into a gargantuan and powerful beast.
The most unfocussed track on the album, ‘Breakers’ is far from short of ideas. Busily buzzing its way through chiming guitars and clapping rhythms, it’s a fragment of slightly off-kilter pop that offers a more thunderous alternative to the sparser songs on the record.
“You always hated every gorgeous coffee cup, you could never see that to him they meant the world,” goes ‘Three Months’ slightly bizarrely, but beneath the odd lyrics, there’s a meandering bed of sound that glitters as if being sprinkled with forlorn tears.
Signalling a return to the happier sounds from the start of the record, ‘Black Balloons’ is, on the surface, a welcome lift up from the sorrow that comes before it. Listen closely to the lyrics though and it becomes clear it’s just a facade, as the band beg you to “hold me down and bring me back up again til I can’t tell the difference.”
Urgent rhythms combine with a glistening chorus to make what is both one of the biggest songs on the record and one of its standout moments. Standing fierce and ready for battle, it’s a snapshot of what Local Natives would sound like if they pumped more aggression into their songs and went around wearing boxing gloves and angry expressions.
A dusty country twang intermittently punctuates ‘Mt. Washington’’s acoustic strums and twinkling piano flourishes as Taylor repeatedly sings “I don’t have to see you right now” like he needs more convincing that that’s a good thing.
Waves lap against the shore as gentle piano strokes sound in time with the motion. Probably where the album gets its name, ‘Colombia’ finds the band painting a scene where “a hummingbird crashed right in front of me and I understand all I did for us.” It’s a song of dawning realisation that feels like finally its creators are letting go of the past, even if they do still spend every night questioning themselves.
Closing ‘Hummingbird’ in the same soaring style in which it started, ‘Bowery’ begins as an understated combination of gentle oohs and sparse, delicate piano. Rattling drums and a more intense atmosphere soon flood in though and we’re back to the same lofty heights as on ‘You & I’, leaving Local Natives’ second record to fade out in perfect symmetry.