A largely successful second set from the Californian outfit.
James Skinner 2013-01-17
Hummingbird is a first for Local Natives in a number of ways. Following well-received debut Gorilla Manor in 2009, it is the first album the band has made without bassist Andy Hamm, who split from the group in 2011. It’s the first to have been recorded outside of their native California, and also marks the first time they have worked with an outside producer.
Following a support tour with The National, the quartet was drawn to the idea of escaping the distractions of their home state. They decamped to the New York home studio of (The National’s) Aaron Dessner – the same place that Sharon Van Etten recorded her breakout album, 2012’s Tramp.
The result is a bolder, brighter record than their debut: from the confident slow-burn of opener You & I to its skin-tingling finale, Hummingbird feels bigger and more serious than Gorilla Manor in just about every way. Arcade Fire were another band Local Natives opened for while touring their first album, and the cumulative effect of sharing stages with indie rock heavyweights such as these has palpably seeped into their approach.
Which brings us to the chief criticism likely to be levelled at Hummingbird: the nagging sensation that, for all the talent and poise on display here, Local Natives still don’t sound like completely their own band. The clattering Breakers is a case in point: it eddies, swells and teeters toward the magnificent, but ultimately recalls almost any of the songs on Arcade Fire’s Funeral too much to truly make an impact.
When the band come on strong, though, the effect is undeniable. Colombia is a moving highlight, written for a member’s mother who passed away last year; Wooly Mammoth is as relentless as Three Months is unexpectedly serene; while Bowery splices myriad influences into a disarmingly powerful kiss-off.
By and large a success, in Hummingbird Local Natives throw all they have at their songs and tend to come up with the goods on the other side. Had they taken a few more steps into uncharted territory, mind, this could have been something spectacular, rather than the very solid set that it is.