Local Natives Gorilla Manor Review

Released 2009.  

BBC Review

SXSW buzz band’s debut album exudes a cheery effervescence.

Mike Diver 2009

Silver Lake five-piece Local Natives deliver their debut album after enjoying a decent degree of media coverage, especially throughout the blog world, much of which has concluded that the band could well follow in Fleet Foxes’ footsteps and take their brand of Americana-flecked indie-rock into the mainstream.

Much of the attention to come the band’s way has been generated by favourable reviews of their sets at this year’s South By Southwest conference, held in Austin, Texas back in March. Every year the multi-venue event – think the Camden Crawl on an epic scale (with better, and often bigger, bands) – produces a buzz band or two, and Local Natives impressed enough of the right people to qualify as a genuine One to Watch for 2009. And this album largely delivers on the promise.

The oddly titled Gorilla Manor features 12 tracks that successfully stir thoughts of a host of comparative ensembles – Band of Horses, O’Death, Pinback and, yes, Fleet Foxes – but Local Natives’ arrangements can express a cheery effervescence only sporadic in much of the aforementioned acts’ work. The a cappella breakdown of Sun Hands is an early example of this carefree attitude to composition – it’s completely out of place, yet feels entirely natural at the same time. Camera Talk flexes dub-kissed muscles midway through before breaking out a violin for some Arcade Fire-like strings-and-percussion splendour.

The band’s also perfectly capable of delivering big anthems strong on memorable hooks – the likes of Shape Shifter and album opener Wide Eyes are sure to swim around the listener’s head for days. And while this accessibility is largely down to the breakthrough exploits of forerunners, Local Natives’ evident ambition and accomplished execution of even the grandest ideas sets them in good stead to not only follow several leads, but stand out on their own before long.

Gorilla Manor is no classic – it’s too indebted to its makers’ influences for that. But it is a strong, striking debut that exceeds expectations and should open enough doors for the band to ensure that album two is immediately placed at the top of journalist must-listen-to piles and consumers’ to-buy lists alike.

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