Over three years in the making, Local Natives’ follow-up to their brilliant 2009 debut Gorilla Manor is a solid release. But solid is perhaps the best word to describe Hummingbird, a far more conservative offering than the fun-loving debut.
From the opening note, you couldn’t help but let Gorilla Manor instantly get beneath your skin. It was all poly-rhythmic jingle-jangles, the sound of a band making great music purely just for the fun of it and loving every second. Now, minus a bass player, Local Natives have shed their infectiousness in replacement for maturity. They’ve perfected and polished their sound to a shiny finish, but left behind some of the summery freedom of their debut.
Shot through with melancholy, the two most memorable moments on Hummingbird are the single ‘Breakers’ and the snare-heavy ‘Wooly Mammoth’ which keep your toes tapping and force your vocal chords into singing along. Another highlight is ‘Black Balloons’ with its intricate two guitar and bass leads, much more of a throwback to Local Natives’ previous effort. Other tracks though just don’t quite hit the mark. ‘Black Spot’ and ‘Three Months’ both meander on into an underwhelming crescendo, unlike ‘Mt. Washington’ which retains the atmospheric mood but without letting the listener down.
Hummingbird isn’t a bad album, and it’s a definitely a good one. It just feels somewhat of a let down. It’s heavy – not in a heavy metal, grunge rock sort of way – but the same heavy you felt when you had to do lengths with all your clothes on during swimming lessons. The mercilessly upbeat hoots and woo-hoos in the background of Gorilla Manor have been replaced with darker questions. On opening track ‘You & I’, Taylor Rice asks ‘We were always strong – When did your love grow cold?’. Even on ‘Breakers’, Rice tells us to watch the ‘Colour drain from my eyes.’
While it’s right that a band matures and hones down its sound, this just isn’t the sound of Local Natives. Local Natives were all about loving life, mucking about and just having fun. Hummingbird is not the grandiose melancholia of a break-up album, but it’s sadly not the break out album I think the band were looking for. But it’s well worth the listen, and not the sound of a band losing its edge – just a band that hasn’t quite found its way.By Chris Bennigsen