Succulent second for the grizzly but lush LA quartet
Back when choral folk-pop made by the dainty hands of the bearded gentlemen in Midlake and Fleet Foxes was the height of indie cool, Local Natives’ melodic 2009 debut ‘Gorilla Manor’ slipped neatly into the grizzly but lush zeitgeist.
On the follow-up, ‘Hummingbird’, the LA quartet’s airy, heart-jolting harmonies are still present and correct – head straight to the grandiose middle of ‘Black Spot’ for potent proof – but this time around they’re playing things a little differently. As well as roping in former tour buddy Aaron Dessner of The National to co-produce their second album, they’ve ditched the perpetual California sunshine to record in the less tropical environs of Montreal and Brooklyn. Though under Dessner’s tutelage they haven’t quite become doomy New York City street poets, on ‘Hummingbird’ there’s a fresh depth and consideration, as well as some barefaced emotion, which has evidently rubbed off from time spent with the cult Ohio band of ‘High Violet’, ‘Boxer’ and ‘Alligator’ fame.
Sure, ‘Columbia’ runs the risk of being overly sentimental, all softly-softly piano, tortured falsetto and plaintive calls of “Am I giving enough?”, but it avoids the gaping, Alicia Keys-sized schmaltz-trap by being so damn succulent. Though the buoyant pastoral calm of ‘Heavy Feet’ is striking, ‘Mt Washington’ – a nod to the newest hipster neighbourhood in their hometown – is the 11-track record’s highlight. A throbbing three minutes, it rushes with the urgency of a runaway freight train carrying nothing but crates upon crates of coffee and Red Bull. Showing the same bubbling determination as the bracingly lopsided ‘Breakers’, it’s an early contender for song of the year, with Local Natives themselves current frontrunners for unexpectedly brilliant comeback of 2013.