Local Natives – Hummingbird
Is it possible to like Local Natives without liking Arcade Fire or The National? Surely, the answer is ‘no’. Hummingbird is produced by Aaron Dessner of The National and there’s plenty of Arcade Fire-style frantic drumming. ‘Wooly Mammoth’ perhaps peaks in that regard. Actually, though the answer is ‘yes’. What’s nice about this album is that Local Natives have moved on. Their first album, Gorilla Manor, was thin, bitty, jejune. In fact, it was jam-packed full of jejunosity. This album, though, is plenty june. That’s what Aaron Dessner has brought to it. The fear was that he’d try to make Local Natives into a different band. His band. But what he’s done is given them a full-on sound and the confidence to express some nice songs really well. ‘Breakers’ is huge and expansive, but under control. In stark contrast, ‘You and I’, ‘Ceilings’, ‘Three Months’, and ‘Colombia’ are more subdued and sound good partly for that reason. And there it is. In the press for Gorilla Manor, Local Natives were sold as an indie band with an afro-beat. The album got good reviews. So, why not carve out a niche in such a crowded marketplace by seriously upping that beat? The thought must have crossed their mind. Thankfully, they haven’t given into that temptation. Mostly anyway. Instead, they’ve emphasised the melody and the arrangements. If you like the drumming it’s still there. If you don’t like the drumming it’s still there, but it’s not dominant. If Local Natives did take a step back and made a choice about what direction to go in, it was the right choice.
Irish Times review by Lauren Murphy (rarely seem to agree with her, but always agree with Tony Clayton-Lea and Jim Carroll)