Gorilla Manor: goofy name for a young band hoping to be taken seriously for their full-hearted hooks. There was no guarantee Local Natives’ 2009 album would take off the way that it did, or take off at all for that matter. As is frequently the case with debuts, there remained a sad likelihood that it would end up not as a career-launch, but rather a photo album to be looked back upon fondly. In fact, that’s exactly what it sounded like: documentation of friends holing up and having a little fun while they could.
As a result, Manor was an overwhelmingly positive album. Three years later, on Hummingbird, the four remaining members of Local Natives link up once again; this time, with a couple concessions about death. Hummingbird is, in a phrase, pretty damn bleak. Between Kelcey Ayer’s heartbreaking recollection of his mother’s last breaths on “Colombia” to the man pictured on the cover futilely trying to resist being swept away from solid ground, it’s clear that the Los Angeles harmonizers are no longer brazenly jumping off the deep end together. This album is full of sober surrender.
Be that as it may, Hummingbird’s sonic palette makes Gorilla Manor seem monochromatic and lo-fi by comparison. With no small thanks to The National’s Aaron Dessner, who auspiciously came on board as producer, Hummingbird is jam-packed with textural traces of several key indie touchstones: Veckatimest, Bon Iver, and yes, High Violet.
They’ve come a long way since being ‘the band that opened for Arcade Fire.’ Hummingbird proves that these guys are maturing into a sound that’s both singular and wrenching with severity. — Consequence of Sound