More than 1,100 miles removed from the cardigan-conducive confines of Seattle, the City of Angels isn’t exactly an indie cradle. L.A. is more Dim Mak than Sub Pop, more sunshine than rain, more clubs than quaint, little coffee shops. For the most part, it is the complete antithesis to the Emerald City.
But generalizations often have their small contradictions.
For the most part, Local Natives, a Silverlake-based quintet, has been one such inconsistency–a pleasant indie blip that has emerged out of the Southern California scene. Establishing a dedicated following within their hometown, the band caters to those looking to find an alternative to the frenetic pace of L.A. nightlife. Local Natives are a step back–a reversion for those willing to just sit back and listen to the idyllic offerings of layered vocal harmonies, delicate string arrangements and soft-spoken guitars.
Ironically, though, there’s little that’s still local or native about them. While they’ve built a cult following at home, the band has found most of its success overseas. They recorded in the UK, and after removing themselves from the initial local success they have come back only on occasion to please their home fans with random smatterings of shows.
Despite this, the decision to fly the coop has paid dividends–bookings at the Coachella, Bonnaroo and Sasquatch Music Festivals are all a tribute to the band’s growing influence. What perfect timing too. Emerging from the same creative vein as the likes of Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear, the band released their first full album, Gorilla Manor, on Tuesday to a music world hungry for flannel-clad, bearded males with the ability to turn up the acoustic soul.
Gorilla Manor is an intelligently crafted album, in which Local Natives exploit their youthful exuberance and freshness to the business to engineer a simple, yet diverse 13-song LP. First up on the album is “Wide Eyes,” a percussion-driven track, which immediately bolts into the two-part harmonies–a staple of the album–of singers Taylor Rice and Andy Hahm. “Oh, to see it with my own eyes”, they chant, backed by yearning wails and a building accompaniment of guitars that eventually breaks out into raw, energetic strumming.
The opening tracks lay the foundation for the band’s two singles, which rip the best elements of Arcade Fire and mash them into two unique tracks. Backed by a group of strings, the band launches into the garage-rock-influenced “Camera Talk,” a song that reminisces about the lost memories captured on film. “Sun Hands,” on the other hand, is a much more complex contribution, with vocal rounds that build into the shouted chant of “And when I can feel with my sun hands, I promise not to lose her again”.
If any criticism can be leveled at the album, it’s that Gorilla Manor, lacks any-overarching theme–or single defining hit, for that matter. Sure there are cute songs about pixilated video-chat with exes over Skype–”Cubism Dreams”–and the folksy clapping gimmicks of “Stranger Things,” but there is no “Oh” moment when you finally get what Local Natives is all about.
The closet thing to this is “Airplanes,” a simple fusion of kick-drum and piano interplay, which provide the backing from some stunning vocals. The band’s sheer energy and exhilaration are palpable, bursting through the record and forcing you to tap your feet and sing while you find some place to hide your smile. It’s this energy that drives the record, a characteristic that will endear the band to its fans and force its harshest critics to acquiesce that there is, indeed, something special here.