Thursday, January 31, 2013

Local Natives: Hummingbird

All right people!  I am pleased to report that IT IS THE LAST DAY OF THE MONTH!!!!  This is not only exciting news in the monetary department (dude!  more money tomorrow!  WE CAN BUY MORE FOOD!!!!), but also in the general life sense.  Because my husband, bless his little grad-school-going heart, will finally turn in the big project that's been sucking every waking moment out of him, and I might even see him for more than 1/2 hour a day!!!  And then hopefully I will also stop feeling like this:

which is what I realized my life had turned into when the baby head-butted me fairly softly in the nose and I burst into tears.  Jesus, I need a nap.

Anyway!  Since naps are for losers/non-full-time-mothers-of-two/people-whose-lives-are-less-painful than mine, let's talk about this new Local Natives album instead!  Yet AGAIN we have a band I've never heard of, this time a California-based set of moustache-havers (well, most of them) whose first record came out to critical acclaim in 2010 (according to this article from LA Weekly).  And from what I've read online, it seems like this sophomore album is different from the first - not only do they eschew some of the vocal harmonies that characterized their first record (that and the mandolin probably led to LA Weekly's classification of their music as "indie folk"), but this second one is also a bit of a darker, more personal affair.  As a person with ears, I can certainly attest to that second part at least - this album IS dark and complex, so much so that it took me three listens over two days to even BEGIN to sort out what I thought of it.  Then, of course, once I did finally figure it out at least A LITTLE, it made me want to cry.  So I had to turn it off (to be fair, the last episode of Switched at Birth I watched also made me want to cry, so it's very possible that there's just something deeply, deeply wrong with me).  No matter - onwards and away!

So.  I jotted down notes about a few of the songs, which I will provide shortly.  That being said, the extremely flow-friendly structure of this record lends to a general description first.  Lead singer Kelcey Ayer often sings in a quasi-falsetto, and his voice has a certain froggy element that reminds me of an indie-er version of Alex Trimble's from Two Door Cinema Club. Overall, the music is rather sublimely-textured, with oft-trembling keyboards giving an plot-building edge to the drums and guitar, and carries the same sense of lush darkness that permeated the newest Jason Lytle release. During my first couple of listens, I wasn't sure exactly what to think about this aspect of the record - each track flows into the next so naturally that I had a hard time picking out any musical highs or lows, or even which songs I should talk about. Repeated listening has made me realize that this album's highly-developed sense of atmosphere is, however, a distinct plus, making it so striking that it's almost theatrical. And while I'm not sure exactly which dark, emotional PHYSICAL place it takes the listener to - southwestern guitar and drum elements intertwine so naturally with the mandolin, keyboards and percussion that the listener's overall impression is woodsy rather than desert-ish - it is, without a doubt, a PLACE.

Song-wise, first track "You & I" sets a desert-saloon scene by opening with some southwest-y guitar flair over a trotting drum beat before Ayer's haunting vocals drop ("You and I/We are always strong/It was enough to keep me on").  Later on, standout "Three Months" begins quietly, with an understated drum beat and a few keyboard notes, and uses vocal tension alone to grow into such a complex and beautiful song that, during each listen, I can't actually imagine it ending ("You know/I'm ready/To feel you").  Finally, "Columbia", whose lyrics were inspired by the death of Ayer's mother, uses vocal repetition to play the listener's emotions masterfully, all while swelling and contracting like a pair of musical lungs ("Every night I ask myself/Am I giving enough/Am I giving enough/Am I giving enough").  I guess what I'm trying to say is that this is a pretty fantastic album, despite the fact that it's a heavy listen when you're fully tuned to it (when you're not, it's actually decent background music too, surprising as that may seem).  And now, since the baby is painting the dining room table with blueberry yogurt, I should probably go.  Gonna make it, gonna make it, gonna make it.


  1. I love that movie! Makes me laugh real hard. Hehehe... Poor! I've been all kinds of weepy lately. Stress -> makes me sleep and cry. I hope you get some naps in.
    I liked the Tegan and Sara song better. Not sure why. Guess that's what my ears wanna hear right now.

  2. Yeah, the Tegan and Sara stuff is more my style too. And easier to listen to!