17 October 2013
O2 Academy Brixton|London, England
By Shaun Spivak
Local Natives have shown their mastery in the art of musical progression. After releasing their outstanding debut, Gorilla Manor, the band experienced a challenging dilemma which all groups who release a breakthrough debut album must face: What’s next?
There is, of course, the method of “don’t fix it if it aint broke” exercised by producing a sophomore LP that consists of similar song structures and techniques that made the debut successful. This is the seemingly “safer” option, although it does not necessarily necessitate a negative connotation. Many bands throughout history have effectively executed this throughout many albums and, as a result, have stayed true to their sound and brand while becoming grounded through a concrete fan-base (see: Jambands)
The alternative is a bit more unorthodox and, in turn, requires more risk-taking. This would involve making a sophomore album that is completely different from its predecessor. Although there is the chance that this could go horribly awry, artists sometimes thrive on expanding their sound and, as a result, expand their reach through different fans.
Local Natives have struck a perfect balance of these methods by releasing an incredibly well realized sophomore album, Hummingbird. While retaining the dynamic vocal harmonies between Taylor Rice, Kelcey Ayer and
Ryan Hahn and intricate instrumentation, Local Natives found a way to venture out of the spontaneous sound of Gorilla Manor and into something much more delicate. As the album opens with the swooning synthesizers in You and I, it is immediately apparently that the band has taken their instrumental expertise into a new direction with something more thoughtful and minimalist (largely due to the production of Aaron Dessnor of The National). The album is carefully textured, and the heart of the band and all of their talent still shines through, just with a different light.
This was especially brought through during their live show. The band opened with the strong, first single from Hummingbird, “Breakers,” and continued to feed off of the high energy of the crowd as the show moved forward. The setlist was carefully constructed to allow the band to bring the tempo down in all the right areas, only to bring it right back up with energizers such as “Camera Talk” and “Wooly Mammoth.” Fast or slow, Local Natives consistently demonstrated perfect control of their show, wowing the crowd with great energy and stage presence.
One of the highlights of the concert was the performance of the song “Three Months.” This was the peak of Kelcey Ayer’s vocal performance where the band was able to demonstrate that not only does the group excel at elaborate vocal harmonies, but individually they are each incredibly accomplished vocalists that can hold their own with relatively very little instrumentation in the background. Ayer’s voice resonated beautifully throughout the large venue, and it was most certainly the most quiet that I had heard the crowd all night. Everyone was attentive, and the subdued sound of “Three Months” not just requested this, but demanded it.
The show ended with a bang as Taylor Rice put his guitar aside and climbed into the crowd. Local Natives clearly care about not only their fans, but also the communal feeling that their music and show provides for them. The closing song and fan favorite, “Sun Hands,” expanded on this by providing loads of group-vocals. The crowd was all the more willing to eagerly participate.
Normally, I would fear for the future of a band like Local Natives. They have created two incredibly diverse records and perfected what they set out to accomplish on both. So what comes after this? Have no fear, the band has showed their mastery thus far, and I have no doubt that they will find a way to do it again. GO SEE THIS BAND. You will not be disappointed.