Monday, February 22, 2010

Local Natives Release Strong Debut Album

By - Joshua Witchger

When I go to a show, I have a tendency to impose a prejudice upon bands I’ve never heard before; maybe it’s my inner cynic, but I’m often inclined to hesitate on the first listen. That's why this past summer, when Blind Pilot was two hours late for their performance in Pontiac, MI— due to complications getting through U.S. customs— I wasn't too enamored about the extended set the opening group, Local Natives, would be playing.

From the moment they took the stage, I immediately wrote them off as just another proverbial spoke in the fixed gear bicycle of indie rock. Perhaps my personal bias, mixed with a crowd that appeared to be unfamiliar with their music, was the cause for my initial lethargy towards their performance. After the first few songs, however, more and more people entered the venue. Applause grew, dancing intensified, and people’s unfamiliarity didn’t seem to inhibit a good time. This free spiritedness was contagious, and by the end of their set, Local Natives were a hit. Admittedly, I ended up enjoying their performance more than I thought I would.

Now, six months later, I’m just beginning to listen to the music of the Los Angeles rockers Local Natives. As a new name to the emerging scene of rock music, Local Natives stand out as an intelligently minded and energetic quintet. With catchy melodies, a high level of energy, and multiple part harmonies, the group takes on senses similar to Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes, and even Paper Route, while also adding unique elements all their own.

Without a substantial fan base in the U.S., Local Natives ironically released their debut album Gorilla Manor in Europe back in November. Recently, however, the group was picked up by US label Frenchkiss, which released an expanded version of Gorilla Manor on February 16.

Despite US obscurity, their debut album is a praise-worthy enterprise, full of songs that grow. Local Natives have a knack for building powerful melodies from simple progressions, heightened by the clicks and clacks of energy-packed percussion. Through carefully constructed pop melodies, vocal harmonies, and even down tempo transitions, Gorilla Manor is music that capitalizes in exhorting joyous energy, yet still leaving adequate room for songs to breathe.

Besides an intelligent musical styling, Gorilla Manor is a lyrical journey. “Sun Hands,” one of the album openers, dives into a hopeful quest, centering on the oft-repeated chorus, “I’ll endure the night/ for the promise of light.” Combining lead guitar melodies with lively percussion, the melody heightens as the group shouts “And when I can’t feel with my sun hands, I’ll promise not to lose her again.” As the song culminates into a heavy rendition of the original guitar melody, it slows down, easing into a milder outro.

Another stand-out track, “Airplane,” opens on howling sounds, suddenly taking turns from loud to soft, as the singer recalls the memory of a friend, “I love it all/ I want you back.” As the song progresses, his voice seems to accept his friend’s fate while still remaining hopeful, singing, “I bet when I leave my body for the sky, the wait will be worth it.”

With a host of memorable lyrics, catchy pop hooks, and sporadic bursts of percussion, Gorilla Manor is a giant step in the band’s very young career. With the music of Local Natives finally releasing in their home country, give Local Natives some support and check out their new album Gorilla Manor. They’ve also got a great video cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecelia” on Youtube.

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