Hummingbird by Local Natives
Top ten of 2013. Let’s do this.
It’s a wonderful thing when a band disproves the “sophomore slump” pitfall that many bands experience. Hummingbird, the fantastic second album from Los Angeles band Local Natives, has the band pushing out the boundaries from their excellent first album, Gorilla Manor, which made the Musical Bacon Calendar back in 2010 at nearly the same spot in the list. Where the first album was bouncy, joyous, a celebration of life, the second album is darker, sadder, and melancholy. This is not a bad thing.
In the time between the first and second albums, the quintet became a quartet, and lead singer Kelcey Ayer’s mother passed away. These two separate but collectively difficult moments became the foundation of what would turn into Hummingbird. Additionally, the band tapped Aaron Dessner, from The National, to produce and perform on the album, which most certainly had an influence on where it would go. Aside from the vocals, which continue to be lovingly delivered by the lead-singing duo of Ayer and Taylor Rice, this could very well be a National album (and you already know how much I love them). Ayer and Rice alternate duties at the lead mic, each of them with gorgeous, higher-register voices with Ayer relying on falsetto and Rice seemingly pushing his voice up without it. Both of whom sound decidedly different from Matt Berninger’s (lead singer in The National) baritone.
The album’s high points are also the most bleak songs on the album: “Three Months” and “Colombia.” The band hasn’t released either of the songs as singles or videos, but there are a number of band-sanctioned live performances out there of the songs, the best of which are from a show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg the week after this album released and this performance from January on air for NPR and KCRW. The videos they have released from this album, including “You & I” above, as well as “Heavy Feet,” “Ceilings,” and “Breakers” all have an irreverance that verges on uncomfortable that makes for an interesting listening/watching experience.
There really is no difference between hearing these songs live or recorded, much to the band’s musicianship. With two albums under their belts, they’ve now proven their ability to craft intelligent, immersive songs that take you to an emotional high only few songs can. This band is still on the unknown side, which is a blessing and a curse. I get to enjoy them at the relatively smaller spaces like The Neptune and the Showbox at the Market, but they don’t get to enjoy the benefits of being an indie band that’s broken through. This will change. Perhaps not on the dour strength of Hummingbird, but maybe on the next endeavor, whenever that will be.
11. If You Leave by Daughter
12. Pedestrian Verse by Frightened Rabbit
13. The Silver Gymnasium by Okkervil River
14. The Next Day by David Bowie
15. Reflektor by Arcade Fire
16. We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic by Foxygen
17. Lanters by Son Lux
18. Howlin’ by Jagwar Ma
19. Impersonator by Majical Cloudz
20. Dream Cave by Cloud Control
21. Mole City by Quasi
22. Phantogram by Phantogram
23. Julia With Blue Jeans On by Moonface
24. Uncanney Valley by The Dismemberment Plan
25. Event II by Deltron 3030
26. Wise Up Ghost by Elvis Costello and The Roots
27. Us Alone by Hayden
28. Pure Heroine by Lorde
29. Shaking the Habitual by The Knife
30. False Idols by Tricky
31. Let’s Be Still by The Head and the Heart