In the bleak throes of a Canadian winter, it’s always a pleasure to have an album that acts as a pseudo-blanket to quell your anxieties and warm your heart. After sitting with Local Natives’ stunning new record Hummingbird for over a week, I can safely say that those who listen to it will derive comfort from it in much the same way that Linus does from his treasured blue blanket.
In the time since their debut album, Local Natives haven’t been contentedly riding the wave of Gorilla Manor – they’ve instead experienced the highs and lows of a rocky sea. The band toured with the National in 2011 but parted ways with bassist Andy Hamm and grieved the passing of singer Kelcey Ayer’s mother last summer.
Four years of touring the world coupled with personal trials would leave a mark on any group, the scars of which Hummingbird clearly shows. The album is indelibly marked with a sorrow and sensitivity that one would expect from a person as old as all the member’s combined. Whereas their first release found them wavering on the border of adulthood and indifferent to it all (“Who Knows, Who Cares”), the new record reflects a newfound maturity. The band enlisted the National’s Aaron Dessner to produce the album, and the guitar virtuoso did an incredible job. “Breakers,” the closest thing to a true single on the entire album, is an attack on the senses with drummer Matt Frazier’s pulsating beat driving the track forward while Ayer sings about enjoying “cold cereal and TV,” a possible nod to their fellow Californian, Kendrick Lamar.
On “Three Months”, Ayer sings “I’m ready to feel you” as if to accept the burden of mourning his mother but his tender tone also elicits thoughts of a budding romance finally being consummated. “Heavy Feet” is a shining example of the vocal prowess that Ayer and Rice assert when harmonizing, but “Columbia” stands out as the best track. Here Dessner seems to have informed the band in how to build a song up and have it crash down on an unwary listener in the way the National have mastered. The tension gradually builds at a frustratingly slow pace until the cathartic ending: there’s a cry from Ayer, asking “Am I loving enough?” and the sudden realization you were clenching your fists and holding your breath the entire time. The experience is akin to stepping into a cold shower and finding the freezing water oddly refreshing.
By: Tomi Milos