Rhythmic riffs, three-part harmonies, and a large investment in their energy made Local Natives stand out in their brief New York appearances last fall. But promises can be broken, and the bar was set pretty high for this record. The first few tracks sounded good, but I'm happy to report Gorilla Manor has burnt up the fears that these outbursts aren't sustainable across an entire LP. The first full-length from the group reaches for the sun and almost gets there, with finely crafted songs that dazzle as much as puzzle... songs that are as catchy as they are complicated.
Comparisons have been made to Grizzly Bear, but where the east coast emphasizes orchestral swagger and pretty toppings (read: Beach House), the West seems hell-bent on jungle exploration and explosions (the beginning of "Airplanes" even has some weird animalistic "oooos"). The band moves seamlessly in and out of a big, jumpy sound with ridiculous drum abuse and swift guitar riffs, accenting specific moments with harmony worthy of Fleetwood Mac-like precision. "Cards And Quarters" floats with a delicate mix of layering, building the vocal parts over repetitive piano parts. Many of Local Native's songs are like watching a landscape being painted, piece by piece, and then suddenly stripped down again.
From the bubbling-below energy of "Sun Hands" to the radioactive "Warning Sign" (one of the album's best, despite being a cover), the band explores multiple levels of art-pop while maintaining a consistent momentum. "Warning Sign" is like the perfect marination of today's most trendy songwriting (in their updated instrumentals and harmonies) and the timelessness of funk-folk masters like Fleetwood and CCR, figments of the era it was written in. It has a subtle cool about it, It is almost all entirely comprised of harmonically charged vocals and a "keep-up-with-the-leader" kind of urgency, the staples of these guys making the song their own. Then again, the same could be said for most of the record: it is consistently owned and seamlessly operated. It just so happens someone else wrote this tune.
Gorilla Manor is a series of circular melodies, but it all seems to come together at the appropriate moments with bursts of drums, or vocal exclamations. Special kudos to Matt Frazier, the frenetic drummer behind the occasional drum freak-outs that peak all over. If the vocals are the Natives meat and potatoes, the drums are the seasoning. And anyone who cooks knows that salt and pepper can drastically change the flavor of a dish. For Local Natives, they've found the right recipe. -joe puglisi
UPDATE: I edited a bit to make up for the oversight about the Talking Heads cover, but those harmonies totally mask the original odd rock version, and I let go right over my head. As it was said in the Pitchfork review (which I later read, and gasped)... they really do take ownership of the song. Sorry guys!
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MP3:"Wide Eyes" - Gorilla Manor
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