Back in 2010, LA's Local Natives released their debut LP, Gorilla Manor, introducing the world to a sunsplashed concoction of recognizable tones that were circulating the current indie scene. Most noticeable was the vocal harmonization of Taylor Rice and Kelcey Ayer, which closely resembled that of Grizzly Bear's Edward Droste and Daniel Rossen, who were doing so on the opposite end of the country. For Gorilla Manor's follow-up, Hummingbird, Local Natives headed east, outside of their comfort zone, to record in Brooklyn and Montreal with the production assistance of The National's Aaron Dessner.
Where Gorilla Manor was spirited, Hummingbird is delicate. It's a personal exploration of a lamentable year; one that involved the split with bassist Andy Hamm, and the passing of lead vocalist Kelcey Ayer's mother. There's a remorseful tone carried throughout Hummingbird, but coincidentally, there's a refreshing and unavoidable sense of growth and rebirth. Each of the 11 tracks on the album possesses its own noticeable maturation, as does the album as a whole - it's a progressive swell, one of a growing wave, and when it finally breaks, you're swept over by a surge of relief.
This tidal comparison seems present throughout the album. Each song introduces sensations of being suspended beneath blue surf. Hummingbird's leading single, "Breakers," is undoubtedly our point of entry. A risky dilemma of twangy uncertainty advances into our eventual decision to jump (or dive) into the cooling chorus. Another recognizable highlight throughout the album is the infectious presence of Matt Frazier's tribal percussion, which often brings life back to solemn, drowning moments. This is heard especially on "You & I," "Heavy Feet," and "Wooly Mammoth."
The most intimate song on the album is seemingly its 10th track, "Colombia," through which Ayer sings above a somber piano about his mother: "The day after I had counted down all of your breaths/Down until there were none." And we're also given insight on the album's title: "A hummingbird crashed right in front of me and I understood all you did for us."
Sophomore albums give musicians the opportunity to come into their own, and this often results in divergent experimentation. Being burdened by outside influences made Hummingbird its own unique development for Local Natives, one that is focused emotionally rather than musically. As the album concludes with "Bowery," our heads finally break the water's surface, and before we're able to gasp for breath, we're already anticipating the next plunge.
Watch the "Breakers" music video: