Local Natives' sophomore effort, 2013's Hummingbird, is a more atmospheric and introspective collection of songs in contrast to the band's effusive 2009 breakthrough debut Gorilla Manor. Perhaps it has something to do with the parting of bassist Andy Hamm, who left the band in 2011. More likely, it is the influence of producer and the National guitarist Aaron Dessner, who also co-wrote some of the songs on Hummingbird. Whatever the reason, gone is the tribal, post-punk influence of their first album's popular songs like "Sun Hands" and "Camera Talk," replaced here by the lyrical, dreamy, and long-form majesty of cuts like the piano-driven "Breakers," and the sparkling, late-afternooon melancholy of "Ceilings." Which isn't to say the band sounds completely different. On the contrary, Local Natives still showcase a knack for frenetic, percussive segments and layered vocal harmonies that feature lead singer Taylor Rice's evocative croon. There is just a hint of a break-up or unrequited love threaded through the lyrics on Hummingbird that rubs against some of the sweeter melodies here and gives the album a shadowy vibe. On "Ceilings," Rice opines, "Hold the Summer in your hands, 'till the Summer turns to sand. We were staring at our ceilings thinking of what we'd give to have one more day of sun." Similarly, tracks like the yearning "Black Balloons" and the angular "Wooly Mammoth" are ruminative, poignant, and moody epics that, while more progressive in feel, still bring to mind Gorilla Manor standouts like "Wide Eyes." Elsewhere, songs like "Breakers," and "Mt. Washington" seem to take aesthetic cues from such varied sources as the Beach Boys and Echo and the Bunnymen, proving that the band has no shortage of inspirational material to draw on.
by Matt Collar