Frenchkiss Records (2013)
Local Natives' sophomore album bows out with closer "Bowery," a brooding indie-rock epic. But its true climax arrives a track earlier. "Colombia," written by co-frontman Kelcey Ayer after the death of his mother, is an unflinchingly honest and uncommonly beautiful piano ballad — and the finest song of the LA quartet's young career. "The day after I had counted all of your breaths down until there were none," Ayer sings, his raw tenor on the verge of collapse, "a hummingbird crashed right in front of me." In the hands of a less skilled band, this sort of artful sincerity would approach preciousness — but Local Natives aren't your run-of-the-mill indie-rock outfit. From day one (and their harmony-laced 2009 debut, Gorilla Manor), these guys have been wise beyond their years, destined for the long haul — three singing multi-instrumentalist songwriters (Ayer, Taylor Rice, Ryan Hahn) and a drummer (Matt Frazier) with a rare gift of knowing how to write with his kit, always propelling the songs forward. Hummingbird maintains that level of sophisticated craft, but it's more than just a quality sequel. Recorded with artistic mentor Aaron Dessner in his Brooklyn home garage-studio, these new songs are darker, sparser, more jagged and eerie; though you can detect the influence of Dessner's main act, the National, the producer's influence is more spiritual than sonic. He's helped Local Natives — already a judicious group of arrangers — strip back and rough up their music. "Ceilings" is another tense and dreamy track, with Frazier's crackling tom-toms functioning as a lead instrument, anchoring the dampened pianos and glistening guitar figures. On "Three Months," Ayer channels his grief once more, crooning over quiet strings and dusty drum samples. Local Natives are no longer indie-rock over-achievers; with the stunning, heart-wrenching Hummingbird, they're officially the real fucking deal.
LOCAL NATIVES + SUPERHUMANOIDS:: House Of Blues, 15 Lansdowne St, Boston :: March 30 :: 6 pm :: All Ages :: $22 to $45 :: 888.693.2583 or hob.com/boston
: CD Reviews
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