Review Summary: Flirting with greatness
Albums like this never fail to bring a smile to my face, but not for reasons one might expect.
Sure, the record contains fantastic drumming, solid vocals and guitar work that would make lesser bands jealous. And yes, the sound is enough of a departure from their last outing to make it interesting, but not enough to alienate old fans. Even the lyrics achieve their goal of ensuring multiple listens in an effort to understand the meaning behind them.
None of the above, though, is what stood out to me about the album. No, the best part is the potential it brings to the table.
As good as “Hummingbird” is - and it is quite good - it’s not an instant classic, and I doubt even time will make it one. However, what’s apparent throughout the release is that Local Natives are definitely on track for big things.
With the exception of a few songs, their soft-spoken debut, “Gorilla Manor,” never really demanded my attention. I had to listen carefully before realizing the album was more than it first seemed. “Hummingbird,” on the other hand, grabbed me right from the start and rarely let go, and even the two “Gorilla Manor”-esque tracks, "Ceilings," and "Three Months," fit in nicely as a break from the Local Natives new, more adventurous sound. And while most of the less shy tracks are great as well, “Heavy Feet” most certainly is not.
It's downright brilliant.
The song is an unfolding tragedy tinged with pangs of hope, as a man struggles with the concept of life after death, after losing someone close to him who was certain of it. Sonically, there's the methodically rapid drumbeat always pushing the song forward, complemented during the chorus by a perfectly timed clap beat that temporarily alleviates the semi-optimistic yet downcast mood of the song. And all of the above is made even more potent by the poignant vocals and well-placed guitar bits.
Again, the potential the song exposes is why this album made such a great impression on me. Not because lead single "Breakers " soaring Oo's make me feel strangely at peace. Not because the main riff of the aptly named "Wooly Mammoth " almost sounds like a wooly mammoth shaking its trunk - listen if you don't believe me. It's not even the emotional free-flowing guitar solo to end the album on "Bowery" - although to be honest, all of the above do help.
No, I'm happy mainly because I now know several things. I know the Local Natives can produce more than one solid outing, despite the fact that this album suffers from a few similar sounding songs and one or two weaker tracks. I also know that they can produce a classic track like "Heavy Feet." But most importantly, I know that the Local Natives have the potential to craft an album that will blow this already excellent record clean out of the water.