In early 2010, pop-rock outfit Local Natives quickly climbed the indie ranks with well-constructed melodies, ascendant vocal harmonies (often in three parts) and falsetto crooning. They landed gigs opening for Arcade Fire and the National, whose primary songwriter, Aaron Dessner, produced the band's new album, Hummingbird. The record spread more quickly in Europe, where major festival gigs helped propel the band's career.
Hummingbird has been the definition of a sophomore sensation. It reached #12 on the Billboard Top 200, up from #160 for the band's 2009 debut, Gorilla Manor, which sold 100,000 copies in the U.S. The critical response has been almost unanimously positive for both.
Getting there hasn't been easy, though. In the three years between albums, Local Natives parted with their bassist (Andy Hamm), lost friendships, endured residential and financial turmoil, and saw a memberâ€™s mother pass away.
Hummingbird sounds confident and cohesive, suggesting a band that's come into its own. It also has a few stark contrasts. "You & I" opens with a whammy-barred, washed-out sound, building from an indie surf intro to a layered wave of shimmering indie rock. Its video is a heartrending addendum, a morose concept about the final hours of the last dog on Earth.
"Colombia" is a beautiful ode to multi-instrumentalist and singer Kelcey Ayer's deceased mother. Album-closer "Bowery" starts with delicate balladry and builds with a galloping snare, a fuzzy solo and a few crushing chords of distortion. Over the top, the harmonized falsettos tie together the song as well as the album.
This year has brought seemingly endless touring for Local Natives, who booked nearly 100 concerts. On Sept. 19, the band bring their powerful live show to the Orpheum Theater. The lengthy road schedule means they'll be a well-oiled machine, so seeing them play is well worth your while.