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album and live music review: local natives, hummingbird

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I’ve been a fan of L.A. indie darlings Local Natives for quite some time now. I remember listening to their debut album Gorilla Manor almost every day on the long train rides I had to take from my parents’ house in coastal New Jersey to Manhattan for my internship and then job the summer after college. Tracks like “Wide Eyes” and “Sun Hands” off that album immediately captivated me; I loved the band’s catchiness, dual lead vocalists, ability to harmonize so well and multi-instrumentalism. A lot of people I played the record for weren’t as impressed as me because they thought the band sounded like a conglomerate of other popular indie bands at the time, but I knew there was something special about Local Natives and became a faithful fan.

When I saw the video for “Breakers”, their first single off their new album Hummingbird (released 29 January 2013 in the U.S.), I was blown away by how full their sound had become. I wasn’t sure if a new record deal allowed them to record with more musicians, but the immediate pop sensibility of this song was something that had been lacking in their previous work. Of course, the single still had all the elements that I loved about the band, but arrangement of this song gives it a mainstream appeal that made me realize that Local Natives had finally arrived as their own entity. I started searching for the rest of the tracks on Hummingbird and as I went through video after video, I knew that Local Natives would no longer be swimming in a sea of comparisons in every review.

Back in October, I was lucky enough to buy a ticket to one of their sold out New York City shows that fell on Superbowl Sunday, which is basically a huge excuse for sports-crazed Americans to get drunk on a Sunday night. The Sunday show was the band’s fourth in a row in NY. While almost everyone I knew was at someone’s apartment or house eating foods like “frito pie” and buffalo wings, while watching two football teams duke it out between Beyoncé’s career-defining halftime performance, I was watching Local Natives with a few friends at Bowery Ballroom.

I know a lot of people who hate when their favorite bands become popular, but I think that’s a warped view: if you’re really just interested in good music, why keep that to yourself? The human connection that seeing good live music with others establishes is one of the highest forms of art, so in my mind, the more the merrier. That being said, although I’ve been an ardent Local Natives fan for three years now, I have to admit that the show was better than I had expected. I used to think that the band only truly got its power from the ability to multi-layer their instrumental arrangements and vocals in a studio settling, but seeing them live made me realize that nope, they’re just really that talented.

The crowd at the show was also remarkable: around us was a mix of crazed teenagers who were screaming every word (at one point guitarist/vocalist Taylor Rice playfully asked the audience “How do you know all the words? We just released the album!” ), an older group of married couples from LA who had loved the band since its inception and a group of three hipster girls who probably live in my neighborhood. The variety of the people I saw at that show just further drove home the point that Local Natives is a band here to stay.

The best new tracks that night were “Bowery”, “Heavy Feet” and “Colombia”. The show so perfectly demonstrated how versatile the band is and their craftsmanship as musicians, and this made it one of those inspiring nights that lead me to remember why I live in New York in the first place. I’m super excited to see just how big Local Natives gets, even though many of my close friends somehow still don’t know who they are. Watch out world, here they come!

Hummingbird is now available worldwide and you can check out Local Native’s tour dates here.

By Christine Campbell

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