With their first release since 2013’s Hummingbird, Local Natives double-down on the synth and rhythm-driven pop formula that dominated their first two full-length releases, with a few more dance beats and handclap refrains. Local Natives continue with what works – impeccable falsetto harmonies rise above the formulaic song structures to add color and sweetness, tying together the interplay of multiple percussionists with a common thread. The opening track “Villainy” contains a prime example of the ‘whoah-oh-oh’ refrain that this band has perfected over the years (see also: “Masters”, “Mother Emanuel”), you can sing along even if you don’t know the words! Other highlights of the album include political treatise “Fountain of Youth” an (in hindsight, futile) attempt to thwart the political results of 2016 by engaging youth culture, and “Everything All at Once” which vacillates between heart-on-sleeve verses and a sing-along chorus. “Psycho Lovers” is another end of album gem, with its hopeful-yet-painful refrain “we won’t give up / paradise / heaven wants us alive”
Local Natives are an incredibly talented band, and I was lucky enough to catch them at the Ogden Theatre in Denver, back in September. Main contributors Taylor Rice and Kelcey Ayer often switch back and forth between keyboard and guitar, while also taking turns on lead vocals. The magic happens when their voices click into harmony, elevating the atmosphere to angelic heights. Rice’s guitar work and hype-man energy complement Ayer’s giant vocal chords and keyboard texturing, but then they switch and Ayer takes center stage to belt out a slow number while hammering away at a tom-tom. The live show translates to the studio well, not just the vocals but also the layers of percussion, and this time the result is their best (and most cohesive) album since 2009’s Gorilla Manor. While they haven’t quite hit mainstream success at this point, Local Natives seem to have the indie-pop recipe worked out, and I hope they continue to craft intricate beats around catchy choruses and harmonies for years to come.