Easy come, easy go: Local Natives' sophomore release falls short
To their credit, Local Natives have crafted 11 fully realized songs with Hummingbird, their follow-up to 2010’s well-received Gorilla Manor. Some songs are driven by piano and some by guitar, while others feature a pleasant mix of both with some competent harmonies ripped straight from the lead singer’s favorite Fleet Foxes record.
There are no disastrous missteps here. However, the glaring lack of successes ultimately makes for a record that breezes by as unobtrusively as it arrives.
With its elegant piano and ringing falsetto, “Three Months” has all the makings of a late-period Radiohead ballad like “Codex” or “Videotape,” but it predictably fails to match that band’s inimitable sense of melody and timing.
Maybe it’s just because we’ve all heard Radiohead ballads before, or maybe it’s because the vocals in “Mt. Washington” sound like a Thom Yorke imitation. Hummingbird’s songs simply fail to impress. Tracks like the messy and cluttered “Black Balloons” or the oddly Gorillaz-sounding “Ceilings” threaten to lose the listener, even before the song ends. Local Natives seem to have something of a predilection for droning organ sounds, even repeating them three or four times in a song, and rarely changing ideas.
Given how little Local Natives seems to have evolved since their debut, it makes one reconsider the strengths of Gorilla Manor and whether that album was strong enough to warrant a sequel at all.
No album is without merit, however, and the band’s decision to get The National’s Aaron Dessner to produce Hummingbird turned out to be a wise one.
The single “Breakers” has some excellent drumming that really sells its genuinely emotional lyrics like “I’m trying to strike a match that’s soaking wet.” Dessner’s experience with his own band’s powerful rhythm section also seems to have rubbed off on how Local Natives structured some of the tracks.
Local Natives fans will undoubtedly remain fans, but if you’re not one yet, there’s nothing here to change your mind.