On their sophomore release Hummingbird, Local Natives engage listeners in an unexpectedly mature and serious album that divides its time well between showcasing vocals, instrumentation and emphasizing emotional melodies. Hummingbird steps away from the poppier sound of Gorilla Manor while building on its momentum and capitalizing on transitions out of their LA studio to grittier New York and a fresh hand in the producer's chair in the form of The National's Aaron Dessner (who was the mastermind behind Sharon Van Etten’s latest offering Tramp). They've given fans a sequel worth listening to here.
The record begins with a borderline cloudy and somber tone while opening with raw and naked vocals on "You and I" and "Heavy Feet," both imbued with reflection and mournful longing. Local Natives have also crafted a well transitioning album here, not just from song to song, but also from melody to melody. They avoid a certain distilled catchiness found on Gorilla Manor in lieu of more sonically layered and instrumentally dramatic songs like "Black Spot" and "Breakers." They branch out of their comfort zone on tracks like "Three Months," featuring some soaring vocals before lifting off into the catchy and pulsing "Black Balloons," whose bass-lines, and surging guitars juxtapose against layered vocals for what is the most enjoyable track of the album.
On Hummingbird, the band has managed to eliminate filler material and instead gives their listeners a fix while offering thoughtful substance that carries both weight and levity in the right balance. Though they deftly keep monotony at bay with asymmetrical melodies and interspersed synth injections, the overall tone of the album can verge too heavily on the somber at times, even if we don't get an intense sense of sadness or grief from the band.
Their pensive melodies feel more like thoughtful reflection and even cathartic expression being worked out musically, giving a sense of growth and even healing as the album progresses. Though not discordant when taken as a whole, the brighter spots of the album are decidedly downplayed and tread towards the center of the album. After so much introspection, bonus track "Ingrid" deceptively leads listeners down a similar path of potential angst before turning the tables and sending them off with an endearing instrumental glitter-bomb that closes Hummingbird on a hopeful high-note.
Local Natives have successfully injected intense emotionalism into the record while avoiding emo clichés and overly angst-ridden lyrics. This is testament to their maturity, craftsmanship, as well as adept production from Dessner. They've shaped their sound into a form of indie rock that appeals to the emotional side of the listener while not offending those looking for a good sense of grit and intensity.
Long compared to musical cousins such as Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes, Local Natives draw enjoyable distinctions here with Hummingbird; not only from bands such as these but from their prior album. This is an album to be used as an example of how bands can progress and mature after embracing critical and fan-based success and forging on to create a deeper and yet equally enjoyable sound, further heightening anticipation for a band maintaining a positive trajectory and mature musical dynamic.