“Crafting a second album is something that many bands struggle with, and the Local Natives have not been immune to it.”
Local Natives – Hummingbird 6/10
French Kiss Records
Much anticipation and hype has surrounded the Local Natives sophomore album, Hummingbird. Since the release of the excellent single, “Breakers”, lofty expectations have been set for the follow up to their critical and popular debut, Gorilla Manor. Perhaps they were too heightened. Much has changed since they recorded their first album in sunny Southern California, they have since then parted ways with a member (bassist Andy Hamm) and migrated east to the indie rock mecca of Brooklyn. They can no longer be hailed to be “sort of a West Coast Grizzly Bear”, as Pitchfork once proclaimed them to be. With this geographical change has also come a change in their music, and to put it plainly, despite a few great moments, Hummingbird is disappointing.
The album starts off wonderfully with the broody “You and I”, which serves as a great introduction to the album, as it showcases the Local Native’s ability create a crescendo and ride it to a satisfying finale. “Heavy Feet”, the second track that was released before the album, follows and in takes the energy back down when it would have been an opportune moment to kick it up a notch. The third track, “Ceilings” is the best song on the album. It incorporates all that is great about the local natives, from the buildups to the piercing vocals, and somehow gives it a bit of a pop sound. In short, everything comes together on it. It is truly the only song on the album on which they sound as if they are having any fun at all. Other than “Breakers”, it’s really the only track that stands out or has any real energy to it. The rest of the album seemingly drags along until the heartbreaking “Columbia”, a song about front man Kelcey Ayer’s mother passing away, and is named as homage to the country of her birth. In it, Ayers asks his mother “Am I giving enough?” to which of course, there is no answer.
All in all, the album seems to be tinged in sadness, and unfortunately it just does not fit the Local Natives, who are not specialists at successfully conveying melancholy in an interesting or beautiful the way a band like fellow Brooklynites the Antlers do. Crafting a second album is something that many bands struggle with, and the Local Natives have not been immune to it. Granted, the death of Ayer’s mother and the breakup with Andy Hamm no doubt influenced this, but the end result is that title of the record sums it up; soft, delicate, and not very strong.