Monday, August 2, 2010

Local Natives - Gorilla Manor

Local Natives is an indie-rock band based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, California. The band attracted a lot of attention from the music press and blogs after playing at the 2009 SXSW Festival. Their self-funded debut album, Gorilla Manor, was released in the UK in November 2009, and later released in the US on February 16, 2010, and has received mostly positive reviews and debuted in the Billboard 200 and #3 in the New Artist Chart.

Regardless of Local Natives' mixture of every '00 sub-genre in indie music, the hype and the reviews -- good and bad -- I find myself drawn to their youthful sound, three-part harmonies, and percussion-driven tunes. One being "Wide Eyes", a youthful and inquisitive song about people's need to witness an extraordinary event with their own eyes in order to believe it or to believe in it: "All the men of faith and men of science had their questions/Could it ever be on earth as it is in heaven?/Oh, to see it with my own eyes". The second track, "Airplanes", is a love letter to keyboardist, Kelcey Ayer's, deceased grandfather, who was a pilot: "I did not know you as well/As my father knew you/Every question you took the/Time to sit and look it up in the/Encyclopedia/I love it all so much/I call 'I want you back.'" Despite the song's subject, the track still has a youthful and rousing sound with piano, strings, harmonies, and percussion to reflect a life well-lived. "World News", is a slow-building tune with rhythmic percussion and harmonies reminiscent of the Beach Boys. The track, "Shape Shifter", is moody but never depressing because its sweeping instrumentation and explosive percussion.

Even the slower-tempo songs on Gorilla Manor have a youthful appeal with their rhythmic multi-layered percussion. "Cards and Quarters" for example, is an extremely sexy, slow-burning tune with beautiful harmonies, a soulful beat, and climaxing cymbal rolls. "Who Knows, Who Cares" is an introspective jam about life's ever-changing circumstances and situations and living life to the fullest and sharing it with the person you love: "You could let it down/Jump into the river baby/Easy as it sounds/It's never quite easily done/The current has us now, it's ok/Take into account that it's all about to change/Who knows, who cares." The quiet beginning of the song changes into a flowing groove of swaying strings and pounding percussion. I definitely think that "Who Knows, Who Cares" is one of the strongest songs on Gorilla Manor. "Cubism Dream" is about a long-distant relationship that broke up via Skype. Its lyrics show Local Natives' intelligent songwriting in which they refer to "Cubism" as the Skype window intersecting planes on a computer screen. Also, like the Cubists art, the long-distance lover is broken up, analyzed, and made into an abstract form. "We talked on a small screen/A Cubism dream/The most beautiful squares I'd ever seen." Ending on a light and calming note, Gorilla Manor, finishes with "Sticky Thread".

It is also worth mentioning Local Natives' successful attempt at covering the Talking Heads' "Warning Sign". While they kept the original bassline, they replaced David Byrne's distinctive vocal style with a melodic three-part harmony. They've also managed to make the song less nervous. Covering this iconic song was definitely an audacious move that could have either caused much embarrassment or pride. Local Natives' cover is something to be proud of, showcasing their artistic ability to take a song and put their own personal stamp on it.

Gorilla Manor is a good album with great arrangements abounding with sonic richness, yearning chants, and powerful percussion, but Local Natives tend to overdo it with the 2000s indie-rock trends. However, it's this variety of trends that makes Local Natives familiar and appealing to the indie-rock fans. Although, Gorilla Manor is certainly not original, it is easy to listen to.

Who Knows Who Cares by Local Natives by MarinaMixes2010

Local Natives - Wide Eyes by wereofftherails

Local Natives - Airplanes by stndrdeviations

local natives - cards and quarters by gfom

Local Natives - Cubism Dream by Jblz

Local natives - Warning Sign by popisonfire

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