With a denser and more polished sound, do the LA quartet expand their sonic palette laterally or vertically?
Local Natives have always been an act both difficult to place yet immediately recognizable. It is this aspect of the band that has always given me a hard time with regards to forming a cohesive opinion about them. An act like Death Grips immediately leaves me with an impression of abrasive and immensely infectious beats and grimacing shouts; yet Local Natives, even with their latest LP, leave me yearning for an opinion I can truly support irrevocably.
The production on this album sees a denser direction be taken. In part probably due to the contribution of good friend (and The National guitarist and keyboardist) Aaron Dessner. Each instrument creates an atmosphere in its own timbre, carefully constructed to dovetail nicely with each other. These overarching melodies and harmonies are quite nicely laced with an enthusiastic and innovative rhythm to drive it. That being the prevailing theme I seem to find with the album, that it is just that, nice. I unfortunately have qualms with only being able to label an experience as nice.
Rare moments on the album lead me to believe the instrumentation to be a beautiful catharsis of both vocal harmony and delicately reverberated guitar and piano; yet often times I find what one would assume to be beauty, to instead be meandering sounds coalescing into any conceivable piece of alternative music one might imagine to be produced in this day and age.
The grooves and melodies on this LP would seem fitting in a myriad of their influences, of which there are so many I’ve decided to rather not list them. I instead opt to simply acknowledge their existence and try to comprehend what the lads have put forth as an individual work of art. This is where I hit a wall. There is no denying that I have spent countless hours over the past few years listening to bands that have pervaded the realm of music Local Natives inhabit, Which is often why I hear their influences play through them, rather than hear a quartet play its life ambition.
Not to say the LP is bereft of curiosity or beauty, because it isn’t. Standouts such as ‘Ceilings’, ‘Colombia’, ‘Wooly Mammoth’, and ‘Breakers’ are prime examples as to why the band piqued my interest in the first place. These tracks decide to invade the inner experimentalism that is quite inherent within the band, yet rarely exploited. Instead the remaining tracks decide to surround themselves in an aura of construction that could, and should have, been probed and inquired into. In a sense I suppose I feel the album to be safe rather than risqué, a logical step instead of a bold move. Does this make me feel this album is not an enjoyable work of art to be avoided? Heavens no, the work is significant in its own right. Do I feel that more could have been done in the way of experimentation and progression? I certainly do. I’m feeling a strong 6 to a light 7.