Local Natives have just released their sophomore album, Hummingbird, and we couldn’t be more pleased. It’s been a few years since their debut Gorilla Manor, and the band has been through a lot since then. They parted ways with bassist Andy Hamm in 2011, and in the middle of writing their new album, singer and keyboardist Kelcey Ayers suffered the loss of his mother. From the beginning of Hummingbird, I could tell that something was different about this album. Maybe it’s the losses, or the shift from Los Angeles to Brooklyn to write and record with The National‘s Aaron Dessner. Whatever it is, they haven’t strayed from their strengths, but there is a definitely a more melancholy tone this time around.
Hummingbird opens up with “You & I”, as Ayers hits a lonely and heartbreaking note, both vocally and lyrically. It’s immediately personal. The advance single “Breakers” is one of my favorites, and sounds a little more like the Local Natives that I was expecting. After the release of Gorilla Manor, Local Natives were compared to bands like Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, and Animal Collective. Songs like “World News,” “Sun Hands,” and “Camera Talk” had a certain hype and jam-y feel to them. I was excited to hear more like these on Hummingbird, but was a little let down at first. However, they more than made up for it.
While “Black Balloons” and “Wooly Mammoth” are along the same style as their previous album, the standout tracks are by far the emotionally raw ballads. “Columbia” was inspired after the passing of Ayer’s mother, and is one of the most beautiful songs they have ever written. At the end, as the music builds and he sings, addressing his mother by name, “Patricia, every night I ask myself, am I giving enough? Am I loving enough?” in such an honest desperation that at some point, his voice breaks, and the song ends.
When I first listened to this album all the way through, I’ll admit I was a little skeptical. But the second time around, I completely fell in love with it. It’s the sort of album that will sink in slowly, but it’s a more than impressive follow-up.