A careful fear.
As bad habits are wont to do, there may be no good in beginning anew. I can but only try.
29 January 2013
Any one would have thought it a disadvantage to have an album released that early into the new year, and especially in one potentially populated with the most comebacks and returns. Big names are still being feverishly bandied about at the time of writing, with expectations looming higher than ever, but fans of the Local Natives are quick to make confident declarations that the Los Angeles quartet’s latest release, Hummingbird, will have no problems at all scoring a spot in many of the year’s best-of lists.
The band’s return to the fold was celebrated with the unveiling of a few new songs – while the catchy lead single “Breakers” still had the signature sound of the Local Natives, it was the lonely, soaring vocals in “You and I” and the gently pulsating “Heavy Feet” that seemed to set off alarm bells. Gone were the clap-happy tunes and gleeful shoutouts that made up their loud and boisterous debut album Gorilla Manor; in contrast, Hummingbird can best be described as the soft-spoken second sibling – a quiet achiever forever reminiscing about lost loves, cold sunrises and silver dreams.
Sure, there is still the occasional fun little ditty like in “Ceilings”, a brief and simple track that is as sweet as honey on a warm summer’s day – but it is in special moments such as the affecting “Mt. Washington” and heartwrenching “Colombia” that the band seemingly lay bare their souls, building emotional climaxes with thin, fragile falsettos and sad, poignant lyrics that will put a crack to even the hardest of stones.
Admittedly, Hummingbird may not be as easily accessible as its sunnier predecessor, but it is still an album destinied for keeps, and there is no doubt that the Local Natives will continue to set hearts aflutter in years to come.
Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze
9 April 2013
One would balk at the idea of having to listen to a 70-minute-long album from start to finish, but Kurt Vile has apparently found one easy solution to this: he has conveniently bookended Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze with two of the loveliest – though longest – tracks in the album.
And so it is that we find it easy to forgive the co-founder and former band member of The War on Drugs for swaggering by so casually in the almost title track and opener “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day”, his trademark slacker drawl and addictive guitar riffs urging you to tap your feet to the music before long, injecting a generous dose of optimism to kickstart your day.
Well, perhaps there is some truth to what they say: the destination matters not at all, for it is the journey that makes it more than worthwhile. Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze may be full of jammy and lengthy outros, but they are there not just for show: every single note seems to be perfectly placed, unerringly matching with the mood of the moment, your attention wavering not at all. This formula is successfully employed throughout the album, including in the punchy yet graceful lead single “Never Run Away” and the urgent strumming of strings present in “Snowflakes Are Dancing”.
As if to demonstrate what a pretty daze really feels like, Vile rewards us with the dreamy closer “Goldtone”, which seems to paint a lone picture of him silhouetted at sunset, mulling over life’s biggest mysteries with a cool pina colada in hand. We watch on, equally as fixated, as the great ball of fire slowly disappears over the horizon, its graceful descent punctuated by a series of ascending notes that eventually leads the album to a triumphant finale. Simply sublime.
Upcoming releases for 2013:
The National. And The National only. I make no apologies, because nothing else matters anymore. See Metacritic’s release calendar here.