One of my favorite records of the past five years, Hummingbird was Local Natives’ sophomore record. Released back in 2013, the album was a tour de force of luscious vocal harmonies and intricate percussion rhythms. Tracks such as “You & I” held beautifully soft and passionate moments as well, though still holding the intense and indie-forward “Heavy Feet,” and “Breakers.” Think if the Dodos were from Los Angeles instead of San Francisco.
Going a bit more commercial on their third record, Sunlit Youth, the band reaches out of their comfort zone with even more production, a digital Phoenix-like feel (the band), and a propensity to make danceable music that the kids can get down to. Initially, I despised it. Maybe not “despised,” as that’s a pretty harsh word, but I very much disliked what I was hearing. Coming from such a love of the natural sounding Hummingbird, I scoffed at another band “going digital” with their third record–a trend I’ve seen happen a lot recently with groups like Mumford & Sons, Bon Iver, Arcade Fire (technically their 4th record), and countless others.
After I calmed down and gave the record a second chance however, it wasn’t the sellout trash pile that I originally thought it was. Sure it can get a little corny at times–tracks like “Fountain of Youth” seem a little desperate–but there’s a lot of moments that have that special Local Natives sound that isn’t buried in synth-lush or shout choruses reminiscent of The Naked & Famous’ “Punching in a Dream” from 2010. The second half falls a little short when it comes to original sounding material as well, but the first half of the record holds some decent tracks.
Ultimately though, it’s nothing too amazing or awe-inspiring, as songs likes “Past Lives,” “Dark Days,” and “Jellyfish” showcase that they can compete in the indie-pop genre… but maybe back in 2010 when artists were making this kind of music. Me? I like the Local Natives back in 2013 when this kind of music was rampant, and they were the ones belting vocal harmonies on Hummingbird. Some might say that “if you can’t beat ’em, then join ’em,” but no one says that about things that happened six years ago.