I always like to make note of how I felt about an artist before I listened to the album I’m reviewing. 2011 was full of artists that had hype I didn’t understand who went on to release albums I loved, from Father, Son, Holy Ghost to ReturnOf4Eva. I didn’t hate Girls, and I didn’t hate K.R.I.T., I just didn’t understand what they were supposed to bring to the table. It was the same situation with Local Natives. They were perpetually compared to Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear, but this time it made sense, and I didn’t think their 2009 release, Gorilla Manor, was really worth my attention.
I’ve seen Hummingbird described as a more mature effort from the band. Maybe it’s a bit less showy, but the pop sensibilities are certainly not gone. This is modern “indie rock”. Not Pavement by any means, but more akin to the aforementioned Grizzly Bear, to Bon Iver. The album is very clean, orchestrated, subtle yet accessible, with a bit of folk kicked in. It’s not going to blow anybody’s socks off, but it has a goal and it accomplishes it.
The album is filled with great harmonies, but the drumming is what stands out to me. It’s very energetic, not only in and of itself but for the listener. It makes you want to stand up and really feel the music, as the tracks seem to be giving you a nudge and pushing you forward. The production is noteworthy too, providing Hummingbird with a sprawling atmosphere.
Local Natives aren’t exploring new territory. This was a problem with Gorilla Manor, because the album was extremely derivative. They were playing it too close to the belt. Hummingbird has just enough originality to keep things interesting, and it does it well enough to earn my seal of approval.