Local Natives came from nowhere with the release of their début album ‘Gorilla Manor’ in 2009. It garnered some good reviews and they are well liked in this corner of Europe having played a number of well received shows in 2009 and 2010. Their second effort brings more tight, melodic pop songs without ever coming close to being truly memorable.
The LA band keep every song to a tight three or four minute length; a good rule of thumb for writing a hook-filled pop song, but disappointing when everything is all build-up and no pay off. Songs like Black Balloons and Three Months wind up for three minutes, hinting at a big extended crescendo to come, only to just reach an abrupt halt. It’s hard not to think of Spanish Sahara from Foals second album and how that song succeeds because of the closing couple of minutes. Going over the five minute mark on a song doesn’t automatically make it bloated.
What we’re left with is an album that will provide a good, inoffensive soundtrack to a clothes shop where management don’t really care about music. It’s sounds cool without ever making an emotional impact. The musicianship is exemplary, the lyrics nicely layered, the arrangements clearly planned to a tee. But after several listens it’s still hard to pick out a song that would stay on your playlist past a week. You & I is probably the best song but would be no more than a standard album track for other indie pop bands at Local Natives level.
Strangely, the disappointment of the album doesn’t mean that Natives gig in Whelan’s will be a bust. All the songs on this album could work in a live setting if they’re allowed to breath and performed with a bit of imagination.
A band who made a big splash with their début, maybe they over-thought the follow-up or elected to play it too safe. It’s not worth writing them off yet, not by a long shot, but the hope is that album three strives to push the envelope a lot further.