About a month and a half ago, I was recommended a band called Local Natives’ début album, entitled Gorilla Manor, by a friend. I didn’t think much of it at the time, and they were described to me as ‘a bit like Fleet Foxes’, so I assumed that they would be another in a long line of folky pretenders who mixed light guitars with vague lyrics about life and the countryside. In reality, Local Natives are a bit like Fleet Foxes, but sound a lot more like a version of the Seattle band who have, quite frankly, grown a pair and started rocking out a bit. And they’re a lot better for it, this record is a brilliant one.
A five-piece from Los Angeles, California, Local Natives combine three-part vocal harmonies with pounding drums and catchy guitar riffs – on first listen the album didn’t grab my attention, but its infectious hooks and melodies found a way of burrowing themselves into my brain, and within a week I couldn’t stop listening to Gorilla Manor (if you’re wondering, the album’s named after the house the band used to live in). On occasion they seem comparable to Vampire Weekend, but then they burst out with a half-time throwdown or a drum break that makes VW sound like a bunch of fraidy-cats.
The L.A. group’s ability to construct a song is in itself marvellous, building from slow beginnings to powerful choruses or starting fiercely to then fade out brilliantly. They clearly have a lot of knowhow in the songwriting department, the rhythm section always inventive and reliable whilst lead guitarists Ryan Hahn and Taylor Rice jam away either with angular chords or creative riff combinations. Rice also serves as the group’s lead singer, and his hooks are memorable and fun, ranging from everyday objects like a picture frame (‘Airplanes’) to bizarrely abstract ponderings (‘Cubism Dream’). Despite the range of lyrical styles Rice covers, he seems accomplished in them all, while his high tenor register soars through the record atop layered harmonies.
And it is the vocals which stand out on Gorilla Manor. Three-part harmonising on pretty much every song, the band shows a dexterity with the microphone which is as fluid as it is fun, and the record brims with intuitive harmonies and vocal riffs, as well as the occasional shouting match (‘Sun Hands’) which also fits in well with the group’s sound.
Although there is a blip with the slightly laboured ‘Cards and Quarters’, the album flows extremely well from track to track, and it is really the vocals which both drive Gorilla Manor along and set it apart.
Sickest tracks: ‘Sun Hands’, ‘Cubism Dream’, ‘Camera Talk’, ‘Who Knows Who Cares’.
If you like this you’ll also like: Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend, Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes, Volcano Choir – Unmap.