Local Natives, who were previously known as Cavil at Rest, are an indie rock band with infectious almost barber-shop style three part harmonies and hyperactive drumming whose debut album Gorilla Manor (2010) is the focus of this week’s throwback Thursday review. The full original line-up of Local Natives start with Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn, and Taylor Rice who all attended high school together, and were joined by Andy Hamm and Matt Frazier after they graduated college at UCLA. Andy Hamm (bassist) did not stay with the band for their second album Hummingbird (2013) and was replaced by Nik Ewing in 2012. Local Natives consider themselves more of a vocal group, rather than a guitar band, and this is showcased by the intricacies in the arraignments of a band where all three singers – Ayer, Hahn, and Rice – could be lead singers in their own right. The Guardian has called Local Natives “the Weekend Foxes, A Fleet of Arcade Vampires On Fire” as a combination of Vampire Weekend, Fleet Foxes, and Arcade Fire in repose to their SXSW performance in 2009, which paints an accurate foundation of their sound.
Gorilla Manor, named for the house that the quintet shared in Orange County in 2008 where they wrote the album, was a self-funded complex indie rock tapestry that was well received both in Europe, where it was released a few months earlier, and in North America. Opening up with “Wide Eyes” and a twisting guitar intro that slowly introduces more instruments and patterns until there is a small break down for the chorus, Gorrila Manor intertwines the listeners immediately. “Airplanes”, which has subtle mooing at the beginning is a personal favourite track from this album. It’s not just the mooing, it is an honest song about love lost, unrequited love. It is also a tribute song to one of the band mate’s pilot grandfather where the buoyant harmonies lift up tokens that show his life well lived: like a well-thumbed encyclopedia.
Each song is a short story, a vignette that encompasses a hopeful nostalgia pulled into larger tale with light afro-pop rhythms and intertwining harmonies.
The entire second half of the album has a slower push to it and “Cards & Quarters” who’s marching haze marks the shift to the slower side. But stuck in the middle of the album is a Talking Heads cover that pulls at the elasticity and puts a new eclectic flavor into “Warning Sign” to make it truly their own (originally on More Songs About Buildings and Food, 1978). The beginning of “Who Knows Who Cares” is a soft ballad that wraps the vocal harmonies in with the softened guitars, keys and building strings to ask “I can’t stay…is my life about to change?”. Finally, led in by the growth in a shimmering cymbal the percussion joins in to add energy to the track. Near the end is the waltz “Stranger Things” that pulls on itself like the ebb and flow of an ocean tide that creates a soft addition and a yearning for more.
Gorilla Manor is a cohesive unit that even shuffled in order are puzzle pieces that prove to solve exactly what kind of band Local Natives wanted to be. It is an album for late night drives, through the woods or under the stars, on the way to an adventure somewhere. This may be a throwback Thursday, but Gorilla Manor is just as enchanting today as it was almost 5 years ago.
1. “Wide Eyes”
3. “Sun Hands”
4. “World News”
5. “Shape Shifter”
6. “Camera Talk”
7. “Cards & Quarters”
8. “Warning Sign” (Talking Heads cover)
9. “Who Knows Who Cares”
10. “Cubism Dream”
11. “Stranger Things”
12. “Sticky Thread”
PS. Local Natives also has a myspace which is the real #tbt