Local Natives has been one of the most talked about bands of the year, with Gorilla Manor spawning no less than six singles as well as countless praise from overwhelmingly positive reviews. And when you listen to this impressive album from start to finish, it’s not difficult to understand why. Local Natives’ music is effortlessly summery and youthful, while at the same time wistfully folkish – a cohesive marrying of new and vintage sounds.
If it seems too good to be true that a band could get it so right this early on, it’s perhaps because this album isn’t strictly their debut. High school friends Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn and Taylor Rice had been earning their stripes previously, and a lot more quietly, as Cavil At Rest. The name change brought in two additional members (Andy Hamm and drummer Matt Frazier) and a logical progression from their somewhat poppier, and a little rougher-around-the-edges sound in the Cavil days. On Gorilla Manor, these Californian (local) natives have clearly matured, their music taking on a soulful edge and, more significantly, a better command of song structure and arrangement.
The album opens with a formidable trifecta of singles: “Wide Eyes”, with its gorgeously layered harmonies, jangly guitar and driving tribal percussion. A stunning display of what makes Local Natives so great, especially when all voices come together in a chorus of “ooh oohs” before a lush breakdown. “Airplane”, despite an odd-sounding yawning intro (which on first listen kinda sounds like the band members doing some kind of bovine imitation) boasts a wonderfully wistful melody, sung in endearing falsetto, along to a marching beat. Rounding out the trio is “Sun Hands”, one of the band’s strongest songs and the best showcase of three-part harmonies and interwoven vocal parts on the record.
The standouts continues throughout the record too, with the nostalgia-tinged leading single “Camera Talk”, and the tender ballad “Who Knows Who Cares”. There is a also a superb rendition of Talking Heads tune “Warning Sign”, which the band give a fluid, vocal-heavy dressing to. In all its beautifully composed and wonderfully evocative glory, Gorilla Manor is a triumph of modern folk-pop.
Review Score: 9/10