It’s December, that time of year when we all contemplate what we’ve been listening to and compile our list of the best albums from the previous 12 months. Tonight we get a sneak preview of what we have to look forward to next year with Californian’s Local Natives playing a one-off headline show ahead of their long anticipated second album ‘Hummingbird’ set for release in January. Based on this gig, indications are favourable that it’s most definitely going to be a good start to the year.
Opening song, the first single from the new album ‘Breakers’, with its intro of jangly guitars before an explosion of beautiful harmonies is like a summer dream compared to this cold December night. The enthusiasm from the audience is palpable as they power straight in percussion-heavy ‘Wide Eyes’ from the debut album. Now that they have a firm grasp on the crowd’s attention, bearded singer/guitarist/percussionist Kelcey Ayer modestly states, in case anyone had any doubt, “We’re Local Natives from Los Angeles. We have a lot of new songs to play for you,” and introduces ‘You & I’ from ‘Hummingbird’.
Local Natives' 2009 debut ‘Gorilla Manor’ came to fruition as a self-funded, self produced project with all band members collaborating on every aspect from song writing, to production and even the artwork. Released in the UK months before the US, the album was well received by fans and critics alike and spawned an impressive six singles.
When it was finally announced the long wait for a follow up was nearly over, ‘Hummingbird’ has become one of the most highly anticipated releases of 2013. Co-production credit on the new album comes from The National’s Aaron Dessner, who makes a special appearance on stage tonight. Reverentially introduced by moustachioed singer/guitarist Taylor Rice as “...our great friend who has helped us with the new album,” Dessner joins the band for excellent new track ‘Heavy Feet’.
Their brilliant cover of Talking Heads track ‘Warning Sign’ (heard and approved by David Byrne, no less) gets an airing this evening but the best moment of the night is the crowd participation on ‘Who Knows Who Cares’ where if you close your eyes, you could briefly imagine you were at a Wembley size gig and not a bar in East London. The excitement carries through to set closer and crowd favourite ‘Sun Hands’.
Old and new songs are represented in equal measure throughout this set and fit well side by side. Soaring harmonies mixed with indie guitars, keyboards and awe inspiring percussion is what we love about Local Natives and they haven’t strayed far from that formula on the new tracks. The distinct difference is the new songs are much bigger and much more sophisticated. They’ve obviously spent their last three years perfecting this folk, rock, psychedelia sound that we embraced on the debut album and its pure joy to hear it coming close to epic levels on the new songs.
‘Hummingbird’ will be released on 28 January 2013 on Infectious and Local Natives will be back for a UK tour in February.
Words by Alison Kerry
Photos by Rosie Wadey