Local natives soar to new heights with Follow-Up

On their second LP, 'Hummingbird', the LA-based indie four-piece substitute their rich melodies for more musical subtleties and heavier subject matter

LOCAL NATIVES/ HUMMINGBIRD

Made up of Taylor Rice, Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn and Matt Frazier, indie rock quartet Local Natives make folk-inflected music with swoon-worthy four-part harmonies reminiscent of bands such as Fleet Foxes, My Morning Jacket and Volcano Choir. They were one of the buzz bands to emerge from the SWXSW (Southwest by Southwest) festival in 2009, putting them on a par with indie contemporaries such as Animal Collective and Vampire Weekend. Released later in the same year, their debut album, Gorilla Manor, received overwhelmingly positive feedback from fans and critics alike. Singles such as Airplanes, Wide Eyes and Who Knows Who Cares firmly established Local Natives as a go-to group for warm vocal harmonies, rousing percussion and uplifting lyrics.

Now after nearly five years, they've teamed up with Aaron Dessner (a member of Brooklyn-based group The National) to make their return with Hummingbird. Epic and expansive, their lead-off track, Breakers, is driven with a surge of drums complemented by Rice and Ayer's soft croon: ''Breathing out hoping to breathe in/I know nothing's wrong but I'm not convinced.'' The brewing drum continues on Heavy Feet, a bittersweet number that generates a similar vibe to the ballad Who Knows Who Cares on Gorilla Manor.

Speaking of ballads, the album's opener You & I and Colombia are perhaps their most emotionally wrought yet. On the former, Ayer wails over the sparse keyboard ''Where did your love, where did your love grow cold?/The closer I get, the farther I have to go, to places we don't know.'' The latter sees Ayer taking things up a few notches emotionally, singing about his deceased mother alongside soaring orchestral elements: ''Every night I ask myself, am I giving enough, am I loving enough?'' and ''If you never felt all of my love/I pray now you do.'' Though vocally flawed, he delivers these two tracks with so much raw emotion it can and will inspire goosebumps even from the most detached listener.

The rest of the album doesn't veer much from this despair-filled path. Black Spot, Ceilings, Three Months and Bowery, all lapse into despair and confusion in varying degrees. Whereas Gorilla Manor thrives on melodicism and youthful laissez-faire, Hummingbird sees the boys pondering on life's big questions such as death and loss.

Sound-wise, the majority of Hummingbird takes cues from their first album's ballad. On top of that is serious, more mature songwriting _ a direct result of what the band's members went through during the making of the album. Fans of the free spirit optimism prevalent on the band's breakout album will be surprised that it's lacking on this record, but definitely won't be turned off by their newfound self-reflection and substance.

THE PLAYLIST

Yellow Fang/ Hom Pa

After impressing us with the fantastically fuzzed-out lead-off single, Unreal, home-grown female garage rockers Yellow Fang waste no time in following up with the equally scruffy Hom Pa. Here, the girls kick things off with swoon-worthy cooing accompanied by tender strumming, showcasing the band's more mellow side. ''From here on out, if you're here, everything will be OK,'' go the sparse lyrics. Then, before we know it, the drums explode and speed up the pace with zestful guitar and bass lines. Then it switches into full instrumental mode as the trio substitute humming for words to the very end.

Dirty Beaches/ Love is the Devil

Ahead of his debut Bangkok gig next weekend, Taiwanese-born Canadian musician Alex Zhang Hungtai, aka Dirty Beaches, shares a new track called Love is the Devil taken from his upcoming double LP called Drifters/Love is the Devil. Described by Hungtai as ''the sound of my empty self'', this instrumental number is anything but empty. Running a gamut of desolate emotions from forlornness to melancholy, it's a perfect antidote to that lingering Valentine's Day's schmaltz. Our tip: Pay attention to the orchestral undertones, you're guaranteed to be transported somewhere.

Bingo Players (featuring Far East Movement)/ Get Up (Rattle)

Dutch electro house DJ/production duo Bingo Players team up with US hip hop collective Far East Movement on Get Up (Rattle), a remake of the duo's 2011 single Rattle. Sitting at No1 in the UK singles chart (at the time of writing), the track heaves with thumping beat, synth crescendos and contagious whistles. The LA-based crew once again find themselves expressing their fervent desire to party: ''We be raging round the clock/Feel that base around the block/Fill that red cup to the top, birthday shots.'' With the production this catchy, are we looking at a contender for this year's Gangnam Style?

Dido/ No Freedom

We've already heard Let Us Move On, the first taste of Dido's upcoming record, Girl Who Got Away, a few weeks back. Now the British songbird reveals another new tune called No Freedom, an acoustic guitar ballad not far removed from her previous offerings. ''No love without freedom/No freedom without love,'' she croons as if she were Bob Marley. While fans will most definitely appreciate her musical consistency, we were hoping to hear something a bit more adventurous. Fingers crossed that the rest of the album will fare better when it comes out next month.

TK/ TK

As he gears up for the release of his third studio album Right Place, Right Time, X Factor runner-up Olly Murs gives us a taste of what's to come in the form of funky, Flo Rida-assisted Troublemaker. As with Murs' previous offerings, it's a happy-cheery number that's sure to inspire an instantaneous head bob. While it may help garner attention in the US, Flo Rida's guest spot feels forced. And is it just us or does he sound uncannily like Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine here?

About the author

Writer: Chanun Poomsawai