Local Natives Gorilla Manor Review
I had a good feeling after seeing Local Natives opening for Fool’s Gold a few months back that this was a band that was going to be on people’s radar in a big way in 2010. Hearing the first song released from their debut album, the jittery/world influenced “Sun Hands,” helped to push that feeling forward shortly after that show. Spending the last few weeks listening to their debut full length, Gorilla Manor, I am now 100% convinced that we will be in full fledged Local Natives mania in short order. Whether or not I am on board is something that I haven’t quite nailed down.
Their sound is akin to the wild, rhythm heavy pop music of Yeasayer’s debut record. Songs like the poppy “World News,” the soaring anthem “Shape Shifter” and the breezy vocals on “Stranger Things” make this an album that will be popular across many different music spheres, but it all comes a little too easy for me. Like Vampire Weekend, I can’t help but shake the sense that the music is a mile wide and an inch deep. While the frantic drumming and precise backing vocals sound great the first time around, I have found them less rewarding with each return listen. While it is well produced and has some interesting juxtapositions of ideas, the straightforward and mundane lyrics seemed to grow more irritating with each listen. This was an album I liked quite a bit the first time, less the second time, and was skipping through most of the songs by the time I was writing this review. With strings swelling and the lead singer passionately singing “I want you back” over and over on the song “Airplanes,” I have come to get that feeling that I get when songs no longer are genuine and scream “overblown.” It is more akin to the feeling I get when hearing latter day U2 than I get from hearing Arcade Fire. There is emotion there, but it feels prepared and pre-packaged. There is that integral part missing from what makes me like bands that write great songs (like Local Natives do) and really love bands, which I probably will never be able to accurately describe. Whatever that thing is, I didn’t find it in my many spins of Gorilla Manor.
Local Natives are one of those bands that I know I will get into arguments over. I can see, very clearly, why people would like them. I think they are just fine. The bottom line is my favorite albums are the ones that perplex me at first, plant some sort of weird seed in me that slowly draws me back in and then finally grabs me by the neck. This album did the opposite. It was instantly pleasing, easy to understand, but then plummeted with diminishing returns. Maybe this is a case of me missing the forest by staring too intently at the trees, but I think this album will ultimately end up being one of those records that I will enjoy hearing when other people (or the radio) play it, but won’t be going out of my way to make sure I keep in my stereos permanent rotation.