Sound-a-likes: Grizzly Bear, Ra Ra Riot, Fruit Bats, Real Estate, Regina Spektor, Broken Bells
First impressions are important. So then what could Local Natives be getting at by naming their indie pop debut Gorilla Manor? All I can think of when I hear the name of Natives’ first LP is entering a giant white mansion with massive Roman pillars in front, but then immediately getting torn to bits by hundreds of massive apes. That couldn’t be a worse description of this album.
Anyways, the poorly named Gorilla Manor seems to be a medley of everything that has worked over the past five years on the indie pop scene. However, they don’t go about it in a lame copying way, where each song sounds distinctly like another band’s hit. Remarkably, a compilation of Grizzly Bear, Ra Ra Riot, and Dirty Projectors produces an incredibly distinct sound, which is a major plus.
Don’t get me wrong; there are a couple awkward moments on the record. Something is terribly (almost comically) wrong with the beginning of Airplanes, but beautiful awkwardnesses arise later in the song with the harmonies.
Keeping in mind that Gorilla Manor earns a strong nine, perhaps one reason why Natives’ debut doesn’t earn a ten is a lack a really strong lower section. How can that be when the band’s drummer is very generous with the bass and they do have a pretty skilled bass guitarist, you ask? Sometimes on the album the vocals and guitars take off way up in the high range, and feel unattached to the bottom parts, leaving a big gap in the midsection. What clicked with Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest was that the high harmonies and the funky bass were always tight, while here they are only sometimes tight, as on a couple tracks when they sound a bit detached. This very well could be stylistic, as I doubt these guys didn’t realize this, but it’s something I noticed.
Despite the fact that this review has mostly highlighted just one small flaw on this great album, Local Natives do so many things right in so many places that it is hard to pick out just one without writing an encyclopedia for future indie bands to follow. Being an indie pop album, and a good one at that, it draws you in at the first listen with some gentle lyrics, smooth harmonies, and resolving chords, but from the first listen to the tenth, there will be something there to keep you hooked.
By the way, it’s all free on their site.