Author: ajesparza

Early Look at Local Natives’ “Sunlit Youth”

We here at Melodic Tree were lucky enough to get our hands on Local Natives’ upcoming album, Sunlit Youth, and after listening to it on repeat for a few days we thought we’d share a few of our initial reactions and maybe give you some things to look forward to on the official release date this Friday.

If you have already listened to the three singles that have been released off the new album – “Villainy”, “Past Lives”, and “Fountain of Youth” – or if you have read some of our past posts regarding Sunlit Youth then you are well aware that Local Natives have evolved quite a bit since their Gorilla Manor days. As a sort of an expansion upon the sound of their 2013 release, Hummingbird, LN has made synth sounds a much more prominent aspect of their music. The best example of this is the opening track and previously released single, “Villainy”. This song might show a closer resemblance to a group like Empire of the Sun rather than the sound we fell in love with on Local Native’s debut record, but is none the less a powerful synth pop opening to the album and a great indicator of the direction the band is striving towards.

If the sound of “Villainy” is maybe not your cup of tea, fear not for there are plenty of gems to keep you engaged throughout the rest of the album. For instance, possibly one of the best moments of Sunlit Youth is the vocals on the third track, “Dark Days”. Not only are the lyrics engaging and the melody beautiful, but the incorporation of Nina Persson’s voice is a godsend. Singer-songwriter of the Swedish pop group The Cardigans as well as a number of her own solo efforts, Persson’s tender voice lends perfectly to those of the rest of the band. As she takes the second verse solo and then harmonizes flawlessly with the rest of the group, one might think that she was meant to be a Local Native.

Although at this point you might have an idea in your head about what the whole album sounds like, we promise Sunlit Youth will surprise you, and that is what’s so great about it. In the song “Masters” the band flirts with electronica (side note: if Local Natives wrote more of this kind of music, clubs would be way better); we get an almost hip-hop vibe in the song “Jellyfish” featuring Moses Sumney; “Coins” comes out of nowhere with a surprisingly fitting quasi-R&B sound fit with wailing vocals and all; and even a throwback to the classic LN sound with “Ellie Alice”.

In summary, Sunlit Youth is engaging but perhaps not what longtime Local Natives fans would expect. We still hear their signature cryptic yet beautiful lyricism paired with gorgeous harmonies, but now the musical context in which those aspects appear is different. So if you’re willing to give this new evolution a chance, we think you’ll have no problem remaining a die hard Local Natives Fan.

Accepting the Evolution of Local Natives and Their New Album

We are less than two months away from the release of Sunlit Youth, the new album  by California indie rock band Local Natives. The magic day is September 9th and we have already been gifted with a substantial taste of what is to come via three singles. So what should we expect? Well, the reality might not please everyone, because come that day in early September we will be listening to a different Local Natives than we are used to.

From what we can tell so far, there is less evidence of the DIY, almost bedroom rock sound that was present on the Local Natives’ debut, Gorilla Manor, back in 2010The conditions in which the material for their debut was written – namely their chaotic residence in Orange County for which the album is named – helped to create this signature sound. Furthermore, according to guitarist/vocalist Taylor Rice, another contributing factor was their focus on making sure that they could play all of their music live which sometimes meant simplifying down their ideas. However, by their second studio release none of these factors were present.

By the time their sophomore album, Hummingbird, dropped in 2013 the band not only had performance and songwriting experience under their belt – not to mention a growing fan base – but also knowledge of the recording process. This combined with the departure of bassist Andy Hamm in 2011 resulted in the band being more adventurous during their second round in the studio. Based solely on the three singles released over the past two months, we can already see evidence that the new album will be pushing the envelope even more than Hummingbird did.

The band explained that the first single released back in April, “Past Lives“, deals with self reflection:

“The world is not static, it’s made new over and over again. But we tend to live the same patterns in a loop…But our world is not fixed, it’s constantly reemerging, and we can change it into whatever we want.”

They went on to explain how this paralleled their songwriting styles in the past and how they wanted to change as they moved forward as musicians. They later expanded on this when talking about the second single released in early June:

“Lyrically, ‘Villainy is about realizing that you have the ability to change your situation, that you can start again everyday. We applied that to how we made music this time around.”

When listening to “Villainy” you can almost sense the band telling you to give their new vibe a shot as they sing “It takes a moment for your eyes to adjust. Step back into the sun.” By the time their final single, “Fountain of Youth“, released on July 7th the band was truly embracing their new direction: “We can say whatever we want. We can say whatever we need.”

So what should we expect from Sunlit Youth? Well, the reality might not please everyone, because come that day in early September we will be listening to a different Local Natives than we are used to. There might be more synthesizers in the mix. There might be less emphasis on group harmonies and more of a focus on Taylor Rice’s vocals. There might be more conviction and self-analysis in their lyrics. Although this might be an evolved Local Natives, they are still the band we fell in love with six years ago. Besides, it doesn’t really matter what we think – they can say whatever they want, and I think, come September 9th, we should listen.