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Local Natives - The lords of the manor?
on 3 April 2010
Do you ever find yourself putting put on an album listening to it only once and yet knowing that it is good and going to get better? A rare occurrence admittedly but one which you will experience with the wonderful "Gorilla Manor". The Wolf has comprehensively captured in his excellent review the various elements of what makes this album special. Clearly there are references to the Fleet Foxes, indeed the warm cover version of Talking Heads "Warning Sign" displays the wonderful harmonies so beloved of our bearded Seattle chums. Local Natives are nevertheless not the "Fleet Foxes lite" an accusation which has been bandied around in some reviews. In fact there is so much diversity in this album that in large parts it is a genuinely intriguing and uncategorisable affair. Check out the joyous single "Camera Talk" which owes as much to the Beach Boys, Bens Fold five and even Vampire Weekend. "Shapeshiter" one of the albums highlights with its searing harmonies and its gradually building force packs a huge punch. A key feature of this song is the hyperactive drumming of Matt Frazier and (I don't believe I'm about to say this) the excellent lead vocalist Taylor Rice does sometimes sound like a much rockier version of Jon Anderson of Yes which is the strangest compliment I have ever paid.
Throughout the album has a feel of summer and the sort of effervescence in songs which end up swimming around the listener's head for weeks at a time and make you constantly revisit the album. The two most guilty culprits in this regard are "Wide Eyes" with its great guitar backdrop making it probably the most rock based song on the album but all the time those harmonies are a tight as Alastair Darlings recent budget. "Sun Hands" is the albums ultimate highlight. Its worth checking out on the net the reviews of this band at this years SXSW 2010 festival where for the second year in a row they again stole the show and it is with "Sun Hands" that they encore. It has that quality common to great songs of the duality of complexity and simplicity at the same time. Listen to it on headphones and the layers reveal themselves and Taylor Rice's vocal absolutely nail the song from the opening where he sings -
"I climbed to the top of a hill
But I had just missed the sun
And although the descending arc was gone
Left behind were the traces that always follow along"
For the other songs read the reviews by Wolf and Mr Chinaski where they capture the all round quality of this album. Its probably not perfect and both "Sticky Thread" and "Cubism Dream" don't really push many buttons for me. A small point not be dwelled upon since quite rightly this East L.A. quintet are generating huge interest and it is a credit to the UK listeners that the album was taken up here where they signed to Infectious and released Gorilla Manor a good four months before it appeared in their homeland. All in all "Gorilla Manor" is an album which will repay repeated listens with a series of rich songs and three part harmonies to die for.