Back for their fourth studio album since their 2005 formation is the LA-based band, Local Natives, whose brand of uptempo indie rock (or as I like to say, “mom- rock”) is embellished by a glossy screen of baroque production, four-man vocal storms, and, of course, dancey hooks. Violet Street (out April 26th) sonically feels like Local Natives at their biggest, their most global, while their lyrical images of love still feel charmingly narrow. Vocal unisons that evoke Fleet Foxes (with the department store glitz of, say, Walk the Moon) combine to sing about very singular anxieties like waiting for the eventual fall of a relationship going too well, or hanging on to a love that lasts only through the glow of a smartphone. It’s peppy and it’s polished.
Although each of Violet Street’s 12 tracks string into the next, the album covers an impressive variety of instrumentation that somehow fits into itself as a sort of progression of concept. Opener “Vogue” rolls on scattering piano and string sweeps, leading into the percussion-esque pounding of guitars and layered falsettos of “When Am I Gonna Lose You”. The electronic keys of “Café Amarillo” are drenched in a 60s, Doors vibe, leading into the bass-fronted, noise-rock flavored “Megaton Mile”. For all of the truly unique and alternative rock ideas Local Natives push, they compress them into familiar structures and catchy patterns, more mastering the tropes of indie pop than falling prey to them. Even the most radio-friendly of the bunch, “When Am I Gonna Lose You” knows how to pull off its infectious titular hook without the quality of the song relying on its initial appeal. There’s a lot of complexity within these songs, thanks to the record’s meticulously sleek production.
The latter half of Violet Street shifts further away from the pop, starting with the jangling “Someday Now”, with guitar arpeggios and ghostly wailing a la recent Radiohead. Furious, muted polyrhythmic beats make “Shy” feel like a racing heartbeat, building and finally erupting into blaring horns. Local Natives greatest strength, their layering of their four vocalists, is highlighted well in the choir-like performance throughout the slow, thumping “Garden of Elysian”, while the final moments of “Gulf Shores” brings the band together in stadium-level pop rock chorus. Though it requires the song to shift instrumentation after almost every bar, closer “Tap Dancer” brings all of the album’s stylings together in one final, dipping and soaring curtain call. When Violet Streets wasn’t forcing me into toe-tapping (especially in its earlier half), it was swelling me with the expectation of climax, which most songs deliver plentifully—and without sacrificing entire tracks to teasing ambience.
Local Natives are an easy band to recommend. Violet Streets is fun and shiny enough to reward any immediate listening, but carefully compressed with enough sonic diversity and technical prowess to impress on much more lasting levels. If you believe in listening to a song and focusing on a new layered track within it each time, this record delivers. Standout tracks for me were “When Am I Gonna Lose You”, “Café Amarillo”, and “Shy”.
review by Matthew Wardell
Local Natives’ Violet Street, comes out on April 26th via Loma Vista Recordings