Local Natives, Gorilla Manor [2010]

Posted by Greg , Friday, August 6, 2010 9:21 PM

Imagine a Saturday afternoon in May on the first comfortably warm day of the year.  Your favorite book rests in your lap.  Kids are playing frisbee in the park.  A gentle breeze caresses your cheek.  This is the best day of the year.

On the surface, the preceding paragraph has little to do with Gorilla Manor.  Local Natives are not content to sit still and enjoy the world from a park bench.  Instead, the evocative songs on their debut album form a sonic adventure that needs to be experienced in its entirety.  It's an effect that cannot be reproduced by simply posting two tracks (although I'm still going to do that).  Local Natives find joy in the wonder of discovery, and the listener cannot help but be pulled along for the ride.

That sense of adventure is reinforced through the band's use of percussion.  Unlike bands that may have a drummer to simply keep the beat, Local Natives' Matt Frazier is featured as an anchoring backbone for the theme of each composition.  Just as any good adventure involves considerable walking (or running, skipping, jumping), percussion on Gorilla Manor is the foundation on which all else is built.  Percussion gives movement and fluidity to the songs, as in "Camera Talk." Opening-lyric "We're running through the aisles" is a line both heard and felt.  Indeed, the best tracks on Gorilla Manor are those that have Frazier leading the way.

That being said, Local Natives' sound is dominated by pretty vocal harmonies, such as on Talking Heads cover "Warning Sign."  Elsewhere, the vocals of "Cubism Dream" suggest Jeff Buckley's more subtle moments.  The band has also drawn comparisons to Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, and Ra Ra Riot (with the latter perhaps more for its similarly joyous percussion).

All of these elements are pulled together on the standout opener, "Wide Eyes."  Propulsive beats, an insistent harmonized refrain about self-discovery ("Oh, to see it with my own eyes"), and just when the song doesn't seem to know where it's going, it explodes in burst of guitars.  It's an apt summary of one of the finest debuts of the year.

Wide Eyes:


Cubism Dream:

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