Indie Rock 101 with Local Natives

02/17/2010 4:00 AM |

Local Natives
Gorilla Manor

You could make a game of coming up with different bands to describe Silver Lake’s rising quintet, Local Natives: Fleet Foxes with electric guitars; the Dodos meet Crosby, Stills & Nash; a frat brother’s Broken Social Scene… to name a few. Even recent press photos look like a compilation of fashion trends from the last two years of Urban Outfitters catalogs: There’s one mustache, one beard, three goatees, two cardigans and five pairs of skinny jeans. Great innovators, they are not. But on their debut release they demonstrate a deft ability to sweep bits of tribal drumming, three-part harmonies, symphonic flairs and periodic collective shouting into fluid songs, keeping Gorilla Manor from turning into a turbulent ride through every indie-rock sub-genre under the sun.

While “Airplanes” includes dainty keyboard runs and mandolins, militant drum-rim interludes and a rousing chorus about the desire to meet a deceased grandparent, there’s flexibility in how it expands and tumbles around. Songs are stretched, but never to the breaking point. Highlights like “Sun Hands,” “World News” and “Camera Talk” showcase lots of shape-shifting, interlocking rhythms, but they’re still clearly the work of pop mentalists, positioning Local Natives to woo the hordes at SXSW next month. It was there that a writer for NME caught one of their shows last year, causing the band to break into considerable popularity in the UK, and prompting them to release Gorilla Manor overseas in early November. Stateside record labels took note. In the last four months, they’ve entertained a long line of A&R reps wanting to talk, joined the Frenchkiss roster, signed on for Coachella and Bonnaroo this summer, and are being primped for another SXSW breakout. In a perfect world—one where the warp-speed of hype slows to sonic speed—they would’ve gained the confidence to extend the album beyond pastiche and the experience to know that the schmaltzy “Cards and Quarters” and “Cubism Dream” sound like John Mayer. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Until then, Gorilla Manor marks the arrival of a promising band to watch.