New Music Tuesday (February 16th, 2010)

16 Feb

Local Natives

Gorilla Manor

Frenchkiss Records

9/10

Though the term “it band” is usually met with knee-jerk reactions, to claim that LA’s Local Natives are not one of the most hyped bands of 2010 would not only be untrue, it would be irresponsible journalism.  After playing nine attention-grabbing shows at last year’s SXSW, the band was signed to Infectious Records and began an extensive tour of the UK, going on to release Gorilla Manor overseas to popular acclaim last year.

Now – since being signed to Frenchkiss – Local Natives are finally releasing their debut record in North America, presenting the ultimate question: are they worth the hype?

Upon hearing the first notes of “Wide Eyes”, listeners are instantly treated to an immediate sense of summertime, as the harmonies of Ryan Hahn and Taylor Rice conjure up images of warm winds, sunshine and tall grass set to a soundtrack of non-stereotypical West Coast simplicity.

However, instead of basking in what could easily have remained an album confined to “summertime bliss”, “Airplane” brings about a sound less polished that still successfully highlights the impressive vocal range of the lead singer, who – though heartfelt and sincere – avoids the clichés and whininess that would often have stemmed from the repeated phrase, “I want you back”.

Though the vocals will undoubtedly garner your attention, it’s important to pay attention to the instrumentals that seem so simple, but act as the backbone of this Silverlake five.  In “Sun Hands”, light guitar and percussion beautifully compliment the group’s vocals, but a powerful solo eventually provides the added boost that the track needs to stay three dimensional.  This trend continues in “Shape Shifter” which begins as a vocal showcase and eventually transcends into a rhythmic force that straddles both the powerful and subdued.

While the album seems to flow at an even tempo, Gorilla Manor is a record that – despite its laid-back demeanour – will work to keep your attention.  Though you may attempt to figure out each song by the first few bars, you’ll quickly discover that within each track lies further depth, making it impossible to fully appreciate the album after one listen.

So are Local Natives worth the hype?  Well, if their debut is any sort of inclination, you should probably jump on the bandwagon now.  Not just a “summer-esque” release, Gorilla Manor looks to be one of 2010’s most bankable contributions.

Tindersticks

Falling Down A Mountain

Constellation

8/10

Since the release of The Hungry Saw in 2008 – their first studio album since 2003’s Waiting For the Moon – English band Tindersticks have expanded their cult following, cementing their status as valuable exports who’ve come to embrace various genres while staying true to their independent roots.

Enter: their latest release, Falling Down A Mountain, an album recorded over three months in summer of 2009 in studios across France and Belgium (including frontman Stuart A. Staples’ French studio, Le Chien Chaneux).  True to form, the band maintains their eclectic mix of instrumental, jazz, folk and soul as Staples’ unique vocals takes listeners on a journey across the environment the band’s concocted.

Opening the record with the album’s title track, Tindersticks re-introduce themselves with the combination of jazz and magic, embodying the carefree nature of which jazz was born before moving onto “Keep You Beautiful”, a reflexive track that succeeds in sounding pretty, but seems to lose itself among the ambience.

As the album progresses, songs continue to flow, but seem to split between attention-grabbing (“She Rode Me Down”) and indifferent (“Harmony Around My Table”), as the emotional response that listeners crave may fail to be evoked by the record’s subdued nature.  However, with a guest appearance by Mary Margaret O’Hara on the stirring-yet-overtly cute Peanuts, and an understated instrumental overture that makes up “Hubbard Hills”, Falling Down A Mountain cements itself as memorable musical contribution since the talent of Tindersticks remains undeniable.

Though the album may not skyrocket the 19-year-old band onto magazine covers and top 40 lists, the record is a valiant effort and an example of choosing talent and heart over fame and media-pleasing.  Fans of Tindersticks will undoubtedly support Falling Down A Mountain’s textured and multi-dimensional approach, while new fans may be drawn by the band’s nonchalance.  Regardless, the record succeeds in capturing the freedom and inhibitions of Falling Down A Mountain and will provide listeners with the spirit and magic lacking on those dark February nights.

Posted by:  Anne T Donahue

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