Local Natives - Sunlit Youth
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Local Natives' sophomore LP, 2013's Hummingbird, took a moderately darker, more atmospheric turn, reflecting a period of personal loss for the group. Things are looking up on their follow-up, Sunlit Youth. The band's typically detailed arrangements, often noted for their multi-part harmonies and Afro-pop rhythms, get a boost from electronics here that's apparent from track one, "Villainy." A slice of pure synth pop led by shimmering textures and mechanical drums, its vocal harmonies and wafting melody still mark it theirs, as do the song's evolving rhythms. A later entry, "Psycho Lovers," has a stronger guitar presence, but also more of that synth sound on a chorus ready for the arena, along with enthusiastic beats reinforced by claps. The slinkier "Coins" incorporates funk and R&B-styled vocals while remaining in the realm of danceable synth pop. Taking a different sort of excursion, the more yearning "Everything All at Once" has a piano intro, then horn voices, eventual strings, and drums that fade in on cue and continue to play with dynamics. Also more off-kilter is "Jellyfish," a living-room recording with a mix of irregular percussion, bell tones, harmonized vocals, and sound effects that include pouring cereal. The overall tone of the album, though, is poppy and bright. While in the process of embracing more electronics they lose a bit of their organic warmth, particularly compared to their debut, Local Natives hang on to a significant amount of their quirkiness and rhythmic flair. It's a trade-off that, in this case, should favor the concert venues without ruffling the feathers of those in it for a sweet refrain.