Could this be the first good rock record of 2010?
Local Natives – Gorilla Manor (French Kiss Records 2010)
The first thing you notice about Gorilla Manor is that Local Natives are never in a rush to get to a peak, instead building each song with touches of percussion and rich multi-part harmonies. The most important thing to know about this record is that while there are no moments that are awful, the true greatness does not sink in until you have had a chance to spin it multiple times.
The cheap “reference bands” come quickly as you spin the first track “Wide Eyes”. Names like Animal Collective and Fleet Foxes get tossed around but neither make for an accurate description of their sound. Yes they do love heartbeat percussion tracks and echo, dreamy harmonies but their sound is really created from several layers of music built one by one like a brick house. Each track takes time to convey its thoughts with random bursts such as the distorted final piece to “Wide Eyes” or the guitar explosion in “Sun Hands”. None of these burst detract from the whole product, instead provide an instance to rock out a bit.
“Airplanes” plods along with a thumping kick drum beat, finger picked guitar and subtle piano line letting solid song writing take the reins and letting each instrument provide an intricate part. One thing you will quickly notice is how many of the songs lack a “hook” but all of them grab your attention and have you bobbing your head the whole time. Not until “Camera Talk” does the pace pick up but that is where their sound is most comfortable, grooving in a mid tempo jam. Not many bands include a cover song on a full length but a cover of The Talking Heads “Warning Sign” is a pleasant addition.
The last quarter of the album lags just a bit, but again they do not have a bad song among the twelve tracks. Local Natives fit well into the already impressive French Kiss roster (The Dodos, Enon, Passion Pit) crafting solid rock tunes with a little bit of flair. Each song ends better than it started and the album as a whole grows and grows with each listen.