The sound of Los Angeles-based indie-rock band Local Natives has stayed consistent throughout their discography, starting with their first album released in 2010.
Sunlit Youth, the band’s newest album, released Sept. 9, holds true to the band’s feel and vibe they have grown accustomed to producing. Heavy elements of dark synth chords, slower, drawn-out vocals, relatively quick drum pad beats and underlying sporadic guitar riffs fill the album, which plays out a more relaxed vibe with a soothing tone thanks to the help of vocals from Taylor Rice and Kelcey Ayer. Harmonies over the smooth, electronic synths are among many common themes the record brings to accompany the soft vocals and synths.
Just about the entire first half of the album feels the same with scattered drum beats off put by relaxed, slow vocals paired with synth chords to give a unique sound that has become familiar with this group. Songs like “Past Lives” and “Fountain of Youth” have a fast rhythm but evoke a relaxed sound due to slower melodies and chords to bring an aura that is not common amongst many indie bands.
“Villainy,” the opening track of the record, is a one of the better songs because of the energy it gives. The opening chords accompanied by the beat make for an appropriate start to the album. The vocals on this track introduce the album and become more powerful as the song progresses.
The album turns and changes pace with the back-to-back songs “Jellyfish” and “Coins” that give the album more pace with an upbeat feel. Still, the slow vocals and harmonies linger, but the feel of these songs and many that follow don’t follow as similar a formula that the first half of the album uses.
“Coins,” a single released before the album came out, is the most unique track. Starting off with a blues feel, scattered guitar chords and a real bass line, the slow vocals give this song something offered nowhere else on the album. As the song progresses, it transitions back and forth from this new feel to what the rest of the album offers and that familiar Local Natives sound. Because it is a change of pace and something not normally heard from Local Natives, it’s my favorite song on the album; I’ve had it on repeat since I first heard it.
”Jellyfish” is another favorite of mine because of the piano and unique bass line that is laid down throughout the track. Although a slower song, the vocals and harmonies give this song more life than those that stick to the formula used throughout most of the album.
The latter half of the album picks up with more elements of familiar live instruments, including an acoustic guitar, piano chords and non-electric guitar riffs. There are a lot of quicker, upbeat riffs that settle in with the harmonized vocals and synth chords. Over the last few songs, there is a scattering of fast beats over slow vocals or more intense, loud and quick vocals. The intensity picks up in the remaining few songs, and the more relaxed vibe turns into what most would consider an alternative rock feel.
Sunlit Youth is not the most vibrant, unique or exciting album, but it stays true to the sound and feel of the band — it is consistent. At times I found the album slow and would only suffice as background noise. I had trouble distinguishing each song, and after a full listen, besides a couple of tracks, none of the songs stood out to me. Local Natives does a good job in maintaining a similar sound, but this hinders their ability to use that sound to create and build songs that become memorable. To me, this became frustrating after hearing a lot of similarities between songs.
As a whole nothing in the record jumps out, nothing is disappointing, but the distinct sound Local Natives poses gives this album validity in the ability to give emotion and feel to a song that is not usually consistent with the typical rhythm that many of these songs have. There is a vibe that is fitting and it plays, in a variety of ways, throughout the entirety of the record.
Featured Photo Credit: Featured photo courtesy of Flickr user Kmeron.
Vidal Serfaty is a junior broadcast major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org