Languid and dreamy, Hummingbird by Local Natives, produced by Aaron Dressner, is an album worth a second listen. Intimate and reflective, there’s almost a complete nakedness in its very composition.

I believe comparing Hummingbird to their debut effort in 2009 would only detract from the quality of this record, which shows emotional growth, self-possession of harmonies, and many new textures. All of this comes together for the listener and draws him in, like allowing him to read the band’s most innermost, private thoughts. It is a bold move and I admire Local Natives for their bravery in putting out such an album. The ability to invoke real emotion from the listener is nothing less than a gift.

Lush guitars and lilting vocals complement mostly downtempo songs that reflect on summers past, death, loves lost, and regret with varying degrees of sadness serving as a recurrent theme.

Kelcey Ayer has a beautiful voice and moments remind me of Jeff Buckley – the pain and raw despair is palpable as he melodiously sings I re-open my eyes and if I didn’t know to be afraid the faces made me sure that I do now. Even though the subject matter is so heavy, there is a sense of fearlessness that pops up towards the end of the song, both lyrically and sonically.

The first single off the album is “Heavy Feet,” one of my favorites, and it is a bittersweet and austere reflection on love. Another favorite is “You and I” where Ayer’s vocals soar from the moment the song begins to the lyric in all this light, all I feel is dark to the very end of the track. Vocals take center stage and backing production is minimal.

“Black Balloons,” “Wooly Mammoth” and “Ceilings” are some of the most uptempo songs on Hummingbird, though they still contain the same theme of regret and stages of grief.

In a Pitchfork interview back in September 2012, the band mentions that several members went through Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen phases in the midst of writing their new record. For me, this explains the immediate draw as almost anything Leonard Cohen does is gold. And, hey, Bob Dylan ain’t too shabby either.

The most heart-wrenching song on the album is called “Colombia.” Ayer’s voice soars to amazing heights and I get exactly what he’s conveying here, as it reminds me of my relationship with my mother. Ayer’s mom passed away last year and this song pays a beautiful homage to her. It’s often too easy not to tell someone how much they mean to you and to take them for granted. I’ll let the lyrics speak for themselves:

The day after I had counted down all of your breaths down until

There were none, were none, were none, were none;

A hummingbird crashed right in front of me and I understood all you did for us.

You gave, and gave, and gave, and gave.

Ohhh, every night I ask myself

Am I giving enough?

Am I?

If you never knew how much, if you never felt all of of my love.

I pray now you do, you do, you do, you do.

Ohhh, every night I ask myself

Am I loving enough?

Am I?

Patricia, every night I’ll ask myself

Am I giving enough?

Am I?

Despite many reviews of this album as bleak or somber, I think intelligent, expressive listeners will find this album to have a shimmering introspective quality. It’s exactly the type of music I’m drawn to pretty regularly and I haven’t heard anything of this caliber in quite some time. Sometimes the deepest despair and the times of utter darkness and madness are what spark the most artistic work. Other albums that invoke such similar emotions as Hummingbird are The Rosebuds – Loud Planes Fly Low, The National – High Violet (also produced by Aaron Dressner), Sharon Van Etten – Tramp, Choir of Young Believers – Rhine Gold and Indians – Somewhere Else. 

– Submitted by Ashley Columbus, Music Design