Local Natives

After hearing Local Natives’ debut album Gorilla Manor, it’s hard to imagine how the LA-based band could follow it up. Fortunately their sophomore album Hummingbird is not only solid, it’s better than their debut. Gorilla Manor was a very solid set of strong individual songs but Hummingbird is a more definite and cohesive record. Lyrically, Hummingbird is more somber and darker in tone than Local Natives’ past work. The songs here are probably less energetic than fans will expect but the band’s signature gorgeous vocal harmonies and lush psych-folk sound are still present. Hummingbird is definitely solid and it’s Local Natives’ strongest work to date. – Richard Hunsinger

Lesser Evil

In a recent interview, Airick Woodhead told Pitchfork of the elaborate fantasy world he crafted in his head where trauma patients take a drug that causes them to experience a unified dream world. They essentially exploit these dreams to participate in their darkest, most-disturbing fantasies. Woodhead sought to recreate this story through his music. Listening to Lesser Evil, his first LP as Doldrums, it’s easy to imagine this scenario playing out. The album opens with Woodhead’s jarring vocals cutting through the ether and refusing to return to their origin until they’re ripped apart by terrifying electronics. Woodhead seems to have taken inspiration from Laurel Halo’s Quarantine – make the vocals almost invasive by pushing them to the front of the mix – and this is especially evident on “Anomaly”, as his vocal wavers leave you feeling tense almost immediately. This tension saturates the entire album, even at its calmest moments. On first listen, it’s difficult to pinpoint this album to a specific sound; it pulls equally from deep house, chiptune, and ambient pop. When you discover that Woodhead recorded most of it on a laptop he borrowed from Grimes, it begins to make more sense. Doldrums is very much a part of the pop realm and this record gives us one of the endless possibilities of what that sphere could become in the future. Is Woodhead an innovator or would he rather slip quietly by in the background? – Michael Buice

Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Unknown Mortal Orchestra II

The second Album by psych-pop outfit Unknown Mortal Orchestra has all of the same essential elements of their last album: break-beat drumming, mostly clean/resonant guitar and Ruban Nielson’s distinct-yet-familiar tenor. What’s changed? Well, not much besides the longer than average song length. Everything on II is essentially a fleshed-out extension of I.
The first half is a bit more understated, bringing Nielson’s vocals (a mix of The Beatles’s John Lennon and Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes) to the forefront and  muting the drums and bass. Overall II is a great follow-up, drawing on the same early pop/psych/soul elements as I in a surprisingly simplistic fashion. – Jason Flynn

Reviews curated and edited by: Nathan Kerce