It is almost impossible at this stage in the bands career to write about Local Natives without mentioning two other groups. So we will do it right at the start and then we can be on our way. A groovier Fleet Foxes? A folksier Arcade Fire? Yes. Listening to Gorilla Manor it’s easily possible to hear snapshots of both of these reference points in the groups US indie folk rock sound.
Gorilla Manor was christened after “creative bursts of musical exploration, disgruntled neighbours and one dwelling to tie them all together.”
If Fleet Foxes are the starting point then Local Natives take their template and try something a little stronger sounding. We imagine a bunch of friends who have had a few drinks and fancy a bit of a party, using more electric guitars than soft acoustic sounds. Gorilla Manor is a self assured, mature, playful and often ambitious collection of songs built from the architecture of tangential structures and agile musicianship that warrants investigation by anyone interested in this genre. It never reaches the dizzying heights of the bands previously mentioned but if it were an alcoholic drink it would be mulled wine - warming, charming with just enough sugar and spice to keep you entertained.
Gorilla Manor is a consistent album in so far as there isn’t a weak song on it, but neither is there the obvious hit single or track that could take the band to a wider audience. Maybe this is a good thing, giving the band time to develop and not be crushed under expectation when and if album number two is recorded. The closest to a commercial radio friendly song is World News which takes a singular stomping beat and a simple jangling guitar riff and builds layers both instrumentally and vocally until the song finally soars with sky bound chants of oh oh oh’s. Did we mention Arcade Fire? Oh yes, sorry we won’t labour the point then. Stranger Things opens with a snatch of violin before a clattering rhythm, vocal harmonies and mass clapping row the song oarsman-like to a quiet piano moment halfway through. You’re never quite sure where the song is going to next, a trick that the band play several times on the album including on the stocky and organic Sun Hands which lollops and grooves along before suddenly veering at right angles into a shouting crashing dynamic rock wig out three quarters of the way through. Elsewhere the band play it straight though, such as with the driving clickety clack beats, straight indie rock guitar and shades of fiddle on Camera Talk, a song where Local Natives sound more like Local Natives than anyone else.
Earlier this year this group was one of the buzz bands of the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. Whilst Gorilla Manor is unlikely to continue the buzz, neither is it going to lead to criticisms that the excitement wasn’t worth it. It’s a solid start that should the band choose to do so could lead them off into an exciting musical journey with future recordings.