Made famous by Wide Eyes, the opening track from their debut album Gorilla Manor, Local Natives are known for providing their fans, (or the general alternative-indie-rock enjoying public), with exciting, sometimes abnormal rhythms, layered over nostalgic melody in acoustically driven albums, that work very well for general passive listening.
Though the passive nature of their sound is definitely present in their newest album, Sunlit Youth, a lot of the old elements seem to have been abandoned, frankly making it sound like a sellout album. Three of the four singles (Villainy, Past Lives, and Fountain Of Youth) sound like they could very well be playing on your local “mix” radio station.
The charming acoustic sound that came through on their first two albums, which made them reminiscent of bands like The Shins and Coconut Records, featured the kind of songs you hear and think “this feels like home, I feel like that this has always been here in my life”, creating that aforementioned feeling of nostalgia. But now it seems to have been scooted to the side to make way for synths and more simple beats. As the revival of the 1980’s aesthetic continues to leak into our culture, it is not entirely surprising that the Local Natives have drifted away from the direction of The National and into a more JR JR zone.
Though the lyrics on Sunlit Youth are relatively well rounded, the music gets far too ambient and monotonous and ends up drowning out the lyrics entirely, making it almost impossible to get through the whole 12 tracks in one sitting.
The two standout songs actually happen to run back to back, smack in the middle of the album. Jellyfish and fourth single Coins are both extremely enjoyable tracks that have their own independent, but both very solid, grooves that really keep them pushing until their end – a major flaw with many of the other songs on this album.
Simply put, Sunlit Youth is about 4 songs too long and, in the end, just doesn’t sound like Local Natives.