We are less than two months away from the release of Sunlit Youth, the new album by California indie rock band Local Natives. The magic day is September 9th and we have already been gifted with a substantial taste of what is to come via three singles. So what should we expect? Well, the reality might not please everyone, because come that day in early September we will be listening to a different Local Natives than we are used to. From what we can tell so far, there is less evidence of the DIY, almost bedroom rock sound that was present on the Local Natives’ debut, Gorilla Manor, back in 2010. The conditions in which the material for their debut was written – namely their chaotic residence in Orange County for which the album is named – helped to create this signature sound. Furthermore, according to guitarist/vocalist Taylor Rice, another contributing factor was their focus on making sure that they could play all of their music live which sometimes meant simplifying down their ideas. However, by their second studio release none of these factors were present. By the time their sophomore album, Hummingbird, dropped in 2013 the band not only had performance and songwriting experience under their belt – not to mention a growing fan base – but also knowledge of the recording process. This combined with the departure of bassist Andy Hamm in 2011 resulted in the band being more adventurous during their second round in the studio. Based solely on the three singles released over the past two months, we can already see evidence that the new album will be pushing the envelope even more than Hummingbird did.
The band explained that the first single released back in April, “Past Lives“, deals with self-reflection:
“The world is not static, it’s made new over and over again. But we tend to live the same patterns in a loop…But our world is not fixed, it’s constantly re emerging, and we can change it into whatever we want.”
They went on to explain how this paralleled their songwriting styles in the past and how they wanted to change as they moved forward as musicians. They later expanded on this when talking about the second single released in early June:
“Lyrically, ‘Villainy‘ is about realizing that you have the ability to change your situation, that you can start again every day. We applied that to how we made music this time around.”
When listening to “Villainy” you can almost sense the band telling you to give their new vibe a shot as they sing “It takes a moment for your eyes to adjust. Step back into the sun.” By the time their final single, “Fountain of Youth“, released on July 7th the band was truly embracing their new direction: “We can say whatever we want. We can say whatever we need.”
So what should we expect from Sunlit Youth? Well, the reality might not please everyone, because come that day in early September we will be listening to a different Local Natives than we are used to. There might be more synthesizers in the mix. There might be less emphasis on group harmonies and more of a focus on Taylor Rice’s vocals. There might be more conviction and self-analysis in their lyrics. Although this might be an evolved Local Natives, they are still the band we fell in love with six years ago. Besides, it doesn’t really matter what we think –they can say whatever they want, and I think, come September 9, we should listen.