Best of 2016: Local Natives' "Sunlit Youth"
By Jesii Dee
The third release from the Los Angeles-based Local Natives is a great example of returning to form- harmonies, intelligent lyrics, unique percussion - while simultaneously growing up (hello, synths). Having been a fan and follower since the early days of dive bar shows before Gorilla Manor was officially released, I had high expectations. Sunlit Youth did not disappoint. It has good texture to it, and their harmonies are just as stunning as the first time I heard them. Of the twelve tracks on Sunlit Youth, a few stand out as personal favorites.
“Past Lives” is a slow burn song that starts with singer Taylor Rice soloing over a low synth hum. This song reminds me the most of the things I first loved about Local Natives: descriptive lyrics, steady beats (now with more synth), and the harmonies between Rice and singer Kelsey Ayer. The song builds itself up, and comes back down on its own, coming through with a percussive break down and a guitar solo, while Rice declares "Save me from the prime of my life."
“Masters” takes a dive into itself, with double down on synths, loops, distant and distorted sounds, all while speaking about the passing of time, and how it's unavoidable, and how love will prevail. They get a little bit a beach house vibe about three-quarters of the way through, leaving the music to churn through a few verses of the melodies without actually singing words. Closing out with fuzz you'd hear from television static and launching directly into the next track, “Jellyfish” with an industrial thump.
“Coins” breaks away from all of the prior tracks, and has singer Ayer with just a stripped down guitar backing, starting with the line "Time stands still and then one day its gone // Where did it go, where did I go?" This idea seems to be asked throughout this record: the concept of time moving, progressing, and changing. This sing is my favorite lyrically, with the chorus asking "How much is enough? // How can you be sure?" and winds its way through a funky closing much more unsure than the opening, which I found to be an intentional choice, surly.
“Psycho Lovers” is another anthem song with big drums, guitars and vocals that promises the last chapter of the record will be just as integral as the start. "We won’t give up Paradise // Heaven wants us alive," they chant as a declaration against the powers that be. It transitions into the last two tracks seamlessly of a well-rounded album.
This record has served me well when relaxing at home, when driving long distances out of the desert, and as a first date soundtrack: just interesting enough that they might ask about it, but not distracting from any conversation.