Sometimes music paradigm-shift moments happen to me in the most mundane of places. One of those moments was purchasing Local Natives’ Hummingbird and listening to “You and I,” the opening track. I was in bed, on the bottom bunk of the Tompkins Ministry House in Old North Columbus, near venues like Kobo (RIP), Ace of Cups, and Rumba Cafe.
I also discovered the wonderment of M83 and Mount Eerie in that house, but I digress.
“You and I” gave me a melancholy yet floating feeling I had never had up til that point. So, following up that album placed Sunlit Youth in an impossible position for me, and undoubtedly many others.
That buffer that Sunlit Youth played in Local Natives’ discography paved the way for Violet Street to feel like a breath of fresh air. This album is an unassuming, lush journey that is easier to enjoy on its own terms. “Cafe Amarillo” is a classic Local Natives tune that could easily fit on Gorilla Manor, that begs to be played on a twilight car joyride through the countryside—in that place where urbanization just gives way to rural expanse. The organic drums and Death Cab–like piano create an expansive canvas in my mind.
If album opener “Vogue” is a lush journey out of left field (and yet somehow completely unsurprising), “When Am I Gonna Lose You” is its straightforward counterpart that feels somewhat expected for the band. I’m speaking of the falsetto-driven chorus, something I haven’t really thought of as typical of Local Natives. Yet, the song on its own is an indie rock tune that could pop up in many discographies, methinks. That doesn’t discount its enjoyability for me.
In spite of the record’s organic feel, Local Natives do not shy away from pursuing the surreal. Whether it’s the apocalyptic “Megaton Mile,” or the otherworldly “Someday Now,” the band explores themes which are common to humanity (fear, infatuation) yet does so in a wonderfully whimsical why. The latter song in particular leans in that quirky direction, producing a sound not all that dissimilar from Glass Animals—replacing the electronic sampling with more acoustic percussion. Commentary on Genius.com confirms that the two songs tie together. The oddness of these tracks make the ironic abrasiveness of the proceeding track “Shy” less surprising.
On track 8, “Garden of Elysian,” I’m struck by how intentional the order of the album is. A good album will flow as one work of art as much as the tracks themselves will standalone. Each track has effects that counter and complement the ones before and after. The juxtapositions are very intentional, and I’m not just talking about those few seconds at the start and end of each song. This goes all the way to the end of the record, where some melodic moments will definitely be in my head for a long while.
Violet Street should age well in the Local Natives discography.