Albums Of The Week

Album of the Week: Local Natives aspire to Coldplay-style anthems but retain strangeness

Sunlit Youth is the third album by Local Natives' (from far left) Nik Ewing, Taylor Rice, Ryan Hahn, Kelcey Ayer and Matt Frazier.
Sunlit Youth is the third album by Local Natives' (from far left) Nik Ewing, Taylor Rice, Ryan Hahn, Kelcey Ayer and Matt Frazier.PHOTO: LOMA VISTA RECORDINGS

Indie rockers Local Natives sing of the power of youth and champion a future of possibilities

As the global community witnesses the American presidential elections with part horror, part fascination, here's a positive note from Los Angeles indie rockers Local Natives: "I think we better listen to these kids/We can't keep pretending we know what we're doing... I'll tell you a secret: We can do whatever we want."

The lines are from Fountain Of Youth, one of the newly minted anthems from the band's third album, Sunlit Youth, which grapples with the band's role in the world and the realisation that they "actually have agency in our own lives".

"I have waited so long, Mrs President," sings vocalist-guitarist Taylor Rice, in one of the band's more political pronouncements before the song swirls into a heart-thumping crescendo and you are tempted to sway in unison in a field of lights.

While this ebullience is not exactly unfamiliar to fans who have loved Local Natives' brew of rousing melodies and pitch-perfect harmonies, this time, it feels different. It feels urgent, more propulsive, aware of time's limited currency.

  • ALTERNATIVE ROCK

  • SUNLIT YOUTH

    Local Natives

    Loma Vista

    4/5 stars

To that end, they have embraced synthesizers.

"I want to start again," Rice declares from the outset in Villainy, a song that calls out hedonistic pleasures as it rolls along on big synths, bouncy bass and good ol' verve.

"Mine is a chrome palace/Lost in Los Angeles/I know that I'll make it through," goes the infectious chorus, as everyone joins in, like a ground-up movement that gains traction, buoyed by a can-do spirit.

Dark Days, similarly, mines the purgatorial space between action and inertia. The melody is sweetly chilled pop goodness, but the sentiments aren't.

"While the dollar is strong/While nobody else relies," warns guest singer Nina Persson from The Cardigans in her deceptively warm, earthy tones, as we chirp along to the tune. "When you know we're out of sight/Dark days in the summer," she continues.

Dark days are also on keyboardist Kelcey Ayer's mind in Coins, as he rues the passing of days. "Time stands still and then one day it's gone... We couldn't wait to grow old," he self-flagellates as the song switches rhythms from staccato to fluid.

One moment, the guitars are plucked in between his utterances and, the next, the song swings to a wondrous mix of Afro-pop and funk.

The beautiful, seismic anthem Sea Of Years rides on an infectious refrain - "When a sea of years pass inside/Why is it I'd need a thousand lives?" - and your faith in humanity is restored.

Sure, sometimes they aspire too much to Coldplay-level stadium sing- alongs, but deep down, Local Natives never lose their strangeness. Listen to Psycho Lovers, an ode to unadulterated love lubricated by 1980s- styled synths and propulsive percussion, with lines as cinematic as this: "I've got her violence in my dreams/ I've got her make-up on my teeth."

You'd think of Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette, the couple on the run in 1993's cult crime romance drama True Romance, and suddenly, you are alive and young again, and the road ahead is full of possibilities.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2016, with the headline 'Young and ebullient'. Print Edition | Subscribe