Music review: Bonhomie and chemistry on Local Natives' Violet Street

Genuine affection is, likewise, in abundance on their fourth album, Violet Street. Producer Shawn Everett, who has done fine work for Grizzly Bear, Alabama Shakes and The War On Drugs, taps Local Natives' team dynamics to create a recording environme
Genuine affection is, likewise, in abundance on their fourth album, Violet Street. Producer Shawn Everett, who has done fine work for Grizzly Bear, Alabama Shakes and The War On Drugs, taps Local Natives' team dynamics to create a recording environment which encourages all to be free and vulnerable.PHOTO: LOMA VISTA

Indie rock

VIOLET STREET

Local Natives

Loma Vista

4 stars

If there is one word to sum up the Los Angeles quintet Local Natives, it would be "chemistry".

Whether it is the infectious energy emanating from their debut Gorilla Manor (2009), the lovely feels in Hummingbird in 2013 or the can-do spirit in Sunlit Youth (2016), fans are inevitably swept up in their seamless braiding of heart, voice and melody.

Recalling their gig at the Primavera Sound Festival at an idyllic seaside venue in Barcelona in 2017, I cannot help but smile - the band were in sync, with one another and with the audience. They were happy to be there, and so were we.

Genuine affection is, likewise, in abundance on their fourth album, Violet Street. Producer Shawn Everett, who has done fine work for Grizzly Bear, Alabama Shakes and The War On Drugs, taps Local Natives' team dynamics to create a recording environment which encourages all to be free and vulnerable.

You can hear the experimental streak in the unexpected opening track Vogue. It starts off delicately, tethered to a mutated violin solo by Arcade Fire's Sara Nuefield and some spectral harmonising.

This was achieved by Everett placing a microphone in the middle of the room "and we all ran around it screaming and banging on drums and random things", as co-vocalist/guitarist Taylor Rice explained in an interview. "Everyone just kind of unravelled. We were going so crazy and just landed laughing on the floor."

This "cacophony" is unusual for "a band who is usually very intentional and we orchestrate everything down to a T", he added.

The bonhomie also buoys Cafe Amarillo, an instant singalong about finding shelter from the tragedies and madness of the real world. It pays tribute to the people in their lives - wives, girlfriends and one another. "Digitised and distraught" from the "headline crawls across the screen", co-vocalist Kelcey Ayer sings over ringing guitars and skittering drumwork: "But there's no shelter without you there."

The guys are getting old and settling down - and the concomitant fear of losing loved ones exponentially increases.

The existential conundrum explains When Am I Gonna Lose You, the ballad where the newly hitched Rice repeats the title over gurgling synths and chugging percussion. It is both uplifting and on edge at the same time - loss and love informing each other.

Megaton Mile - inspired by a car wash in Los Feliz - is the Local Natives' fun song about the end of the world, a zinger whose melodic zest belies the macabre state of affairs: "The seagulls swarm on the railroad/All we could do is watch."

Even as things look bleak, they will always value agency over inertia, human connection over nihilism.

Whether it is the wistful Garden Of Elysian or the pared-down Tap Dancer, Local Natives compel you to hum along and not take anything, or anybody, for granted.