Right from the start of Californian quintet Local Natives‘ debut, it’s clear that this is something special. Gently melodic guitar is joined by a ridiculously insistent drum-beat for all of 39 seconds, before Taylor Rice’s dreamy vocals enter the fray: ‘Oh some evil spirit/ Oh some evil this way comes/ They told me how to to fear it/ Now they’re placing it on their tongues‘. Whether it’s about the perils of pill-taking or a more metaphysical meandering on faith, we’re not sure, and providing it sounds as good as this, we couldn’t give a hoot. And that’s just -Wide Eyes’, their opening salvo.
It’s a perfect snapshot of what they do well: taut percussion, some of it almost tribal in its intensity, joined by wispy guitars, falsetto vocals, giant harmonies and tendrils of melody that snake their way through the darkest recesses of your cranium until you find yourself humming them in the shower. And having lived with it for almost ten days non-stop, State can confirm that it just gets better and better with each subsequent listen.
Indeed, in many ways Gorilla Manor is like a science experiment in how to create a critically acclaimed album: take some of the ethereal folksiness of Fleet Foxes (-Airplanes’), add some Arcade Fire-ish choral harmonies (- Shape Shifter’, -Stranger Things’), a dash of Broken Social Scene’s quirkiness (-World News’, -Camera Talk’) sprinkle with Cold War Kids-esque off-kilter timings and shouty middle eights (-Sun Hands’, -Warning Sign’), throw in some post-punk Gang Of Four meets Bloc Party drumming and a half-tablespoon of string-soaked balladry (-Who Knows Who Cares’) and simmer for 45 minutes before wrapping it up in a warm glow. The result? Arguably the most intriguing and enduring debut of the year.
That’s not to say that Gorilla Manor is derivative: adding up to much more than the sum of its parts, this is a breath of fresh sea air that just keeps getting sweeter with each gulp. At the current rate of progress, it’ll probably be next March before we even begin to get tired of it. Yes, it is that good.