Local Natives: 'Sunlit Youth' album review

Local Natives release the sobering indie rock album Sunlit Youth that finds the Los Angeles natives working towards a new direction in sound and scope. While based in indie rock the heavily produced record leans heavily on electronic elements, layered in synthesized sounds and borrowing from other genre styles. The result is a collection that croons endearingly from start to finish.

Opening track “Villainy” wants to start again by settling firmly in place with a tribute to their Los Angeles home, likely from touring long periods on the road. Further love for the city is found in “Past Lives,” though from the perspective of ever changing and reemerging again into a world that constantly moves. “Dark Days” simmers quietly as well with soothing dual vocal harmonies, going along the way and ever hopeful even on those darker days. The band is fully intent on doing whatever they want, saying whatever they mean in “Fountain of Youth.”

Towards its middle other genres in Sunlit Youth start to become more apparent with songs focused on creating immersive atmosphere. Heavy production layers and echoing falsettos permeate “Masters” in a way that just captures your interest ever so slightly. Hushed keys and percussion and soft croons make way for “Jellyfish” that is focused more on creating that sonic moment. A bluesy, country tinged retrospect of shared time in a long distance relationship makes “Coins” a welcome change of pace in song. “Mother Emanuel” then broods over the Charleston massacre through synthetic and indie rocking tones.

As the record winds down tracks become introspective in an even more quieted offering. Acoustic guitar strums open up “Ellie Alice” to orchestral proportions in a pondering moment over the other side. Pounding drums drive forward “Psycho Lovers” as the band relive their active state of constantly being on the movie. “Everything All At Once” features weighty piano chords and airy vocals that address anxious states in a manner rather touching. “Sea of Years” closes the record in wonder on the usefulness of struggle, in constant want on “a thousand lives.”

Three albums in and Local Natives are assuredly confident with slowing things down a bit in songs that are caught right up in the moment. While Sunlit Youth is a bit of a departure from previous efforts the production quality still shimmers more than just indie rock. With a new direction a full set of songs the record is fully primed and ready to go.

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