The Hummingbird Effect

Local Natives’ second album is darker, more emotional

 By Nick Schwab
Photo: Local Natives visit Cincinnati March 25 and Columbus March 26 with their new album, Hummingbird; photo credit: Bryan Sheffield

They say three times is a charm … but why not less? Local Natives is a band that had a fantastic first album in Gorilla Manor and their recent follow-up, Hummingbird, means they already have two albums that are like a first love.

When listening to these albums you may stammer and blush, as if you’re hearing the name of your first crush. You may even be so overcome with joy that your face will light up, like hearing a love letter from a long lost sweetheart. Loving something without demands and conditions is often the best kind of love: true love. But Local Natives’ albums are not unrequited love; rather they are like that first kiss that no one ever forgets in their life.

Therefore, if Local Natives’ first album can be called such, then their next is like an engagement proposal for the future.

As much as he is proud of it, Local Natives drummer Matt Frazier says that first album is essentially happy-go-lucky, while Hummingbird is a much more tender creation, one that brings the dark side into their emotional palette. Call it the reality of marriage, that is, after the hearts-and-flowers courtship period.

“I think there is an emotion in this record that is a little more heavy-handed than the first,” stated Frazier. “We toned the harmonies back a little bit and expanded our sound to try different things and there are even a couple of songs that have no harmonies at all.”

For instance, Frazier says that on such songs such as “Three Months,” this minimal approach made it more remembered in one’s mind and more powerful and was a fresh start to the second half of this sophomore album.

One will probably agree that when listening to this song – with the soaring voice of singer/guitarist Kelcey Ayer that sounds as delicate and sincere as a hummingbird’s wings – that their tender side is as just as resonant as their hooky and hyperactive ones. That’s not to take anything away from their harmonic songs, though. Songs such as “Black Balloons” and “Ceilings” feature Frazier’s energetic, on-point drumming that creates an organized – albeit loose – drive to these chamber-pop excursions. Somewhere in between this quiet and loud style is “Breakers,” the first single from Hummingbird. The song starts with a sudden calamity, then the singing gets soulful, repeating these motions before ending on one last blast of that gorgeous singing and frantic orchestration. Frazier also thinks the song was  good to use first as their single. “I think the song ‘Breakers’ was a good bridge between the two albums: it’s not totally different for us, but it had a new weirdness and a different structure that was fresh for us.”

The new album feels fresh not in just the sounds presented, but in the lyrical themes. For every up-tempo song this time around, there is a track that comes from the cathartic side: the track “Columbia,” presents simple but very poignant and powerful lyrics about Ayer’s deceased mother as he asks if he is living his life with enough love and giving enough to people like his mom did to him.

“I think there is a more expansive range of emotions than the first record,” said Frazier. “The first record was more bouncy, up-and-down, light on its feet and happier in a way. On this record, based on the lyrical content, we have some darker moments, as well as some high, joyous moments.”

Frazier, however, said that it was these deep and honest emotions that caused them to “stretch ourselves further than we have ever before.” He added, “We are not people who are always dark and depressed. There is a lot of joy in our lives. It also naturally comes through in the music.”

In that way, the Local Natives are also very proud of Hummingbird, on which they said they stepped out of their comfort zone.

“We feel what is important to us is that we tried to accomplish something different and evolve on our second record,” said Frazier. “It’s all part of the same journey and the first record we are very proud of, but it’s of that time, of that moment. Now we are on a new step and looking forward rather than looking backwards. I think people will latch on to that.”

According to Frazier, Local Natives are more sincere and heartfelt when they write lyrics taken from their own lives.

“To each their own, but for us, we write from our own experiences. It makes it more of a personal record for us,” he stated, than added that after they’ve stopped listening to the album he wants the listener to start it over again.

“I think people will enjoy the album as a whole, not just a handful of songs,” he said. “I think people can relate to our songs in their own way.”

Local Natives will perform on Monday, March 25 at the Madison Theatre, 730 Madison Ave. in Covington, Ky. And on Tuesday, March 26 at Newport Music Hall, 1722 N. High St. in Columbus. For more information, including tickets, visit 

Reach DCP freelance writer Nick Schwab at

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