Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Meet The Locals

It's probably a sign of the times that one of the most significant cultural moments of 2010 centers around a 17 year old chick from Berlin. That's author Helene Hegemann, whos bestselling book caused an uproar in Germany because it plagiarizes not just sentences but whole pages from a lesser known novel. What's really interesting, though, has been the country's complete non-response to the scandal: the book was a finalist for the prestigious Leipzig Book Fair prize despite Hegemann admitting to the plagiary. Her response "there's no such thing as originality anymore, just authenticity", with its implied shrug, neatly sums up the attitude of our whole generation.

Authenticity also seems like the right place to begin talking about a band that calls themselves Local Natives. That shrug of a name, paired with the fact that this is a rustic folk outfit from the backwoods of suburban L.A., had me prepared for the worst. And with an aesthetic that so clearly apes several other bands (Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire, and Yeasayer, just for starters), these dudes sure know how to paint themselves into a musical corner. In fact, the affectations are so prominent - the 3 part harmonies, the jittery percussion, the thick reverb, even a goddamn Talking Heads cover - that it's not hard to imagine Local Natives as something spit out by an indie rock hitmaking algorithm. The influences aren't even disguised or rearranged - the pages have just been ripped out whole.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the hipster gristmill. Though the Natives' style still got immediately saddled with the lazy labels we've come to expect ("west coast Grizzly Bear", "Andrew Bird-inspired"), the songs themselves were embraced. Which is why it's interesting to contrast these guys against, say, Band of Horses, who were cruxified not even 3 years ago for the same creation-by-constellation. And like "Cease to Begin", when you take "Gorilla Manor" as its own world its a pretty fascinating place to be. This is a band that refuses the idea of a lead singer, who's first single was written by their drummer, and who look as comfortable banging on the side of a storage shed as they do in the studio. And their 12 uniformly radiant songs, emerging fully-formed yet warmly ragged, might just be the perfect spring album. This is shit to bloom with guys - enjoy it all.


Brynna said...

Dig. Had one of their tunes sent my way a little while back and the album delivers. I still think Broken Social Scene gets too little credit for all this hipster indie blah blah blah.

Laura Albers said...

totally digging this band