Yesterday was an exciting day as the much-anticipated Local Natives album Hummingbird finally came out! As soon as I got to work I plugged in the headphones and pressed play, letting the sweet sounds and my cup of coffee wake me up. It’s always difficult to follow up a debut album as amazing as 2009’s Gorilla Manor. Expectations are high, especially when so much time has gone by. But for Local Natives, that time was clearly spent creating a follow-up album that shoes not only how much they’ve grown but that their music is as beautiful as ever. The opening track, “You & I” immediately sweeps you up on a magic carpet of sound and carries you on a journey of peaceful, thoughtful introspection with uplifting waves that come in tracks like “Breakers” and “Wooly Mammoth.” The album has a maturity to it, where Gorilla Manor was a bit more playful. The album’s somber moments are also some of its most beautiful (listen to the gorgeous “Columbia” right now). My favorite track as of now is still “Heavy Feet.” Kelcey Ayer’s voice as he quietly sings the verses of that song gives me chills. They’re also touring so check out their dates here and see if they’re coming to your hood!
You probably know Jim James as the lead singer of the band My Morning Jacket, but he’s also had a number of side projects. He is one fourth of the “supergroup” Monsters of Folk with M. Ward, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis; In 2009 he released an EP of beautiful George Harrison covers under the name Yim Yames, and next week he will release his first solo full length album titled Regions of Light and Sound of God. My Morning Jacket is one of my favorite bands so I’ve been following them and James for years. He is a fascinating man who can come off as simultaneously goofy and incredibly spiritual. In concert I’ve heard them cover a range of songs that spans from Erykah Badu’s “Tyrone” and James Brown’s “Cold Sweat” to the Band’s “It Makes No Difference” and Elton John’s “Rocketman.” I’m convinced they can do anything – if you know his band you also know that they’re very experimental, and a lot of that comes from the mind of Jim James. This album gives us a little bit of insight into that mind, a more personal glimpse at the man behind the music. It was inspired by a book of woodcut art called A God’s Man, which tells the story of an artist’s redemption and lingering demons. While he didn’t need to redeem himself, Jim James has created a beautiful and personal reflection on himself that fans will surely love, and for those who aren’t familiar with him, it will open up a whole new door. He comes to Philly on February 18th for a show at Johnny Brenda’s that sold out in about 60 seconds, but he’ll be back in April at Union Transfer. Check out his website for more tour dates.
Regions of Light and Sound of God comes out February 5th but you can stream the full album now over on NPR!
Okay, I know I’ve mentioned these guys, Foxygen, before but I had to again because their album We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic is now out and I can’t. stop. listening. It’s like someone combined all of my favorite musicians – The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground, The Kinks, and more – into a blender and mixed them into one big musical smoothie. You can’t recognize the ingredients that went in, but you can taste them here and there. I know it sounds crazy but somehow it totally works. Listening to songs like “San Francisco” you’ll catch yourself thinking “wait, I’ve heard that before,” but you haven’t. Now that I’ve heard the full album I’m still in love with the song “Shuggie,” but I also can’t get enough of the funky breakdown of “Oh Yeah” that comes around the 1:30 mark, “On Blue Mountain,” and the closing track, a very Beatles-esque “Oh No.” Listen below!
The other band I’m excited about right now is Unknown Mortal Orchestra, a band out of Portland, Oregon whose album II is out next week. Their sound is a really cool indie-meets-R&B that is smooth and oh-so easy on the ears. Funnily enough, they’re going on tour with Foxygen! Both will play at the First Unitarian Church in Philly on March 1st and I can’t wait! Listen to the song “So Good At Being In Trouble” below and stay tuned for their album next week.