Local Natives

Violet Street

Loma Vista

May 22, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Los Angeles gets a bad reputation from so many people who judge it from their position outside the snowglobe of the city, people whose experience of it is often fleeting and transient. Endless movies and songs have been written about it, tales of disappointment or elegies for dreams deferred. For hometown residents though, it's comforting to see musicians who celebrate it in a way that feels more subtle than a Red Hot Chili Peppers ballad or less shallow than a Randy Newman jingle.

Local Natives as a band are intrinsically bound to Southern California, and Violet Street, like its three predecessors, takes place against the backdrop of LA's varied enclaves. From the Santa Lucia cliff sides and Miracle Mile, to Elysian Park and Dodger Stadium, local landmarks stud the landscape, playing their roles like tertiary characters in a story of love and fear.

Like the city that shaped the band itself and the downtown address that lent it's name for the title, Violet Street is an intoxicating blend of dazzling harmony and rattling dischord. The distinct three-part vocal harmonies carried by Kelcey Ayer, Taylor Rice, and Ryan Hahn are as present as ever, but bear a distinctly more "rough around the edges" texture than 2016's Sunlit Youth. With the guidance of producer Shawn Everett, Violet Street embraces a sonic and lyrical depth and murkiness that elevates their songwriting to new levels.

At the core of the album is a lyrical exploration of the concept of shelter; "Of course, we have relationships with our significant others," explained Rice in a press release for the album, "but we also find shelter in community, friendships, and the band. They are at the heart of Violet Street." Those relationships are boldly on display for examination on songs like "Someday Now," which plays out like a painfully relatable session of couples therapy; "Close enough to touch/Far enough to flee/'Cause what's behind the dark/Worked all my life to see/Scale the castle wall/To keep something between." It's a familiar story of the pursuer and the pursued persisting in an endless cycle, chasing something the other can't give, lilting over a darkly tropical rhythm and a bobbing bassline. "Shy" perfectly encapsulates the frenetic sexual energy of a breathless encounter between young lovers, the pulsating drums capturing the essence of "tame turning into the wild" between the sheets.

Violet Street falls short only in it's pacing; the first seven tracks flow effortlessly into each other, but things take a turn after the warped "Garden of Elysian" and the album ends on a somewhat listless note with "Tap Dancer." Despite the occasional moment of stagnation, Violet Street is a commanding collection of songs that strikes at the heart with it's earnest depictions of love in the City of Angels. (www.thelocalnatives.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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