Whether it be the haunting city streets of Silver Lake, California, or the red brick campus of UCLA, Local Natives is a band deep-rooted in my own backyard. On their fourth album, Violet Street, they sing hymns for the “California coastline” and “terracotta rush hour” which all Los Angeles regulars hold sacred. Since their debut album was an indie hit in 2010, the band, particularly frontman Taylor Rice has done a lot of growing up. A walk down Violet Street is a dark, nostalgic, and gorgeous road less taken. This album is much more than an ode to the golden state, but rather a coming of age collection captured in ethereal moments. Pull up a chair at the immortal “Cafe Amarillo” and take a listen to the musings of Local Natives.
Violet Street is unafraid to ask the big questions without always offering up an answer. On their first track, “Vogue,” they ask us “what are they looking for,” and “what if I could only get to you?” The second song on this existential album is a question in itself, “When Am I Gonna Lose You.” This is a piece about finding tragedy and hollowness in the highest of highs, knowing that one day it will all be gone. Rice recounts an evening spent in Big Sur with his wife. “I remember the trees summoned down like an archangel choir and the ocean was all we could see and I knew that I wanted you. When am I gonna lose you?” This juxtaposition of perfection meeting its end is what we all know to be true but are too afraid to admit.
As we dive deeper into the album on “Garden of Elysian” and “Megaton Mile”, Local Natives pick through memories with the precision of a fine tooth comb. They string together one of a kind images to develop clarity that “hits you like a sucker punch.” There’s talk of “sharing headphones and a plastic bottle of vodka,” and “abandoned cars on the freeway.” Local Natives has a way of looking back at the things that have happened to them and finding a greater truth in the small, fleeting moments.
The last thing we hear is a department store announcement through an intercom on the albums last track “Tap Dancer.” This is to suggest that a memory can send you free-wheeling through thought no matter where you are, even in the midst of your everyday department store. This is another song about the hole in our heart that comes with the end of a good moment. “Champion on the podium, another win. Quiet when the crowd’s gone, deafening.” Violet Street is stuck on time gone by, not regretful about what’s been done but rather what comes next.
The melancholy California marine layer and hazy downtown LA architecture pair well with the gloomy fourth album put out by Local Natives. It’s not often we find a band who has the insight to articulate the sadness that follows happiness. Victorian, blunt, and thoughtful, Violet Street is a spiral staircase of passing moments. It’s up to the listener to decide if they want to hold onto the rail or going falling face first.