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January 29, 2013 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-01-29

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 5

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Local Natives takes flight

Alt music
grows-popular

'Hummingbird'
soars with dark,
introspective sound
By JACKSON HOWARD
Daily Arts Writer
At the end of 2009, Local
Natives found itself at the top of
the indie rock world after releas-
ing its excep-
tional debut,
Gorilla Manor.
Thebandtoured Hummingbird
the festival cir-
cuit, -received a dotal Natives
good amount of Frenchkiss
media coverage
and performed
on a few talk shows. And then it
disappeared. The buzz from the
first album had all but faded by
the time the band announced
its second album, Hummingbird,
almost three years after its debut.
Hummingbird isn't a carbon
copy of Gorilla Manor, but rather
a darker and more introspective
version. The National's Aaron
Dessner is behind the boards, and
his influence is felt in every minor
chord throughout the album.
Not that the lyrics on Gorilla
Manor were worthless, but on
Hummingbird, lead singer Tay-
lor Rice sings them likes he real-
ly means them. Singing on an
exponentially more melancholy
album than its predecessor, Rice
sounds less like the light-hearted
20-something that sang on the
band's debut and more like a man
who has just emerged from a
Brooklyn basement after spend-
ing the last three years drinking
whiskey and crying about a break-
up.

One of these is not like the other.
In fact, the band's light-hearted
sound has been tinted so dark, it
makes you wonder if some trau-
matic event occurred in the three
years the group was recording
the album. The rattling drums
of Gorilla Manor are still present
on Hummingbird, but this time
they're accompanied by sparse
piano chords, haunting guitars
and very little orchestral arrange-
ment.
The opener, "You & I," sets
the mood, as Rice sounds utterly
defeated, asking in a desperate
falsetto, "When did your love
grow cold?" The song, save a great
horn-backed bridge, is subdued
and glum, but still manages to
move along at a reasonable pace.
Most of the songs on the album
follow in this despondent vein -
"Three Months" incorporates a
piano sound reminiscent of The
National and a falsetto from Rice
that is so smooth it evokes The
Weeknd, while "Colombia" uti-
lizes a simple drum machine and

slowly building chords that create
a sad and palpable tension.
The emotional weight of the
album is definitely heavy, and
there's a point where Rice's
pained vocals and the band's
ominous and dejected sound get
a bit exhausting. Gorilla Manor-
was great because it kept the lis-
tener engaged, even in its lowest
and most pensive moments. On
Hummingbird, there are times
when Dessner's production feels
messy and disjointed. His work is
probably more suited for a band
like The National and not Local
Natives, which requires a less
minimalist and more engaged
sound. At worst, a few songs, like
"Black Spot" and the aforemen-
tioned "Three Months," have no
real audible structure, and instead
simply linger.
On the contrary, tracks like
"Wooly Mammoth" and "Break-
ers" - two of the best - show
that the album isn't all gloom. On
"Wooly Mammoth," grungy bass,

electric organs and cymbal crash-
es envelop the band's twisting
vocals, while "Breakers" shakes
the album awake after four slower
songs. The latter is an epic com-
bination of hyperactive guitars,
Beach Boys harmony and a float-
ing, wordless chorus that is sure
to be used in some upcoming car
commercial.
The work comes to a rest on
"Bowery." With drums pitter-
pattering and synths vibrating in
the background, an electric-gui-
tar solo rings out, the harmonies
swirl louder and louder and the
track continues to build - it feels
like it's about to overflow - and
then nothing. The song ends,
leaving behind a feeling that can
be only described as severe emp-
tiness. "Every night out I ask
myself / Am I giving enough?"
Rice wonders on "Colombia."
Listen to Hummingbird a few
times, and it's clear that (in his
opinion) the answer will always
be no.

S trange forces have been
at at work on the music
charts in the past year or
so - yes, strange forces indeed.
See, though it requires sifting
through
the bogs of
Carly Rae
Jepsen and
the quick-
sand that is
One Direc-
tion (ugh),
there actu- ELLIOT
ally has been ALPERN
some stable-.-
footing -
solid ground for the musically
inclined.
I'm not talking about Rihan-
na or Psy. As much respect as
I have for their influence and
massive appeal, I really couldn't
give a monkey's fedora about
singing their praises (but seri-
ously, how cool is a monkey
wearing a fedora?). My inter-
ests reside with the normally
unsung alternative hits, the
catchy-yet-overlooked successes
that rarely crack the highest
50 on the Billboard 200, and
almost never the Top 10.
This past year was perhaps a
bit of an anomaly. Not one, but
two singles managed to fend
off the rather terrifying attacks
of Nicki Minaj and her merry
band of cohorts to cling to that
coveted "We're Number One!"
pedestal - even if only for a few
weeks.
What's even more amaz-
ing is that they weren't the
heavyweight contenders we
might expect. Nobody bats an
eyelash when Coldplay squeaks
in (except for Nicki Minaj,
because she's battingthose
things everywhere these days).
But somehow, a Belgium-born
Australian with a name nobody
truly knows how to pronounce
(go-tee-yay? Gah-te6-yay? Got-
yee?) mops up the American
music scene after laying waste
to more countries than Godzilla
- who, in retrospect, seemed to
be-pretty exclusive to the whole
Japan thing. "We Are Young,"
by fun. wasn't necessarily out
of left field, (nor the subsequent
success "Some Nights"), but
considering the band's highest
previous accolade was No. 3
on Billboard's "US Tastemaker
albums" chart, there didn't
seem to be a ton of buzz. I'm not
going to look up what a taste-
maker is, but I'm pretty sure
they're the heroic people who
make my Ben & Jerry's Half-
Baked ice cream.
The point is, these two rather
humongous hits were harvested
from obscure fields. You might
say "it's inconceivable that
somebody anticipated these
songs!" To which I would say
"this is my column! Get out!"
And after practcing my bum's
rush technique, I would like to
make it clear: Yes, they were
anticipated.
Let me introduce the culprit:
Sirius XM Radio, specifically
the channel "Alt Nation." These
alt-enthusiasts managed to
scoop and lean heavily on "We
Are Ydung" and "Somebody
That I Used to Know" way

before either was pumping out
of beer-encrusted speakers at
the nearest frat house. Both
songs hit the station's 8 most
requested songs (dubbed the
Alt-l8). Both hit the Billboard
charts not long after.
"Why would this matter?"
you might fire back at me. Let
me counter: "Seriously, get out
of my column. I'm not asking
again."
Ultimately, it matters if you
believe that this year wasn't
so much of an anomaly as a
precipice - a sign of things to
come. When Foster the People's
"Pumped Up Kicks" shot up
the charts, I brusled it off as
an inconsequential blip on the
music radar. But I've come
around - and I don't want to
make the same mistake twice.
I've pored over the songs,
the hits and misses and creepy
songs about Bloody Mary and I
think I've come up with a short-
list of potential future hits that
are making the rounds on Alt
Nation. I'm not Nostradamus.
I'm not Paul the Octopus. I'm
just a guy making a few edu-
cated guesses.
First, I'm digging deep with
Top 40 isn't
just for pop.
proclaimed "8-bit warrior"
Robert DeLong, a product of
the west-coast music scene. 've
written about his single "Global
Concepts" before (I think it
might just be arts recommends),
but I don't think I can over-
state the elusive combination
of catchiness and danceability
found in the percussion-infused
synth.beats. Yes, maybe a few
'Sy ifs are over-dramatic ("Did I
leave my life to chance / Or did
I make you fcking dance?"),
but nonetheless DeLong knows
his stuff - and for the record,
yes, he did make us fucking
dance.
Passion Pit broke big in
2008-09 with the single
"Sleepyhead," and the band's
latest record Gossamer was
released this past July. They've
got a new hit "Take a Walk"
making the rotation, and out-
side of its blatant danceability,
its key synth-riff is instantly
recognizable and surprisingly
infectious. But another track
is swiftly making a state-
ment on the charts: "Carried
Away." If possible, Passion Pit
frontman Michael Angelakos
has achieved an even bub-
blier state of mind than that
implied by the soft-pink album
cover, but it's tough to resist
singing aong with the chorus
(especially when an electrified
dancefloor is doing the same).
Yes, Passion Pit has already
established singles of some
sort, so I understand that this
isn't the sexiest of picks. You
can call it laziness, to which I'd
say it's more of an impassioned
apathy, but regardless, there is
a song by another relatively
See ALTERNATIVE, Page 6A

Local news just got so real.
Creative 'Taste' serves up
flavorful competition premise

By ALEC STERN identical to that of the hit NBC
For the Daily singing competition: Four judg-
es must put together a team of
For years, Bravo, FOX and, of chefs by judging only one bite
course, The Food Network have of a dish through a blind taste
dominated the highly popular test. The panel consists of Bour-
cooking genre. dain, food writer Nigella Law-
However, son, French chef Ludo Lefebvre
ABC's new and "Top Chef Miami" finalist
offering, "The The Taste Brian Malarkey. Contestants
Taste," gives range from executive chefs to
the network Pilot home cooks, and the judges have
a real chance Tuesdays at8 p.m. no knowledge of what they are
of joining the about to eat. They must judge
ranks of even .AC simply on the flavor of this
the most suc- one bite. The winner receives
cessful of cooking competition $100,000, a new car and the cov-
series. While it isn't perfect, the eted "Taste Trophy."
new series features a panel of For a fan of cooking shows,
fun and entertaining judges, led "The Taste" offers a departure
by Anthony Bourdain ("No Res- from past formats. The blind
ervations"), and boasts an origi- taste test and the intermingling
nal and interesting format. The of professional and recreational
premise of "The Taste" shines, chefs makes the show a delight
and it has the ingredients to be a to watch. Even more exciting,
hit, despite suffering from some- the blind taste test remains in all
what clumsy execution. rounds, which puts the judges
"The Taste" might as well be at risk of unknowingly sending
titled "The Voice: Cooking Edi- their own contestants home.
tion." Its premise is basically As thrilling as the premise of

"The
up sho
it is n
a host
unstat
his be:
events
whole
nized.
makes
exit is
benefi
send-o
host b

Taste" is, the series comes the judges sit atop atall platform
irt in some aspects. What an uncomfortably distance away.
most glaringly missing is Some contestants can even be
. Bourdain is clearly the seen leaning in to try and hear
ed head judge and does what the shouting judges are
st to recap and review the saying about their food.
as they unfold, but the Additionally, whereas "The
thing seems a bit disorga- Voice" coaches are searching for
After a contestant either 18 singers per team, "The Taste"
a team or doesn't, their mentors only need four chefs
awkward and would have apiece. As a result, the, super-
ted from a more polished sized two-hour premiere of "The
iff and questioning from a Taste" actually does a disser-
ackstage. vice to this fine show; too many
'__. _ seemingly worthy chefs don't
end up with a spot on a.team.
The Voice' Despite some key technical
missteps, "The Taste" certain-
meets ly works. It's a fresh idea for a
cooking competition show and
Top Chef.' plays out in an exciting way. The
judges have a strong chemistry
together and it should be excit-
ing to see them interact more
strangest aspect of with their teams in the coming
Taste" is the interactions weeks. Though "The Taste" will
en the judges and each only be around for a short eight-
tant. The chefs are con- episode first season, it will defi-
o a very small area as the nitely be a welcome addition to
critique their food, while 'any foodie's DVR.

'

ROSS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
ELL LURIE INSTITUTE
for Entrepreneurial Studies
Mingle 'n' Match Business
& Engineering
Student Networking Session
Tuesday, 1/29, 5-7 pm, TechArb
(500 E. Washington Street, Lower Level)
Find team members or mingle with other
entrepreneurial-minded students from across
campus. To present a one-minute pitch at the
event, please email your name, company or
project name to: sarikag@umich.edu by
Monday, Jan. 28.

The
"The
betwe:
contes
fined t
judges

COME PLAY PENNY CAN WITH US!
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