Everything about the build up to the release – the album art, the title, even the timing – suggests that Sunlit Youth is an album designed for summer. Upbeat themes, shimmering riffs, and repetitive choruses characterise an album that represents a bold evolution from Local Natives’ expressive and often melancholic earlier ventures.
Sunlit Youth conveys a slightly self-conscious effort to find the illusive balance between a new musical direction and original charm. What they have achieved is a collection of sing-able indie anthems that sit just on the right side of generic, as seen on ‘Fountain of Youth’. A pure festival hit, it is impossible not to picture angst-y teenagers in a field screaming: “We can do whatever we want. We can say whatever we mean”.
Local Natives have retained their unique tones, creative progressions, and satisfying harmonies, but have taken on a more mainstream and generic structure lacking the uplifting bridges and daring chromaticism of earlier tracks. The production too is somewhat lacklustre. ‘Dark Days’ features a clever three-part chorus, but is polished to the point of sounding over-produced. ‘Ellie Alice’, however, is classic Local Natives: soaring three-part harmony; sweet without being predictable; lyrics full of romance and realism. It offers a different view of the album’s sunny take on adolescence: “pain in youth”, while simplicity in vocals and guitar deliver an honesty which other tracks lack.
Setting out to create anthems through their chant-like choruses, the album creates just this: harmless, sunny music to which even the drunk who has never heard of the band can sing along.
Image: Line of Best Fit