Imagine you’re driving on the highway on a gorgeous Sunday in late August. It’s 5 PM, and the sun is casting radiant hues of orange and pink across the sky. It’s the golden hour. The windows are all the way down; the music is all the way up. You’re driving home after having the most amazing day, and suddenly, the perfect song comes on- a song that pairs flawlessly with your mood, the weather, and the time of day. The song starts subtle and slow, but steadily develops into an anthem. It’s not long before you’re doing your best driver’s seat dance. For me, that song was ‘Past Lives’ by Local Natives, and hearing that song sparked a great love and appreciation for their most recent album, Sunlit Youth.
Los Angeles-based indie rock band, Local Natives quickly gained popularity with their debut album, Gorilla Manor, which defined their sound as chilled out, lovable indie that fully embodies the easy and joyous vibe of their California roots. However, sophomore album, Hummingbird, revealed a deeper side of the band. While still stunning, the album was haunted with themes of grief and introduced more layers of the band. The third album, Sunlit Youth, is the flawless fusion of the highs of Gorilla Manor and the lows of Hummingbird.
‘Villainy’ begins the album with swerving guitars and unexpected synths. The first lyrics, “I want to start again,” create an atmosphere of a fresh start, a rebirth. The subtle electronic tones blend smoothly with the airy harmonies of the chorus, giving intricate texture to this driving, but mellow opening track. Next is ‘Past Lives,’ the song that ignited my love of this album. This song just screams “West coast” to me, like the perfect song to blast while cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway. ‘Dark Days’ builds on the electric pop tones, but it’s paired with soft vocals and twinkling guitar lines in such a way that produces a pleasant tune with a vintage feel.
The middle of the album introduces a different ambience. ‘Jellyfish’ presents a complex web of sound as a deep bass line is intertwined with meandering synths and melancholic vocals. The song is quite reminiscent of Glass Animals, but offers a uniqueness that makes it instantly lovable. ‘Coins’ is beautifully self-contradictory. Simple, folk -like verses contrast a chorus of melodic vocals and flowy synth progressions. Sunlit Youth reaches its end with ‘Sea of Years,’ a song overflowing with existential lyrics, but an enchanting chorus that brings feelings of serenity.
This album signifies a growth for Local Natives, but a growth that remains strongly tethered to its roots. The band holds on to their dreamy, California vibe while experimenting with fresh sounds, musical layering, and electronic influences. Sunlit Youth is exactly how it sounds- an album for feeling young and free in the glistening glow of the sunshine. It’s an album for a sunset, an adventurous summer day, or a road trip. Just try listening to it on a beautiful sunny day, and I promise you’ll fall absolutely in love like I did.
Check out my personal favorite off the album here!