Will the “Coldplay model” spell the end of folk?
The ubiquitous British band Coldplay exploded onto the international scene. The band became a symbol of how folk-pop-rock-indie became the sort of commercial drivel that fills stadiums and arenas. The “Coldplay model” is based on the idea that if you’re a folk band and you become successful, you head straight over to the dark side of popularity. If we go with the theory confirmed by several made-up American studies – that really come straight out of our music-loving minds – the return of Local Natives is the proof of the pudding (if ever more were needed). We’re talking about the so-called “third album theory”, which holds that a first album will be jaw droppingly good (e.g. Gorilla Manor), followed by a difficult and highly anticipated second opus (Hummingbird), before a third effort comes out which is designed to affirm the band’s success. With their Sunlit Youth, Local Natives, the quintet from California, have fallen into the trap of synth-pop and the temptation of making stadium hymns which are a little bit – or, according to Pitchfork, very – mainstream.
But let’s not panic, because we can still count on Local Natives when it comes to melody, rhythm and harmony. The synths and the overly smooth production do suck the blood from this holy musical trinity, but it’s still a quality record. You can definitely put it on the shelf labelled ‘Reinvention Stories’, next to James Vincent McMorrow.
Yes, Sunlit Youth is an ode to the gilded Californian youth, but it’s also a reflection on the passing of time. From the theme of change emerges a fantasy version of youth which is facing a challenging world (our world, yay). For example, “Fountain of Youth” references the US elections (hey Hillary), feminism, and the role due to be played by future generations. It’s not alarmist in any way; rather a manifesto of hope and freedom.
In “Villainy“, “Masters“ or “Coins“, Local Natives’ sense of melody is coupled with rhythmic games that set the band apart. If you love interlocking harmonies, you’ll find what you’re looking for in “Past Lives” or “Sea of Years“. We haven’t hit level Coldplay yet, thank you. It’s indie pop rock just how we like it.
It’s just a fact that by adding electronica to Sunlit Youth, Local Natives have dropped down a few notches in our estimation. The album is full of good ideas, but with sometimes a bit too much effort. The smoothy smooth production standards are telling of a certain lack of conviction, but maybe that’s so they can give us their all in live performances. At the end of August, we went to the Boule Noire in Paris for the warmup tour and were super impressed by Local Natives’ energy. It was good.
So the third album theory has worked out OK in this case (sorry Mumford & Sons (article in French)). There will be a gig in Paris at the Trianon on the 10th November, when they’ll come over to defend their latest offering. We actually are really looking forward to it.
Full dates of their US and European tour are here.