Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Local Natives, Gorilla Manor

Local Natives is a five-piece indie rock band out of L.A.  Gorilla Manor, their first album, was released in the UK in November 2009 and in the US in February 2010.  They have received a good deal of positive press and their Wikipedia entry compares them to Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes and Vampire Weekend and quotes Pitchfork calling them “a sort of west coast Grizzly Bear”.

Now if this sounds like the I’m-too-cool-for-you indie press name checking their favorite they’re-too-cool-for-you indie bands, you’re not alone.  I don’t know what this says about the indie rock press but the first thing that came to mind when I heard Local Natives wasn’t any of the bands named above.  Local Natives sounds so much like Modern Skirts that everyone I know who has heard Modern Skirts asks if they have a new CD out when they hear Local Natives for the first time.  I referred to this similarity as the first thing that came to mind – actually it was more like being hit over the head with a hammer.

With the notable exception of “Shape Shifter” which sounds so much like a Modern Skirts track that you wonder if a lawsuit might be in order Local Natives hasn’t flat-out copied Modern Skirts’ songs but it sure sounds like they copied everything else.  Vocal style, harmonies, arrangements, instrumentation, it’s all straight out of the Modern Skirts play book.  I have no idea if Local Natives are familiar with Modern Skirts but the timing is certainly curious.  Modern Skirts first album, Catalogue of Generous Men, came out in August of 2005.  Their second, All of Us in Our Night, was released in October 2008.  Two months later in December of 2008 (according to Wikipedia again) Local Natives decided to “give their project a new direction” and went to work on Gorilla Manor.  That new direction appears to be a fairly straightforward copy of Modern Skirts.

It sounds to me like Local Natives is getting famous by doing a pale copy of Modern Skirts who I hear as a much more accomplished band.  Unfortunately, Modern Skirts are also not very well known so it might be possible to imitate them without anyone noticing.  It certainly appears that most of the indie press missed it.

I don’t know what to think of Gorilla Manor.  I like the album but I like it because it sounds like a passable imitation of Modern Skirts.  If you like Gorilla Manor and haven’t heard Modern Skirts, do yourself a favor and find their albums, especially Catalogue of Generous Men which is superb.  If you already know and like Modern Skirts and would be interested in imitators who aren’t as accomplished but are at least in the ballpark, check out Gorilla Manor.  As for the rest, let the lawyers sort it out.


06/09/2010 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I found this review via the Modern Skirts’ Tumblr. Having heard both bands (but mostly the Skirts), I’ve gotta disagree with the accusation here…there are plenty of bands who sound like others…unless they’re directly stealing lyrics/music, a similar sound isn’t enough to say “band x is copying band y.” I hear the similarities, but I’d sooner compare them to Fleet Foxes or Anathallo. Speaking of the influence of Athens music, a good number of today’s indie bands, including the aforementioned Arcade Fire, do a good job imitating Jeff Mangum…it doesn’t discredit the original work they do put out. But if we’re gonna compare Local Natives to Modern Skirts, yes, the Skirts win. Aside from “Airplanes,” that Local Natives album hasn’t hooked me yet.

    Comment by Walt | 06/27/2010 | Reply

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