"To places we don't know" - one subtle, beautiful lyric on 'You and I', the opening track to Local Natives' second release, Hummingbird. The first time I heard this record I was on a 10-hour road trip from Zimbabwe's capital to Victoria Falls. That lyric encompassed a very literal reality for me then. You live your life seeing 2D images of great things on computer screens; you vicariously experience things that can only be done justice when you experience them first hand. But in those 10 hours, I was slowly charging through 2D image to reality, experiencing the natural beauty of the country on the way.

Hummingbird is just like this, with its delicate textures as organic as nature itself. While their acclaimed debut album Gorilla Manor was good in its own right, this album succeeds on its own terms. Upon releasing lead single 'Breakers', it seemed to many that they had found real purpose – more brash and confident in their abilities. The song oscillates between moments of subtle expanse to charging, almost messy drumming patters. There isn't a song on the album that sounds like the lead single with the exception of 'Woolly Mammoth'. Still, the album is delicately weaved – as though the band paid as much attention to each individual track as they did to the how the entire record would sound – and the songs fit together as tightly as an origami shape, albeit with less sharp edges: each piece is different, together they form one.

But despite meshing so, Hummingbird doesn't sound like sloppy indefinable slew. This is testament to the band having National's Aaron Desner as a producer. Without his experience in creating such well pieced-together music, it's likely that they may not have been able to fully realise the soundscapes they were attempting to create. It's as though they plucked the undercover rhythms and restrained textures from a song like 'Sorrow' or 'Brainy', still managing to avoid pastiche and add the Local Natives print.

Their print is great but unsettling. We are afforded disquiet from people who really have something to say this time. While Hummingbird is confident and assured musically, this is juxtaposed by a frailty running through the group's very being. They described the departure of bassist Andy Hamm as 'heart-breaking' to the point that a replacement was never sought after, and most distressing was the loss of Kelcey Ayer's mother in 2011. The lyrics project uncertainty and stuck-in-glue mental state, verging – or maybe even in – the depths of depression as sung on Black Balloon: "Hold me down and bring me back up again, till I can't tell the difference." It is impossible to avoid the truly raw emotion of Hummingbird, and it's actually crucial to the record as a 'record' and abstract forms; keeping a balance between Hummingbird's cathartic nature and managing mostly to veer away from self-indulgence.

But if there is anything great about this kind of mental state, is the triumph of coming out. Hummingbird is cathartic. It isn't about hopelessness as such, but rather what to do when hope is momentarily gone. "I am ready, ready/to feel you," Ayer resolutely sings in falsetto – not quite pleadingly but extending himself towards light. You go through all of their emotions while riding on their delicate, sometimes bumpy, soundscapes along the journey. This is the first time we've truly felt Local Natives.

This is why Hummingbird was the perfect theme music to my long haul journey to Victoria Falls. With this album, we cut through the images and experience something very real and alive – an 11-song snapshot of existing in this world, from the downs to the ups. Musically, they have never been more confident but at their core they have never been more honest.