A Stormy, Monochromatic Soundtrack
The Neighbourhood’s new self-titled full-length combines the work of their two previous EPs Hard, which was released in September 2017, and To Imagine, which was released in January 2018, while adding in some well-crafted tunes to fill out the soundtrack. The decision to leave off some of the deadweight tracks on the two EPs and only keep the most interesting songs make the album a compelling listen.
Hard and To Imagine signaled a change into a darker, moody electronica sound for the Californian alternative band and this album further adds to that sonic world. It’s chock-full of hooks and is guaranteed to leave any fan with multiple catchy choruses to play in their head long after the first listen. Much like their black-and-white photo for the cover, the music in The Neighbourhood’s third full-length plays a lot within the darker hues. It’s a solemn and sometimes heavy affair, with lead singer Jesse Rutherford’s emotional pleas and meditations covering every track. Rutherford’s lyrics come out in a simple, almost elementary style and there’s nothing really under the surface. Lyrics tend to be about relationship woes and depressive themes. It’s an appropriate level of emo given the resurgence of that style in the trendy Soundcloud rap scene, which Rutherford seems somewhat influenced by, though it’s hard to place a finger on how exactly. His lackadaisical singing coupled with the heavy use of auto-tune creates a sound less like a voice and more like a synthesizer.
“Flowers” begins the album with great energy from its siren-like guitar riff and punchy drum beat. “Everyday you want me to make, something I hate, all for your sake,” Rutherford sings on the chorus. “Nervous” is a slower emotional ballad that was co-written by pop mastermind Benny Blanco. Rutherford lays out his worries on the track singing, “You got me nervous to speak, so I just won’t say anything at all.” “You Get Me So High” nails a dark, almost hip-hop aesthetic with its reverb, sample-sounding guitars and rich drum textures.
It’s kind of ironic that the song with the name “Sadderdaze” is the most bright and sunshiny that the band gets on the entire album, thanks to its poppy Beatles-inspired chorus. Uplifting strings in the style of George Martin accompany Rutherford as he sings, “Saturdays are not the same as they used to be.” The verses take on a downtempo, minor-key sound with dissonant pizzicato strings which makes a great contrast. In another Beatles reference, the track ends with a cacophony of out-of-tune string runs like “A Day in the Life.”
One track from the To Imagine EP that didn’t make the record but would have been a nice fit is “Dust,” because it shows a grittier, more straight-ahead rock sound and is lyrically different than the rest. All in all, on their third full-length, The Neighbourhood continues to evade being placed in any one genre. The band entertains at the same time as pushing their sound to new places.