The Neighbourhood – The Neighbourhood – Album Review

Released March 9th, 2018

California indie rock band The Neighbourhood’s third, self titled record came with a string of EP’s that, when put together, say “Hard to imagine The Neighbourhood ever changing”. That, indeed, is a true statement. As someone who’s been following this band for a little while now, I can’t ever foresee them wanting to move too drastically far away from their signature dark, beach-y vibe. This is one of the only bands I’ve come across that encompasses this indie genre so perfectly that it really is difficult to even think about what they would be like if their sound was heavier or maybe more radio friendly. However, that doesn’t mean they haven’t changed whatsoever; their debut record I Love You. and sophomore release Wiped Out! were both relatively in the same lane with slightly different influences strewn throughout to keep things from getting repetitive or boring. While I Love You. was dark and slow, Wiped Out! managed to evolve and incorporate more upbeat pop influences, and The Neighbourhood comes to us a full transformation into a modern indie pop record. This type of music can easily fall into the pit of becoming generic but somehow The Neighbourhood, with their interesting production and instrumentation tactics and lead singer Jesse Rutherford’s easily identifiable vocals, have set themselves apart from the competition while staying incredibly consistent.

To formally analyze the record, I will only be talking about the twelve songs featured on the release of The Neighbourhood and not any of the EP’s, as some songs are repeated, the vibes are somewhat different and honestly, it’s just hard to keep track of so many songs and titles.

To begin, it’s important to note that Wikipedia categorizes this record as “dark pop” and “electropop” which isn’t wrong, however, there’s a lot more to unpack here. There are some obvious, but not overbearing, 80’s influences, such as the glossy impression on “Scary Love”, the dreamy 80’s riffs on “Void” or the overall buzz with “Stuck With Me”. On the other hand, included in this mix are some old school sounding R&B tunes with “Nervous”, “Blue” and “Reflections”, that are unique in their own sense to the band but never feel like they’re imitators. Although not as common, there are also some electronic infused moments like the instrumentation for “Softcore” which also is the only song to feature some slight auto tune layered into the vocals as well. Songs like “Sadderdaze” and “Too Serious” are two that feature more natural sounding, relaxed instrumentals with acoustic guitars, small piano noises and violins. As diverse as this record may sound upon first listen, the entire thing is still tethered to The Neighbourhood’s somber theme present in every record of theirs. This time around, the pop/R&B influences blend perfectly with melodic vocals and subjective lyrics, creating a work of art so unique to this band by also providing calm tunes for the everyday listener.

When it comes to considering the lyrics, this one is very interesting especially because it allowed the band to take a more introspective approach. There are the obvious songs about relationships, love and heartbreak; some are more straightforward than others in terms of which relationship they’re talking about but nonetheless, it’s not too difficult to decipher. For example, the pretty, feminine sounding track, “Flowers”, is a soft, mellow tune about what seems to be a romantic relationship. Still, the lyrics could also be interpreted to demonstrate where they stand in the industry and how at times they’re “fake” and a “rip off” as the lyrics describe. There are other instances of this as well in “Too Serious” where the lines state “Every day, no escape/ So much fake/ Where’s the shame?/ Will this chain ever break?”. These lines bring to light the situation of how they might feel stuck at this point in their careers. There are many other moments on here that describe how the band has taken the success of their single “Sweater Weather” to an extreme and always expected to be successful after that single became a hit. Yet, they’ve stayed a relatively low key band with that being their highest charting single after all these years. Their record company might be telling them to create more commercialized music or change who they are to become better known but you can clearly see the tension in the lyrics of them specifically not wanting to do that. There are plenty of instances where they discuss filling an emptiness in your life or feeling hopeless in general as demonstrated in “Void” and “Sadderdaze”. Their lives have changed immensely from the time “Sweater Weather” became a hit, in some ways for better, in some ways for worse. The most conspicuous theme of this record seems to be the bands struggle with not producing another chart topping hit whilst still trying to avoid losing sight of who they are.

Despite all of this, charts don’t mean everything. Even at most times, they mean nothing at all. This band is a great representation of how some of the best music doesn’t show up anywhere on the Billboard Hot 100 and how staying authentic is quite possibly the most important thing. I really enjoy how they manage to change from record to record without completely derailing all that they’ve built prior. This record sees the band moving towards pop hooks and varying instrumentation but still containing inspiration from their previous record from five years before. This one contains quite arguably the bands best melodies and most listenable material, along with very particular production that isn’t easily replicable to this degree. This is a band that is uniform without repetition, relaxing yet thought inducing and overall, a really interesting group of musicians.

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