April 17, 2013 by Tess Riley
The Neighbourhood – I Love You
You’re walking in slow-motion down a long, obscure corridor with distorted sounds forcing their way through the walls. Suddenly, the double doors at the end burst open and everything comes into focus – sounds unify, time speeds up and you’re immersed in the here and now. Welcome to the epic opening of The Neighbourhood’s first track, ‘How’.
This is an impressive start to a great debut album and points to a band with the confidence to leave their listeners in an uncomfortably dark place, for more than a minute, at the very beginning of their 12-track journey. The songs that follow likewise play along that fine line between uncertainty and sensuality, enticing you in to a mysterious world where your only constant is the unifying sound of frontman Jesse Rutherford as the five-piece all-male band combines hip-hop-like lyrics and indie-rock styles plus the occasional dash of folk with ease.
Take ‘Sweater Weather’, for example, The Neighbourhood’s breakthrough single that put the Californian band on the musical map. The song progresses from an upbeat, fast-moving tempo that keeps you on your feet through to a much more harmony-filled, guitar-heavy conclusion that lets you sit back and enjoy the simple but effective repetition of the lyrics. What’s more, the simplicity makes this song romantic as we get lost in Rutherford’s vocals repeatedly telling his listener to put her hands in the holes in his sweater to keep her warm, an image made instantly intimate by the dishevelled nature of his worn out clothes.
At times, the mysterious world of The Neighbourhood turns into something more haunting. The dystopian opening to ‘Staying Up’, for example, traps you in a nightmare where jarring funfair sounds chime over distorted background noise. Then the sound stops and you wake up only to find yourself in a real life nightmare with no food and the inability to sleep because you’re scared of ‘what’s out there’. Far from being unpleasant, however, the disturbing atmosphere here and in tracks like ‘Afraid’ and ‘Female Robbery’ is remarkably evocative and leaves you wanting more.
Taken in individual parts, this is a good album; taken as a whole, it reaches new levels altogether. It’s not flawless, despite one such track’s title, but it is pretty special. ‘Shouldn’t try to fix it if it keeps getting better’, sings Rutherford in ‘Let It Go’ with a lilting playfulness that epitomises The Neighbourhood. The same can rightfully be said for this ambitious debut album.
[This review originally featured on Virgin’s website here.]