Well, for everyone who was wondering, Alexandra is a very good co-pilot. She managed to keep me awake the whole time I was driving 😉 I already mentioned what I planned on writing about this week, so I’ll jump right to it!
Album: I Love You. Artist: The Neighbourhood
For those of you who haven’t heard of The Neighbourhood, I’ll introduce them as the guys who play “Sweater Weather.” I hate that that’s the way I have to introduce them to most people, but let’s face it: they aren’t that big yet.
The Neighbourhood is a southern California band, and a lot of their music pays homage to their home state. I don’t have much to say about their history as a band or any previous music, because I Love You. was their first LP, but Jesse Rutherford, the band’s lead singer, has musical roots found more in old-school hip hop rather than rock. He had a brief solo project before The Neighbourhood. I haven’t listened to any of it, but it definitely wasn’t rock from what I understand. The rest of the band has more of an alternative background, however. Combined, it makes for a pretty interesting sound that the band describes as “dark pop.” I’d say that’s less true about I Love You. so much as it is their new stuff, but you can still hear what they’re talking about.
I Love You. dropped in April 2013 to very mixed (and that’s being nice) reviews. The album was criticized through a variety of reviews for the bass lines, for the guitar sounds, for the vocals, for the lyrics, for the drum beats, and really everything. I guess you can ultimately sum up reviews by saying that the lyrics are angst ridden (which apparently is very disliked), the guitars are too distorted, and the overall sound is too pop for a rock band.
I’m here to put these criticisms into context for you.
I’ll start my review with this: The Neighbourhood isn’t for everyone. I will also tell you that a lot of the EP’s preceding I Love You. were, in my opinion (and critic’s tend to agree here) better than I Love You.
I’m not saying that the album is bad — I listened to it on repeat for like a month straight, so obviously I enjoyed it, but I guess my biggest problem with I Love You. is that a lot of the songs sound the same. They all, and I do mean all, have the same formula: a pretty simple beat that Jesse can work with (remember, he has a background with rap), slow, distorted guitars, and a fairly repetitive chorus. But it isn’t necessarily a bad formula. I can’t criticize them for sounding too much like a pop band because they are a pop band. No one in the band ever claimed to be anything else.
I can move past the similar sound quality found in all of the tracks though. It really isn’t a huge problem for me here, despite the fact that I can’t stand it when bands do it. Why can I move past it so easily? Because it’s a sound that no one else is using, and they’re moving to perfect it. At least they’re doing something different, which is something critics seem to be missing.
Honestly, it really bothers me that the only song that seemed to get a positive review on the album was “Sweater Weather.” Now, don’t get me wrong. I love me some “Sweater Weather.” But it’s not the band’s best song. Alexandra and I were even talking about this on the way to the concert (which was amazing, by the way). “Sweater Weather” was a good song and I really am happy that the band is getting some recognition for it, but I might go so far as to say it’s one of the weaker songs on the album. The lyrics are much weaker than you find in tracks like “Staying Up” and “Female Robbery” and the sound is a little more mindless.
What I mean is, why listen to something you’ve heard before when you can explore the rest of what the album has to offer? Admittedly, Rutherford has written some better lyrics than what is found wholly on the album, but there are quite a few songs that go beyond the surface of California and sex. And, like I said before — they’ve got a sound that I have yet to find from someone else. It’s a little bit haunting and a little 90s reminiscent (and you all know how I feel about the 90s) and it’s got the what I like to call rock band basics: guitars, bass, drums (instruments that are lacking in a lot of today’s music) Like if Destiny’s Child and some weird 90s alt band got together. Again, not for everyone; but it’s managed to appeal to a young audience.
Ultimately, this is what I have to say about I Love You.: It’s not the album of the century. It’s not the album of the decade, and it’s not the album of the year. The band has a long way to go before they get there. But they’re on their way. They’ve got an interesting sound and lyrics that, despite their angst, manage to pull in a pretty large audience, and they are great with their fans.
In closing, The Neighbourhood reminds me a lot of Maroon5. This comparison has been mentioned a lot by others, and I totally get it (despite the fact the band says they hate it). Back in the early 2000s, Maroon5 put out a really good album called Songs About Jane that received mixed reviews and it was nothing like what anyone else was doing — and everyone waited to see what they would put out next. It was sad really, cause Maroon5 could have been a great band (if you know me you know my opinions on Marron5). And here we are with The Neighbourhood: they put out a decent debut that is nothing like what anyone else is doing, and everyone is waiting to see what they’ll put out next. Their new music has the kind of variety that is lacking on I Love You., which makes me really optimistic for the band’s future.
Questions, comments, snide remarks? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this album! Do you agree with critics? Or do you think they were too harsh? As always, keep listening!
Honourable Song Mentions: (see what I did there?) Staying Up, Float, Female Robbery, W.D.Y.W.F.M?, Let It Go (and Alexandra would say Flawless but I don’t necessarily agree with that)
The Neighbourhood puts on a great live show. They played old songs, new songs, and everything in between. Their new drummer is quite talented, and what I like about their live music is larger role their drummer has to play — it isn’t as quite as formulaic as it sounds in the studio versions. Another great thing? Rutherford improvises the lyrics, which is something bands these days just don’t do enough. It’s great to hear in a live show because it keeps things interesting.
Also, after the show we got to meet the band’s frontman who is super nice. He managed to at least take a picture or sign something with everyone waiting (and there were a lot of people waiting), and he seemed genuinely appreciative to everyone who came out to the show. He even signed my ticket “Happy Birthday.”
We had so much fun that we bought tickets to see another show not even 10 days later. It’s honestly one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen. Photos below!