The Neighbourhood – I Love You.
Record Label: Columbia Records
Release Date: April 23 2013
Oh, how I’ve missed you, indie-rock. It’s been awhile since I’ve listened to an indie-rock/pop record. It’s fortunate, because I’ve really wanted to listen to CA indie-pop band The Neighbourhood’s debut record I Love You. I’ve seen the record on sale at a few places, so it’s been on my radar. As of recently, though, I haven’t been into a lot of indie-rock. Now that we’re getting into the fall season, hopefully, there are more, but this is the first indie album I’ve heard in awhile, but I do have mixed feelings on it. It’s not a great album, by no means, but it’s also not a bad album. Their sound is one reason why I really like it, because they employ indie-rock, pop, and even some R&B elements. I do enjoy R&B a lot, so these elements are very welcomed.
Vocalist Jesse Rutherford is also a reason as to why I enjoy the record, because he does have a sense of confidence. I’m surprised they haven’t blown up even more, but that’s just me. And as I mentioned in the beginning, I do have mixed feelings on it. I don’t love it, but I certainly do like it.
A lot of critics have been panning this record for various reasons, some of them being how the record has a lack of urgency (The LA Times), Rutherford’s lyrics are obviously penned towards teenagers (The Guardian), it’s ultimately grey and joyless (All Music), there are a lot of filler tracks (The Irish Times), and a disappointment (Drowned In Sound), but you know what? While I agree with these criticisms, for what it is, it’s still enjoyable.
It’s does have a lack of focus, because it doesn’t know what the record wants to be. On some tracks, like opening track “How,” and a few others, they have a pop sound, while other songs have an indie-rock sound to them (lead single and fourth track “Sweater Weather”), and others even have an indie hip-hop vibe (second track “Afraid”). I’m all for being diverse, but the problem is, there’s no sense of direction on this record. This band seems to be all about unleashing hook after hook, and if that’s not evident with “How,” just keep listening. The songs are all well crafted and very polished, but there is no sense of focus.
I will admit that the lyrics on this record aren’t all that great. There are some moments I really like, such as the chorus of eighth track “Alleyways,” which goes, “You're a doll, you are flawless / But I just can't wait for love to destroy us.” It’s nothing horribly unique, but it’s still an interesting idea, and it’s one of the few “clever” moments on this album. For every lyric I like, there are some that I really don’t. Second track “Afraid” has an interesting sound, but its lyrics are dreadful in some places, especially in the pre-chorus, which goes: “You’re too mean, I don’t like you, f*ck you anyway / You make me wanna scream at the top of my lungs / It hurts but I won’t fight you / You suck anyway / You make me wanna die.” It sounds like a teenage girl’s diary, and I’m not crazy about that.
I wouldn’t say the record is joyless, because there’s a lot of hooks and infectious melodies, but the problem is, they build up and up with nowhere to go. It’s got an interesting atmosphere to it, combining pop, R&B, and even some hip-hop, so they’re ultimately taking everything that’s really popular right now, and blending it together, which isn’t a truly bad thing. If it works, it works. The problem is, it does work, but to varying degrees. The record is rife with hooks, but some tracks aren’t really boring, or just don’t really do much for me. It does start to drag on after awhile, and while I do want this band to be popular, they’re certainly not at their prime just yet.
If this band wants to blow up even more, I would like to hear more songs in the vein of “Sweater Weather.” While that song is rather cutesy, it’s still enjoyable and catchy. I will also say that they should try to focus on one sound. If they want to focus more on R&B, go for that, or focus more on indie-pop. They have the talent for it, and I love their sound, but it’s not quite realized with this album. Whether it’s their lyrics that are either really solid or quite clichéd and immature, or the derivative nature of the record, that’s what is holding them back from being a powerhouse in the indie genre. Even so, for what it is, this record is still enjoyable. It’s got plenty of hooks to make a fisherman happy, and enough infectious melodies to make your doctor happy, so there is something to make sure people keep coming back, but it’s certainly not album of the year material, either. For being the first indie record I’ve heard in awhile, it was still very enjoyable.
I'm really diggin' this whole album, but I think "Afraid" is probably my favorite track. The Neighbourhood just released a video for it, and it's fantastic! Check it out: http://smarturl.it/NBHDAfraidEdit