Put this one in the where-did-these-guys-come-from? category. LA-based alt-rock act The Neighbourhood are certain to turn heads with I Love You., a record that sounds way too epic in scope to be a debut album.
There’s always a bit of risk involved when a band comes on the scene in a “big” way, because it can create a false sense of hype that it’s impossible for a new act to live up to, like an oversized pair of shoes. However, with their blending of airy, indie rock with electronic pop elements, The Neighbourhood have created a bigger-than-life sound on their record that somehow manages to create the illusion that they have always been here.
It sounds epic. But it also sounds natural. I don’t know how else to describe it. You just have to hear it.
Take, for example, the opening track “How.” A slow crescendo of atmospheric sounds and synths builds into a dubstep-reminiscent beat, with frontman Jesse Rutherford’s warbly, Ryan-Tedder-meets-Chris-Martin vocals riding effortlessly over the top, setting a dark, grey, mournful, minor-key-heavy vibe that carries through the whole album. For that matter, it’s important to note that one of the key elements that makes I Love You. a standout record is that its overall tone does not attempt to overpower the audience or to sound like anything else out there. Don’t misunderstand the pop sensibilities here—you’re not going to find anything here that reminds you of Bieber or One Direction. Rather, The Neighbourhood use modern elements to create a unique, dark, electro-pop expression that, in my opinion, carves out an instant niche. (Not bad for a startup; lots of bands take years to hone this kind of niche.)
One other thing worth mentioning; this album is also a bit unflinching in its sexuality, both in seductive and non-seductive ways. “Afraid” paints a rather existential picture of modern relationships, as Rutherford sees himself more as a place holder than a lover: (“When I wake up, I’m afraid / Somebody else might take my place…You’re too mean, I don’t like you / F**k you anyway”). Elsewhere, “Sweater Weather” is a bit more lustful in its approach: “Touch my neck, and I’ll touch yours / You in those little high-wasted shorts…One love, two mouths / One love, one house / No shirt, no blouse”).
I don’t know what this band is doing right; all I know is that it’s working. The Neighbourhood are still up-and-comers, but in my view, it’s just a matter of time before they are a household name. By acting like it completely belongs in the mainstream, I Love You. has positioned The Neighbourhood for superstardom.