Last Thursday night I took a glance at my Twitter feed to find Jesse Rutherford, lead singer of The Neighbourhood, content teasing a release of new music by the West Coast band. Less than 18 hours later, I’m taking a walk through my neighborhood listening to The Neighbourhood.
Bad joke, rough start. But that’s how the 18-minute extended play “Hard” begins.
Few things in the music industry are as disappointing as when a lead singer with more talent than entire labels can muster decides to add auto-tune to their vocals. Rutherford chose this route within the first minute of the alternative rock group’s new EP.
This audio scheme might have been more appropriate when the group became one of the first bands to release a free mixtape, a marketing strategy found more often in the rap and hip-hop genres. If you have the opportunity to skip “Roll Call,” trust me when I say your ears don’t need to be in attendance. You will, however, want to pay attention to the next song on the record.
I follow Rutherford’s social media presence on Twitter and Instagram — which gave me the tip I might end up writing a piece less then a week later — which gives me some insight into the creative mind behind the Los Angeles based musician. Rutherford enjoys his herb, and so does the rest of the band. The second track, “You Get Me So High” has a deeper meaning then the surface level stereotype that comes with a title such as this.
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The song includes an atmospheric plea to a lover to forget how he managed their relationship. The explanation Rutherford provides in the verses leads to the chorus where he describes what happened between them. “If we can leave it all behind us / and meet in-between / it would get me so / high all the time.” I put this one on my playlist before I even heard that chorus.
But heaven forbid we hear two decent songs in a row. “Noise” features grunge instrumentals that come from bassist Micheal Margott and Brandon Fried on the drums with Rutherford providing arguably his highest pitched vocals in recent memory. This combination just isn’t the sound fans of the group want. But perhaps that’s the point. The production of the middle record is quite impressive, but it’s a “Hard” listen.
That was better, right?
The Neighbourhood hasn’t had a song crack the mainstream audience since “Sweater Weather” and “Female Robbery” back in 2012. With their pop-rock ballad “24/7,” that might change. To make the radio you need to include a few predictable elements to qualify. Catchy beat? Check. Relatable chorus to millennials? “And you can hit my line like 24/7, 24/7, 24/7.” Check. Speeding through the verses to sound edgy and provocative? Definitely.
Now when I heard “Sadderdaze,” I thought my phone had gone to a random Flaming Lips record. Rutherford croons ever so slightly out of key to tell his story of how fame has ruined his weekends. “Sadderdaze are not the same as they used to be, sadderdaze, why do they keep on using me?” All work and no play makes Jesse a sad but insanely successful boy.
With hopes that the band receives a higher rating when they drop their next full length album, I’ll give the surprise EP three sad boys out of five.