Review: The Neighbourhood – Hard

Categories:  The Arts    Music
Wednesday, October 4th, 2017 at 12:48 PM
Review: The Neighbourhood – Hard by Livia Homerski

                                         Rating: ★★★★☆

California’s innovative dark pop group, The Neighbourhood, swiftly dropped their new five song EP “Hard” on Sept. 22. It has been two years since The Neighbourhood released “Wiped Out!” which brought forth hip-hop and experimental rock-infused pop tunes overlapped with frontman Jesse Rutherford’s tongue-in-cheek sensitivity.

The Neighbourhood remains comfortable in their noir, black and white aesthetic which inexplicably gets translated into their music. The stark contrast between the sounds and melodies is what continues to push their sound forward. They aim somewhere between sinister and sexy with their usual melancholy overtones on “Hard.” 

Opening track “Roll Call” captures this well, with a hazy, plunging bass and auto tune and tunnel effect on the vocals. Lyrics lament on the past and how to grow up and stay true to who you want to be.

The pairing of melted, distorted guitar and snapshot like hip-hop beats on the third track, “Noise” also captures the dark, rolling aesthetic. Shoegaze is a heavy influence on this instrumentation of this track, and the vocals are clean and condensed with pop sensibility.

The rapid hip-hop beats are another big feature on “You Get Me So High.” The watery-twangy guitar effect conjures up a sound featured on hit “Cry Baby” from their last album.

Rutherford really hams it up on this track with sweet vulnerability in his soft-spoken vocals during the verses. The chorus makes use of a layered vocal effect that appears later on “Sadderdaze” and is a staple in many pop hits today such as Halsey’s “Now or Never.” 

“24/7” is another heavily hip-hop fused song with plenty of electronic samples and accents and ad-libs in the second verse. The guitar takes a step-back as bass, percussion and Rutherford’s sensitive R&B and pop vocals flow as he tells his lover, “You can hit my line like 24/7, 24/7, 24/7. I'll be there to listen anytime” in the chorus. The modernity in this song keeps the listener rooted in the present day, something that sometimes is lost in some of the drama of the band sound.

The beginning of final track, “Sadderdaze” is an homage to the Baby Came Home series from the “I’m Sorry...” EP and “Wiped Out!” This comparison is mostly made for the first verse with its use of acoustic guitars and reuse of the beat in “Baby Come Home 2/Valentine’s Day.”

The chorus transitions into an anthemic, layered lament, “Sadder days, why do they keep on using me?” Post-chorus, an interlude of weeping strings slips in before the next verse, and reappear throughout the rest of the song, citing some cinematic drama.

The Neighbourhood represent what we don’t get to see out of California very often. They keep the music seeped in the sexy, yet, sordid side of California, but somehow downplay the edge of it all with the personal and anecdotal narratives found in the lyrics and delivery.

This new release shows a better blend of The Neighbourhood’s love for hip-hop from their “#000000 & #FFFFFF” Mixtape and experimental blips on “Wiped Out!”

The California natives have been aging like the fine wine surrounding them at their black and white parties, and perhaps more mature themes and experimentation await in their next release.

Standout tracks: "24/7" and "Sadderdaze" 

Stream the EP below:

Livia Homerski can be reached at musics.spectator@gmail.com.

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