As part of CMN’s ongoing Music Journalism Program, our music team was asked to pick out a recent album review that they disagreed with. Their task was to explain why they didn’t share the viewpoint of the reviewer.
In March of 2018, L.A. based band The Neighbourhood released their third album, the self-titled The Neighbourhood.
The band’s first album I Love You stuck with themes that were popular in 2013, most of their listeners were hipster girls and alternative rock was a must have for them. Their sophomore album Wiped Out! branched into alternative pop.
The third release was the perfect in-between, and allowed lead singer Jesse Rutherford to show his love for rap.
Their music and style have only changed a bit since the release of I Love You, but fans liked them for a reason. I find the steadiness smart and cohesive. Ian Cohen, however, wrote that the band “struggles to find an identity” in an album review on Pitchfork.
The review takes a stab at the band by playing with the idea that they had their prime and now they’re trying to cling onto it, while also trying to remain in the limelight. The Neighbourhood had a No. 1 single in 2013 with ‘Sweater Weather,’ that seemed to be every emotional hipster kid’s anthem. Cohen assumes Jesse pictured himself as a damaged Rockstar writing a Lana Del Rey song, but got lucky because he was only a few years ahead of G-Eazy.
Five years ago, alternative music was on the rise along with other bands such as The 1975 — I know it was the only thing I listened to at the time. The Neighbourhood created a song that went with their dark, soft love vibes, and that was enough like the popular music then that it got attention.
G-Eazy and The Neighbourhood and two different realms of music, G-Eazy creates R&B music that got more attention a few years later. The Neighbourhood went with the times and happened to create a song that resonated with a lot of people. Keeping this same vibe has given the band a stable fanbase, who liked the band for a reason and the continuous blue sounding lyrics made them stay around.
Cohen also mentions that The Neighbourhood are like any other low-profile alternative rock band who are trying to incorporate Drake and The Weekend into their new album. I can see this in some ways: Rutherford has a solo side project called The Factoury. Many of his albums feature heavily auto-tuned songs and SoundCloud rap influences.
On The Neighbourhood the band played around with synth-pop and added a little bit of R&B and rap into the mix. I believe this is Jesse trying to incorporate his side project into the band because he wants to see it grow. If anything, the band stayed with The Neighbourhood vibes and let Jesse play around with something creative. Cohen writes that, “Their actual attempt at trap-pop is so offbeat it actually makes this kind of production sound novel again (‘Revenge’).”
Their attempt at trap-pop was exactly that, their attempt.
When you’re an alternative rock band, it’s hard to transfer that over to trap-pop. Specifically, on ‘Softcore,” the band explored terrritory they hadn’t before, and it went well. They have always had breakup — or almost breakup — lyrics and they managed to mix that with the continuous drum and trap-pop beat.
Sticking with what you know while also attempting to step out of your comfort zone is something not many people in the alternative rock industry can do. The Neighbourhood managed to do that, even if Cohen failed to grasp it.
If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.