I Love You.
Too peppy to be goth, too dark to be pop, too guitar-based to be synth-pop, and too atmospheric to be straight-up rock, The Neighbourhood’s 2013 full-length debut, I Love You., didn’t quite seem to fit into any convenient pigeonhole. But with its electronic-tinged production, downcast lyrical moods, muscular grooves, and intense, foreboding melodic feel, the band hit upon a signature sound that connected in a big way, suggesting that young alternative audiences were eager to embrace a dark icon retooled for their own generation. The Neighbourhood (The California band adopted a UK spelling to separate itself from a similarly named group) doesn’t really sound like any Gen X alternative heroes, though some trace elements can be identified in the DNA of I Love You. But its first album set the band up to occupy a similar place in the hearts of young (or young-at-heart) listeners lugging around a load of angst with a need for a compellingly moody musical avatar. Singer Jesse Rutherford’s agile vocals communicate emotional turbulence simply through tone before one even starts to zoom in on the lyrics, making him a relatable frontman for those of a moody mindset. But the blockbuster single “Sweater Weather” shows from the start that his is no mono-mood band. It’s ultimately a love song, though you’ve got to love a SoCal band that inserts the line “I hate the beach” into its big, romantic hit. The tune’s hip-hop-informed lyrical flow points to an important part of The Neighbourhood’s musical identity—on the debut, it’s a dark pop-rock band, but hip-hop and R&B grooves are a potent if subtle presence in the musical makeup that would soon be explored much more fully. And between the world-weariness of Rutherford’s voice, the overall archness of the vibe, and the arty eclecticism, it’s also possible to imagine that I Love You. sucked in an older segment of the alternative audience who had cut their teeth on dreamily disconsolate bands.