Named as bluntly and boldly as their return, The Neighbourhood drops their new EP, Hard. Their reappearance left fans shaking with more anticipation than they knew they had. On September 22, the long awaited return of the band was torn up after their two-year disappearing act.
The alternative California band’s sound has been proved unconventional since their debut album “I Love You”. Despite frontman Jesse Rutherford’s side-projects that left fans questioning what direction he was taking artistically, “Hard” is uniform with the rest of the Neighbourhood’s sound.
Although labeled indie rock, pop, and alternative hip-hop, there is no particularly clear-cut way to define their overall sound. Considering that “Hard” has not fallen far from the tree of its roots, this could lead to comfort or disappointment coming from listeners. Regardless, vibe is undeniably dripping in dark and seductive tones.
Being pinned as the first track on “Hard”, “Roll Call” may not be a highlight, but can be given a second chance when one can appreciate the sound, as it feels unapologetically sensual. Smokey and moody, the song stands confidently, shadowing and painting the direction of the rest of the EP.
Because they have always been honest through their work, the Neighbourhood hasn’t felt the same “high” since their first hit single “Sweater Weather”, they proceed to tell that narrative by sulking in style with “You Get Me So High”. This track is deserving of a double take because of the day-dreamy, shimmering electronic beat.
“24/7” has a feel-good pop sound, embellished with Jesse’s bad-boy-gone-good voice. The third track, known as “Noise,” gives a pleasant surprise for anyone who craves indie rock, but does not stretch itself far as any NBD fan would be able to call it out while blindly listening.
The EP ends underwhelmingly ends with “Sadderdaze”. With lyrics that repeat almost as though to drag the ending of the album, it’s hard to say that this track reached its potential. Because it is a song that wants to talk about the hardships of stardom, there’s nothing about it that makes it stand out. While this song is sorrowful and somehow playful. Feeling as though it was coated in tattered yellow sunflower petals; it stands better farther away from the rest of the sultry works before it.
If there’s something that the Neighbourhood, or Rutherford, does pleasantly, it is to make even their most brooding songs hauntingly catchy. However, for anyone who feels as though a set of soundtracks must catch your interest upon first listening may not find full satisfaction in this EP.
Lyrically, the songs are collectively vague and could be more effective if they were written as poetically as their meaning. Rutherford has strong, emotionally driven messages in his work that are often worded like generic pop tracks. Back when “Wiped Out!” was released, “RIP 2 My Youth” was a bold, crafty, and symbolic track with a high replay count. It was so quotable that it can be branded as an iconic, progressive piece. Improving lyrically could strengthen their backbone and leave listeners with a scrumptious aftertaste.
Every fan and critic may form contrasting opinions on “Hard”. To explain the confusion, it’s best to consider that their unique mixture of sound has many arguing as to what soundtracks are worthy and which are not. Their sound is very “not here nor there”, which can make or break them. Perhaps if they tighten their sound, they may be able to create more polished and successful collective works. Without such a focus, they may be digging their own hole by leaving their listeners unable to commit fully to their music.
Despite the mixed reviews from others and even from myself, there is something about the Neighbourhood that can make you feel brand new all while being nostalgic. Rutherford’s ability to make his songs relatable is effortless and conceptually appeals best to millennial culture. The alternative sound can attract those who want a sound that is less generic than what they’re used to on the radio, so the breath of fresh air can come from Jesse’s clearwater voice even while he sings about smoking (and how he maintains his voice after flaunting his cigarettes and cannabis usage is beyond me).
Hard EP is rather promising in the sense that the NBD seems to recognize a bit better where their sound should reside. Although “Hard” has its weak points, it’s almost as though each listener can find their own memorable moments. Perhaps this is the advantage that a diverse sound has and why the Neighbourhood hasn’t sunk musically. Regardless, their sound is best served during winter weekends or during late night summer drives, or “Sadderdaze” as it seems.
Link to playlist – Hard – Ep