Insecurities are unattractive, but vulnerability is sexy.
The Neighbourhood’s new self-titled album really explores this statement. It also strikes a real personal chord with this particular writer.
The first half of the record was more relatable, personally: Exploring the ideas of imperfection and whatever that means.
I’ve struggled with the concept of what perfect really means for most of my life. I’ve never been an overly confident person, especially growing up and living in a world where nepotism rules and as women, we are constantly compared to each other. Am I pretty enough? Am I good enough? Am I smart enough? I can guarantee that these questions have been asked to and by the woman – any woman – in your life. It can often lead us into a rabbit hole of questions and the age-old argument of whether our true self is enough or are we just being fake – especially in today’s world of where the Internet and social media have completely taken over our lives. People are pretty much living straight-up fake lives online compared to how they are perceived offline.
The opening song, ‘Flowers’ explores this fakeness per se in regards to what lead vocalist Jesse Rutherford thinks is fake (to him) versus what people actually want him to be: ‘Every day, you want me to make/Something I hate, all for your sake/I’m such a fake, I’m just a doll/I’m a rip-off.’
This leads to ‘Scary Love’ which explores the feelings of insecurity when you’re in a relationship, against an eerie, new wave sound, heavy with synthesizers and vintage drum machine sounds. Throughout media and entertainment, the male is often portrayed as the more confident partner, so it’s refreshing to hear it from the band’s perspective that these questions often arise for them too, as Rutherford sings “I don’t wanna be alone/Don’t wanna be alone/You’re too pretty for me,” with the idea that perfection has been presented in front of him and he too is questioning whether it’s too good to be true. It’s that rare sense of vulnerability that is delivered and felt through the song as he sings with raw emotion against an upbeat produced track.
‘Nervous’ is an introvert’s theme song. Well, at least it is for this introvert. Again, toying with the idea of perfection and hiding behind our feelings and not wanting to speak them out loud. Most introverts are quiet but many people who are extroverts or ambiverts confuse that with being shy, when in reality, we are thinking, observing and processing our thoughts. Most of the time, we’re just recharging our energy from all the noise and chaos that we face on a daily basis. Premiering a few days back via Zane Lowe’s Beats 1, ‘Nervous’ is my favourite track on this record, mainly because I relate to it on such a personal level.
Upon my first listen of ‘Void’, it instantly took me back to when I was a teenager and feeling inadequate within my family. I’ve always felt like the black sheep. Perhaps it was a subconscious decision when I was a young girl; to not follow in the footsteps and pressure of my family; choosing to fill the void with any and every hobby/career choice that they just did not approve of. Rutherford really paints a picture when he sings “Mama told me not to try/And I should have taken her advice/And now I’m all twisted”; he may have been singing about drug use, but I feel it can be interpreted however the listener wants to interpret it. That’s what I love about music and deciphering lyrics. The lyrics to ‘Void’ really got me in a spiral of just really listening closely, pulling them apart, analysing them and taking me back to how I felt growing up: “My insecurities are my own worst enemy, yeah.”
The rest of the record addresses the same themes delivered through the band’s vulnerable songwriting, like ‘Sadderdaze,’ ‘Reflections,’ and ‘Blue,’ but it’s the first four tracks that really tug at this reviewer’s heartstrings.
Overall, the record gives us electronica-synthy production a la The Weeknd layered between smooth R&B-esque vocals a la Allen Stone. Perhaps the band were influenced by these artists. Who knows? The guys are known to be ‘not your average rock band’, having worked with hip-hop heroes Don Cannon and DJ Drama as well as the likes of YG, Raury, Danny Brown, Dej Loaf, French Montana and Casey Veggies.
Nonetheless, those are the sounds I’m hearing as I listen to the record over and over. Add in some atmospheric indie rock guitars and hip-hop/drum machine beats and you’ve got a culmination of what The Neighbourhood‘s self-titled record sounds like. It may sound like a lot but when you really listen to it and break it down, it’s really quite a beautiful story that is told through emotive lyrics and eerie aesthetics. Ultimately, the band bared their soul on this record and they make me want to follow suit and wear my heart on my sleeve.
Up next, The Neighbourhood is heading to South America for the Lollapalooza festival run in March before setting out on a headlining North American tour that will see the band play 15 shows across the continent with HEALTH, including both weekends of Coachella.
The Neighbourhood‘s self-titled album is out now via Columbia records.