You know how there was always that one kid in high school that was just plain cool? He (or she) could wear whatever, do whatever, even say whatever they wanted and it would immediately be awesome. It didn’t matter if it started as a trend or not — once this kid set it in motion, it became something new and better. Well, if the alternative music scene were a high school, California-based newbies The Neighbourhood would definitely be that kid. With their debut EP I’m Sorry, the band creates an elaborate mix of soul-inspired roots and today’s best indie techniques that is, in a word, cool.
The EP is only 5 songs long, but each track manages to pack a notable punch. They all feature the same languid vocals and rich bass lines, recalling notable qualities of soul-infused soft-rock acts such as Sade, while simultaneously incorporating layer upon layer of complex melodies and semi-clandestine lyrics. What results is a modern take on old favourites, a new kind of easy-listening smooth jazz for today’s generation. This is best embodied in the first track, “Female Robbery,” which sees the mellow vocals take on an almost sensual quality when paired with the furtive and sneaky subject matter of the lyrics.
What is clear above all is that all members of The Neighbourhood are truly, and above all else, musicians. As they have previously stated, melodies are the priority, and it is immediately clear that this is a winning approach. Instrumentals and musicality become the foremost components of every song — even the vocals, which roll as smooth as any tone, seem more instrument than man. It is a refreshing change from indie bands that pride themselves on having off-key, wounded and whining vocals as a mark of legitimate sensitivity. It also allows them to improve upon well-founded cliches of the alternative music genre — for example, third track “Baby Came Home” is grounded on an extremely smooth bass line and a deep, throaty moan to become a truly emotional take on the “lost little girl” trope (see Augustana’s “Boston” for an example). Details like this make it obvious that the old adage of quality over quantity certainly rings true for The Neighbourhood and the I’m Sorry EP — what remains to be seen is if both can coexist when a full-length debut comes to be.