For a West Coast band, Los Angeles' the Neighbourhood make a distinctly dark brand of pop that's way more overcast than beachy. It's a sound they've been exploring since 2013's I Love You, and one they sink slowly into on their cloudy, synth-heavy third album, 2018's The Neighbourhood. Produced with Lars Stalfors (Cold War Kids, HEALTH, Foster the People), the eponymous album is colored by dimly fluorescent keyboards a la '80s Miami Vice composer Jan Hammer, and pulsing, club-induced claustrophobia that feels very Giorgio Moroder circa 1981. It's easy to imagine the Neighbourhood stumbling out of a screening of Blade Runner 2049 and knowing exactly what they wanted to do here. In that sense, the album feels like both a continuation of past work and a fresh start. The opening "Flowers" is lighter and more sparkly than past songs, allowing lead singer Jesse Rutherford a chance to sing with even more intimacy and nuance. Even when the mood shifts to American Gigolo-level arch sensuality, as on "Scary Love" and the shadowy, Krautrock-infused "Softcore," Rutherford retains his yearning, organically fractured loverman qualities. While chilly synth is the band's preferred skin here, they also balance the digital haze with deft orchestrations and acoustic instruments, as on the languid "Sadderdaze." Similarly, the minor-key R&B-ish ballad "Too Serious" juxtaposes softly rendered acoustic guitar, spacy keyboards, and strings with a diffuse hip-hop beat. It's a gorgeously cinematic moment that impossibly combines Portishead's noir electronica with Sade's lyricism. When a band decides to go with an eponymously titled release several albums into an established career, it often works as a statement about reclaiming their identity, or making a new creative start. If that's the case here, the Neighbourhood have done both with their own cool aplomb.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar