California's the Neighbourhood are on a mission to make goth R&B a touchstone in the musical lexicon. It's a sound they championed on their debut album, 2013's I Love You, and continue to explore on their sophomore effort, 2015's Wiped Out! Once again working with producer Justyn Pilbrow, the Neighbourhood expand upon the moody synth, heavy bass, and echoey guitar-based style of I Love You with a collection of tracks that, while not mind-blowing, will pleasingly remind most fans of the group's 2012 breakout track, "Sweater Weather." While other artists have flirted with the darker side of R&B, including Lana Del Rey, the xx, and Halsey (who also worked with Pilbrow on her similarly inclined 2015 debut, Badlands), the Neighbourhood commit to the aesthetic wholeheartedly on Wiped Out! Lead singer Jesse Rutherford brings a louche, cool-guy vibe to the microphone that combines the delicately melismatic lilt of The Weeknd with the plaintive angst of the Cure's Robert Smith. It's a memorable, if somewhat overly self-conscious stance. One minute, he's crooning self-seriously through fuzzy, echo-chamber effects ("Prey"); the next, he's sitting back, seemingly commanding the listener through pure hip-hop swagger ( "R.I.P. 2 My Youth"). This savvy, cross-genre approach means Wiped Out! will play well next to albums by any number of modern artists from Kanye West to Coldplay. It also doesn't hurt that cuts like "Cry Baby," "Daddy Issues," and "Greetings from Califournia" counteract the band's somewhat downtempo vibe with catchy melodies and light, dance-oriented beats. As the black & white album cover illustration of a palm tree on a beach implies, this is surf music for street goths and beach bums with bad attitudes.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar