For a band whose musical output doesn’t extend before last year, California’s The Neighbourhood has enjoyed serious success, including a chart-topping single and a tour with breakthrough stars Imagine Dragons.

In many ways, The Neighbourhood’s music embodies the sound of modern alternative rock.  Despite a traditional bass, drums and two guitar spread, the guitars are atmospheric and often sound like keyboards.  The instrumentation takes as much inspiration from R&B as it does from any older alternative band you’d care to name—there are certainly no guitar solos or even many discernible riffs on display here. The emphasis is all on the vocals, which is no detriment to the band because lead singer Jesse Rutherford has a great stage presence and a good set of pipes.  He had no problem in leading the crowd through sing-along after sing-along Monday night, as the band played through the highlights of their debut album ‘I Love You.’ and two preceding EPS, ‘Thank You,’ and ‘I’m Sorry…’  It was certainly easy to sing along with the invariably hooky choruses—the kind that buzz around in your head incessantly, at least until the next one starts.

Rutherford’s onstage presence evokes hip-hop swagger as much as it does alternative angst, and indeed on the fifth song of the set he showcased his rap talents on an energetic version of “West Coast,” an ode to The Neighbourhood’s home which features the chorus “I’m so West Coast / It’s a goddamn shame.”  The lyrics seem to critique superficiality as much as celebrate California’s sun and sea, which is impressive depth for a band that is young not only in its musical career but also in its members’ ages.  The Neighbourhood’s lyrics contain a healthy dose of angst, even in their song titles (“Everybody’s Watching Me,” “What Do You Want From Me?”).  This lends the band many of its best moments, including the excellent “Wires,” a highlight of their set Monday with its moaned chorus of “straight to hell.”

The band finished the night with their chart-topper “Sweater Weather,” which upholds the alt rock tradition started by Weezer and Yo La Tengo of writing songs about woolen pullovers.  Many of the breathier vocals and atmospheric beats of The Neighbourhood’s recordings were inevitably lost in their live mix in favor of a more aggressive sound.  But with Rutherford’s energy and versatility of delivery, that’s not a bad thing at all.  If they continue to put out material in the vein of “Sweater Weather” and “Wires,” it’ll only be a matter of time until The Neighbourhood’s hooks attract the ears of more mainstream listeners.

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