We love: Tracks 1, 5, 13
For fans of: The Weeknd, Kanye West, Alt-J (∆)
After notable radio success with the hit “Sweater Weather,” the Neighborhood has released their next project for free online as a mixtape, #000000 & #FFFFFF (black & white), hosted by DJ Drama (who recently hosted Childish Gambino’s STN MTN) and Don Cannon (who recently hosted Lacrae’s Church Clothes 2). #000000 & #FFFFFF is a recapturing of the viral spirit, and longing look back at the type of success to be found on blogs and social media. The Neighborhood preserves their established sound throughout this tape, while also exploring beats, features and tropes with a distinct hip-hop mixtape flavor.
Fans of the Neighborhood will find the band in new territory, but need not fear. The musical moodiness paired with radio-friendly melodies are as present as they have been in the past, though now delivered through synth and drum machine heavy beats and accompanied by truly hip-hop moments and rap features. The new elements actually save the band from their homogenous sound that made it hard to pick out more than a couple of distinct songs on their previous work I Love You. Anytime I started to lose track of my place in the album, a standout feature, such as Raury’s on “Warm,” or a standout track like “U&I” would draw my attention again.
For those worried that the Neighborhood is stepping into territory they would do better leaving alone, it should be recognized that the band addresses this. The mixtape has clear moments of self-awareness, most notably in “Phone Call Interlude” where frontman Jesse Rutherford speaks with presumably a host or producer and expresses his nervousness over recording a mixtape style intro. This can also be witnessed when DJ Drama calls the Neighborhood “the first band to put out a mixtape.” Whether that is true or not (I honestly don’t know), the band is not trying to draw attention away from the fact that they are releasing on a platform that is relatively unfamiliar for rock bands and them specifically. The frequent use of DJ tags and shout-outs throughout the project makes it clear that Drama and Cannon are not hiding their involvement, either.
With all of the DJ tags and shout-outs, one has to question whether they are adding to the music or if the songs would be better off without them. First of all, the DJs never seemed to crowd the music, mostly appearing in the beginnings of songs, and always working with the music, not against it. More importantly, however, is that the DJs make the project sound like a mixtape. Everything about the project, from the DJ tags to the condensed, irregular spelling of song titles to the contributors being listed in the credits by their Twitter handles, draws attention to the fact that this is not an album released through a major label (which the Neighborhood surely could have done), but a piece of Internet culture to be shared on social media and blogs.
This emerges thematically in the mixtape, most notably at its tail with the track “T” where Rutherford laments the fame he has achieved, obviously referencing his radio/major label success. #000000 & #FFFFFF is a return to letting the music work for itself, with people freely sharing it with their friends, instead of having it shoved down their throats by the radio. I do not mean that as a criticism of “Sweater Weather” or any other mainstream success the Neighborhood has achieved, but #000000 & #FFFFFF is clearly an exploration into the refreshing merits of the online platform, its potential for anonymity and intimacy, for humility and self-promotion, for freedom and collaboration. Most of the songs are still about (usually dysfunctional) love and bad break-ups, but the overall presentation of the project and a few key moments within the mixtape reinforce the Internet centric themes. The Neighborhood have chosen not to just release more of what we have already heard, accept their sophomore slump, and rake in the major label cash, but to give us something really interesting that both expands on the familiar Neighborhood brand and embraces the distinct identity of the online mixtape platform.
You can find #000000 & #FFFFFF for free download on DatPiff or other mixtape download sources.
There is obviously more that could be said about this project and the Neighborhood. If you are looking for a sounding board, or just want to abuse me with your opinions, you can find me on Twitter or comment below. I would be happy to discuss this or other music with you. Alternatively, you could come to Audioholics where we discuss specific albums and all things music.