Neighbors - Failure (2014)
At first listen, Brooklyn’s Neighbors (not to be confused with the Seattle indie poppers of the same name) sounds like a lot of other buzz bands: neon synths, breathy vocals, dry ice billowing around every crystalline melody. And Noah Stitelman’s voice — an instrument he admits has a “limited range” — probably won’t turn many heads, its dry, airy tenor bearing traces of contemporaries like Tanlines’ Eric Emm or Kip Berman from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. And it was Pains I kept returning to as I listened to Failure, a record that initially struck me as valuing style over substance in much the same manner as Berman’s collective. But Failure turned out to be a “grower” in what I imagine to be the true sense of the word: when a pleasant, perfectly enjoyable record proves itself after multiple listens to be something rather remarkable.
Neighbors - Failure (2014)
Electronic, Indie, Pop, Synthpop, New Wave | Neighbors
320 kbps | MP3 | unmixed | 2014 | 40:53 | 101 Mb
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02. Wild Enough
03. Spacing Out
04. Long Time Gone
05. Jenny Jones
07. Last of a Kind
08. Gun Shy
09. Epic Meltdown
10. Young Things
It was the opening to “Jenny Jones” that did it. Stitelman sets the stage against needles of guitar and thudding snares: 1993, a boy watches Jenny Jones with his father as his sisters practice piano in anticipation of family dinner. It’s a simple, evocative image, sung with an undercurrent of wounded melancholy that renders the not-so-distant past in tear-stained sepia. It’s the same trick so many throwback indietronica acts go for, typically by fetishizing leather jackets, summer nights, and parking lots, but Stitelman’s lyrics eschew an idealized vision of youth in favor of honesty and specificity.
And the end result isn’t always pretty. Failure isn’t an ironic title; themes of heartbreak, indecision, and squandered potential abound. Thankfully, the album itself isn’t a downer, but rather a dance party for downers. Failure never lets up, occasionally to its detriment, with frenetic percussion and muscular synths that, even as they soar, alternate between triumphant and melancholy. This results in a side B that occasionally lacks distinction, especially when measured against side A standouts such as “Long Time Gone”, a wistful tune buoyed by gorgeous synthesized flutes, and single “Wild Enough”, which unleashes a cock-rocking guitar solo that’s at once completely surprising and absolutely fitting. “Surprising”, surprising enough, is probably the perfect word to describe Failure, a record whose treasures grow more valuable with every listen.
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