David D. Robbins Jr. | Their Bated Breath
Album: Neighbors “August EP”
Neighbors’ most recent release, “August EP”, blends electronic-pop, orchestrated lushness, wildly creative bursts and a kind of internal-monologue style of lyricism. The title song begins with hand-claps, a looped backing vocal, warm synth notes, and a tranquilly smooth electronic rhythm like Her Space Holiday used to be able to pull off (circa 2003’s “The Young Machine”): “I’m full of shit and you should know it / You’re waitin’ for a twist / But I’m cut-and-dry baby / You’re the one that’s the abstraction / The world’s full of poets that talk with a lisp / So no matter how they say it, it just don’t get no traction.” But Neighbors’ music is more complex and textured than Her Space Holiday. There’s a luxurious guitar bridge in “August” that collapses into clicking noises, chaotic stutters, and alarm clock-like bleats, before bringing back the original groove. It’s a marvel how understated the song feels even with all of its delicious harmonies and subtle musical transitions.
The second track, “Ophelia” (which might have something to do with the gorgeous album art), would almost feel like a country hop or a hobo’s song, if it wasn’t filtered through the indie sensibilities of soft synth, sleepy strings, and vocal layering. This dreamy reverie begins with a rumination about a girl and looking inside one’s head: “Ophelia, do we know each other from another life? / Are you not from El Salvador? / Am I not from the country side? / Have you got a mind like mine? / Tends to skip ahead, and just forgets to stop / Is it all tied up in knots? / Is it all wrapped up around the wrong thoughts?” The end refrain will certainly stick in your memory: “Oh tick-tock, tick-tick-tick-tock … we are always fuckin’ up everything.” The pace builds around those lyrics, as strings and electronic swirls wrap themselves around the vocals until the fade out. The blending of the song arrangements and the heady content of the verses make this record so endlessly engaging. The production is crisp, the acumen sharp — but it still manages to feel like free-form, like dreaming.
Even “Gone too Long” (one of the standouts), with its carefully orchestrated guitar buzz, faded whistling, jumpy and thick bass beats, finds a way to fall in step with the gentle vocals — creating an exquisite pop/rock-infused hybrid. The driving end finds the band hitting on all cylinders, highlighted by a romantic and elegant sentiment of safety, “From dusk til dawn, I’ll keep the porchlight on / So you don’t get lost …” The last cut, “Bad Timing”, is a pretty piece of wanderlust. It’s a folk-styled lament with lavishly unraveling harmonica phrasing. It’s a lullaby to the wide-open spaces of memory, to youth, to the slow crumble of love.
Note: This record comes highly recommended. It’s free to pick up at the band’s bandcamp page for the cost of an e-mail. All lyrics are unofficial. Neighbors is Noah Stitelman, Evan Johnson, Brian Harney, Steph McParty and Anne Minor.