We’re dealing with a mixed bag of an album. The record is drastically different from past Neighbourhood albums but is simultaneously eccentric and fresh. Rutherford is clearly attempting to develop a more individualistic body of work. Listeners will initially pick up on the less indie-alternative rock aspect so common of Rutherford’s previous work and immediately embrace the transition into an R&B-influenced record. In stark contrast with the collaborative sound of past Neighbourhood records, “&” is an agglomeration of experimental pop drum machine beats and unique synths.
Born to Be Blonde, the opening song on the album, was an abandoned poem of Rutherford’s, written in the studio during the creation of the Neighbourhood’s Wiped Out! In song form, he maintains the envious melancholy chords emblematic of NBHD but takes on a more optimistic approach. This stands in contrast to the ever-prominent deep-dark-locked-in-a-basement feeling so common of NBHD albums. The track is surprisingly minimal, Rutherford’s voice dominates the bulk of it, intermingled with sparse, synthesized guitar strums and a slow drum beat that brings the song to a close.
Track number three, Barbie & Ken, epitomizes that newfangled pop sound Rutherford explores on the album. We get a standard 808 trap beat, punctuated with a steel drum melody and an autotuned, less melodic voice—a product we’d normally only hear from rappers. The patter-talk approach throws avid Neighbourhood fans for a curveball. This track is not reminiscent of past NBHD albums, but it’s surely something to consider.
Towards the middle of the album is Bloom Later. Here, we have a milder track to balance out the grit Rutherford toys with for the majority of the album. The song consists of pleasing dreamy chord changes, making for a paradise-like sensation. A needed addition to the album, no doubt.
Wrapping up the album is track 11, Guinea Pig, a short song with blunt lyrics.
And when it comes to my clothes / bitch, I do it like a pro / even if I’m not alright / I’m looking so good / you’ll wanna stand next to me every night.
An interesting choice for a closing title.
In short, Rutherford’s transcendence of the NBHD dynamic is relatively well-executed and successfully taps into an unexpected individual sound. Fans will be interested to see if he continues to expand upon this new sound or reverts back to the familiar hooks of past records.