By the end of any year, pretty much everything in me is fried. I am the sort of person that pushes hard to a particular end, achieves the goal, and then collapses contentedly in a pile for a week or so. There’s probably something unhealthy about treating every year as a goal to be achieved instead of a thing to be experienced, but whatever, I can deal with those emotions when I’m in my resting week. This year you can find me listening to the low-key indie-rock grooves of Your Friendly Neighborhood‘s self-titled EP on repeat during the last week of the year.
R&B and blue eyed soul have been big trends this year, as with a trend toward all things chill. (James Blake would be really animated about predicting the future, if he were ever animated; I choose to believe that his real-life persona and music persona are the same.) Your Friendly Neighborhood grazes the latter without explicitly referencing the former; there’s a touch of R&B drums in “Hello Mire,” a bit of falsetto in “Fall in Line,” and some Antlers-esque moodiness in “Overflow.” But the overall product is less coattail riding and more a groove-heavy exploration of indie-rock’s lighter side. The rhythms throughout the EP are more straightforward than the trendy genres would predict; the work sounds like an indie-rock band at half-time, but in the best possible way. The band calls it “ambient,” but it’s really more like indie-rock as played by a slowcore acoustic band. Imagine twinkly ’00s emo, without the charming sheen; consider ponderous mid-’00s indie-rockers without the distortion.
The results of this unique take on indie-rock are super-chill in ways both engaging and comforting. Opener “Backroads” is the fastest of the tunes here, moseying along under the strength of thrumming bass and consistent tapped cymbal. The guitars and vocals lean back on the motion, creating a barely-there tension that allows for headbobbing as well as close listening. (There’s a lot of headbobbing going on for me on this release.)
“Overflow” sets up the pattern for the next three tunes: the constant motion is replaced with slowly pulsing grooves riding on gentle organ, lazy guitar, and sparse electronic drumming. The vocals have just enough reverb on them to feel warm, but not so much as to feel psychedelic: the goal here is laying back and relaxing, not sending you into space. “Fall in Line” and “Hello Mire” follow suit, delivering beautiful ruminations on quietude and solace. It takes work to make a trio sound like one single player, but they accomplish it here. The songwriting, performances, and engineering all come together beautifully to make a compelling, interesting, way-chilled-out sound.
The only thing that’s not great about this release is that it’s four songs long. I could use a whole album of this lovely music. Your Friendly Neighborhood have a surprisingly clear outlook on who they are and a strong ability to deliver that vision to the listener. If you’re looking for some chill-out music with some pleasantly unique elements, look no farther than Your Friendly Neighborhood.