There’s a reason they call it the sophomore slump. Too many bands have had amazing debuts and lackluster follow-ups. It’s easy to be a one-hit wonder, it’s difficult to create a career and maintain a fan base.
Neon Trees burst on the scene two years ago with the debut Habits. It was a new-wave pop smash that introduced the world to front man Tyler Glenn’s killer voice and stage presence. The band is back with Picture Show, an album that expands their sound and aims to make them even bigger.
What I loved from the start about Neon Trees is their straight forward songs and undeniable hooks. “Everybody Talks,” the album’s first single, delivers exactly what you’d expect–three-chord rock with a huge chorus and stellar production. Beyond this track, the similarities to Habits are hard to find.
Picture Show delves even deeper into electronic and dance-based music. Songs like “Trust” and “Close to You” feel like they are meant more for an after hours club than Top 40 radio. Frenetic rockers “Teenage Sounds” and “Hooray For Hollywood” show the band’s heavier side, but never quite hit their stride.
The two best songs on the album are “Mad Love” and “Weekend.” Mad Love” has a driving synth bass line and bubble gum lyrics that could have made it a hit on the Sixteen Candles soundtrack. “Weekend” rocks with horn stabs and a melody that will be stuck in your head for days. Songs like these seem easy for Neon Trees–it’s what they do best and I feel like they could have easily cranked out a powerhouse pop album if they wanted to. Instead, they’ve experimented and collaborated with producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen to create an album that is darker and less accessible.
Picture Show is definitely worth a listen. Tyler Glen is a rock star and even though this album may not end up as commercially successful as Habits, he can take them as far as they want to go.