April 17 2012: MUSIC: ‘Picture Show’ is indie rock perfected

Originally published http://elestoque.org/2012/04/17/entertainment/neon-trees-album-review/

“Picture Show,” the latest album from Utah band Neon Trees, was released on April 17. The album art, an Instagram-esque photo of the lead singer, adequately reflects the band’s indie roots and vintage sound. Photo taken from Mercury Records.

Two years has passed since Neon Trees gained attention — and a prolonged spot on the Billboard Hot 100 — from their hit single “Animal,” which established their ‘80s pop-rock persona. Judging by the sound of the the band’s newest album “Picture Show,” they are still stuck in the cheerful synths and new-wave vibes of the past. And that’s a great thing.

The lead single, “Everybody Talks,” starts where Neon Trees left off. The group’s talent for crafting strong and energy-packed choruses has become their signature touch, and “Talks” delivers on authenticity and dance-inducing rhythms. This authenticity is even present on tracks like “Weekend,” infused with more obvious elements of funk and pop. Their songs might sound goofy when anybody else sings it, but delivered on Glenn’s smooth and confident vocals, are infectious and euphoric without any traces of irony.

Most new albums rely on one, or if they are especially good, a few hit singles to carry over the inadequacies of the other tracks. Luckily, “Picture Show” doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses.

Sure, the lyrics might be only about young-people angst or seduction, but the with the upbeat instrumentation and addictive hooks, I can imagine every single song being played over and over on the radio without getting old.

Even “Moving in the Dark,” which initially sounded suspiciously similar to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” quickly found its footing and added to the theme of the album. Some of the tracks are noisier and chaotic (“Hooray For Hollywood”), while others are simpler and more sensual (“Mad Love”), but in each one, Neon Trees finds a perfect balance between modern pop and alternative/indie rock. Once again, it is Glenn’s voice, full of swagger and charisma, that makes the band transcend any definitive time or genre.

All in all, “Picture Show” is not much of a creative departure — it expands on the distinctive identity that Neon Trees had established in their debut album, but doesn’t go in any drastically new directions. But why mess with a working formula? Fans of the vocal delivery and ‘80s vibe in “Animal” will relish the latest album.

{cc-by-nc-sa} Yimeng Han

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