Neon Trees’ new album, Picture Show, is a new direction for the band, coming off of their first album, Habits that produced hit after hit bringing the group to huge heights in popularity.
“We wanted to make sure we sounded cool and we wanted the cool kids to like us,” said lead vocalist and keyboardist Tyler Glenn in an interview with Rolling Stone referring to the band’s goal with their first album. Unfortunately, they did not find as much success with the “cool kids” as they did with the indie pop community.
With the release of their second album, their focus laid on the artistic side of music. The name of the album, Picture Show, comes from the band’s love of movies. Glenn described this album as similar to a movie soundtrack in that there is, “more of a peak and a valley and [is] a little more dynamic.”
The first single off the new album, Everybody Talks, is a good transition between the first and second albums. It has elements from their first album but with the more cinematic feel that led well into the rest of Picture Show. The cinema inspiration can be seen in the music video for the single, with a storyline taking place at a drive-in and a thriller movie theme. The rest of Picture Show is just how Glenn describes it, with definite ups and downs that provide the listener with a journey through the album.
It is evident that movies and cinema have been influential for this band. If you go on the band’s website, all of their songs from the new album are available to listen to. Each song has its own movie poster, customized for the theme of that particular song. For Picture Show, the band wanted to take that love of movies a step further and apply it to their music.
In the music videos from their first album, the band members play their instruments in the video equally as much as they act. Each video has a thought-out storyline and can be viewed as a mini-movie. Even in their video for the track 1983, the band used the plotline of the Tom Hanks ’80s film Big as their inspiration.
Neon Trees formed in 2006 in Provo, Utah, initially composed of Tyler Glenn (lead vocals and keyboard) and Chris Allen (guitar and vocals). They later added members Branden Campbell (bass guitar and vocals) and Elaine Bradley (drums and vocals).
They recorded many demos before signing to Mercury Records after touring with The Killers in 2008. With Mercury, the band recorded their freshman album, Habits. They performed on multiple late-night shows including “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and continued to open for bands like 30 Seconds to Mars and My Chemical Romance, which earned them greater recognition.
I prefer Habits to Picture Show, because every single track had a catchy beat and a chorus that sticks in your brain, in a good way. I do love Picture Show because it has dynamic styles and a wider array of themes and topics than the upbeat jams on Habits.
However, I find myself skipping through tracks to get to songs that are danceable, such as Moving in the Dark and Everybody Talks. I think catchy is what this band does best. I do, however, understand and appreciate what they were trying to do with Picture Show and see it as a crucial evolution in their music.
With all things considered, any song by Neon Trees is unmistakably their own style. They have a unique sound and have done a good job evolving the complexity and artistry of their music in this second album, while still fundamentally staying true to themselves.
If you want to see them live, Neon Trees will be performing at the Summit Music Hall in Denver on May 29.
Contact CUI Staff Writer Ellie Patterson at Elizabeth.firstname.lastname@example.org.