Photo Credit: Jen Rosenstein
On their fourth studio album, the oddly titled I Can Feel You Forgetting Me, Provo, Utah band Neon Trees successfully (for the most part) split the difference between ‘80s pop and up-tempo while also establishing an atmospheric vibe like some other twenty-first century bands such as the War on Drugs. Neon Trees ultimately created a work that’s not forgettable, and which many listeners most likely will be feeling. The catchy and enjoyable opening cut “Nights” sets the stage well enough, followed by “Used to Like” which is also a fun listen even if it offers little in the way of distinction. “Holy Ghost” is a strong cut which definitely follows the musical battle plan of the aforementioned War on Drugs.
However, I Can Feel You Forgetting Me truly comes to life with the fourth cut, “Skeleton Boy.” At first, the song sounds largely like what we’d been hearing on the record so far, until the second verse when it suddenly jack-in-the-boxes with an ‘80s-style hook reminiscent of Duran Duran or the Outfield. The track goes back and forth between more modern and retro sounds, which makes it even more compelling. In the end, “Skeleton Boy” definitely emerges as the most fleshed out track on the album.
Other songs that lean heavily on the ‘80s influence are something of a mixed fanny pack. “Living Single” does a fine job of maneuvering the sound towards that of Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark and similar synth-pop acts of yore. Mid-tempo “Mess Me Up,” which opens with an Eastern-style guitar arpeggiation, is pleasant enough. However, ambiguously-titled “Everything is Killing Me” initially bursts out with a very promising Michael Jackson-type funk riff (maybe more specifically evocative of the Jacksons’ 1984 hit “Torture”), but the Foster the People-like chorus doesn’t really create the most ideal balance.
The rest of I Can Feel You Forgetting Me is relatively even, if nothing else, and overall consistent. The same can be said for the band: As lead singer, Tyler Glenn is a fitting enough spokespersons for this material, and his keyboard playing is equally spot on. The rest of Neon Trees – guitarist Chris Allen, bassist Branden Campbell and drummer Elaine Bradley – also are all tight players.
I Can Feel You Forgetting Me heads back to more modern-like sound late in the tracklist with “Going Through Something”, which sounds like Americanized take on Bastille’s earlier work. Another British band is not so subtly referenced on “When the Night is Over” (“Yeah the sun’s going down, you’re my karma police”) and the track could almost pass as an up-tempo cover of one of their songs. The album closer “New Best Friend” definitely seems as though it was earmarked as the grand finale, and mostly delivers on that end.
But just how many listeners will want Neon Tress as their new best friend after listening to this record? Sadly, the title I Can Feel You Forgetting Me has already proved prophetic, since the album was released in late July and as of mid-September has yet to chart in Billboard (even after their last full-length effort, 2014’s Pop Psychology, went Top 10 in the US). But with a name comprised of two things that people can’t help but take notice of, Neon Trees will probably recapture everyone’s attention again soon enough.