It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Neon Trees as far as albums go. Their last was Pop Psychology in 2014, which wielded the singles “Sleeping With A Friend”, “I Love You (But I Hate Your Friends)”, “Voices In The Halls” and “First Things First”. The next year brought a nearly 2-month tour along with a new song, “Songs I Can’t Listen To”. Apart from the release of another single “Feel Good” in 2017, much of the latter half of the 2010s saw Neon Trees flying under the radar. Now that ends, with the Utah quartet’s release of their fourth LP I Can Feel You Forgetting Me.
The opener “Nights” sonically conveys its title to a tee, soaking in atmospheric synths and hypnotic vocals at a fast-lane tempo, altogether manifesting a blurry time-lapse too rapid for anyone to remember the details. “Used To Like” takes many of the same cues, though it’s a tad bit slower to give it that fun, easy Circa Waves vibe for those who don’t like being rushed. “Holy Ghost” is big on the ups- upbeat and uptick, rounded off by a catchy, harmonic chorus encompassed by a wall of synth and guitar.
“Skeleton Boy” scales back into a floaty dreamscape, meanwhile “Mess Me Up” delivers a tale of love, loneliness and Los Angeles in the pop fashion of Lauv with an indie twinge. The lamentation of modern relationships continues with the shuffling “Living Single”, summed up succinctly along with the pitfalls of fast living in the chorus: “Living single is harder on my body than the drugs.” “Everything Is Killing Me” doesn’t make the subject matter any lighter, but the broadened existential misery is balanced off by its cheery(ish) chorus and bright guitar chords colouring up the background.
“Going Through Something” dives deeper into anxious, dreading overtones while keeping it awkwardly danceable, while “When The Night Is Over” lightens things up; a celebration of release with an irresistible groove and a borderline rock edge. “New Best Friends” closes out Forgetting appropriately on the total flipside to most of the album: No worries, no nihilism, no searching for purpose amongst the abyss; just a tribute to a fun time soaked with alcohol and the many memories soon to follow (if they can be remembered upon waking up).
On their return LP, Neon Trees accomplish what many acts of their ilk have been doing more and more in recent years: Go ahead and make pop, go ahead and make fun records you can dance to and everything else. At the same time, just because it’s pop doesn’t mean it has to be about absolutely nothing. Forgetting focuses on the other kind, or really the other side of nothing- amidst where everything seems to be fine, fast and thoroughly enjoyable on the surface of life and song, there is an abundance of rot and cracking past the facade. Addressing this will propel the self to a higher plane of honesty and understanding and ideally inspire the listener to do the same, masking it will lead to internal crisis, collapse, and ultimate exposure of all the flaws that have been crudely concealed. Some people might not imagine a sophisticated contemporary pop record, but there is such a thing- at least in the case of records like this.