Sound: It does not come as a huge surprise that Neon Trees was chosen to open many of The Killers' North American dates back in 2008. While the Utah natives are beginning to craft a style of their own, there are still several songs on their debut full-length record Habits that follow in the footsteps of their established predecessors. A nod to the 1980's is present on the 8-track CD, with synthesizers usually taking a front seat in the mix. But the most attention is paid to melodic hooks via the vocals, a method that would be fantastic if the songs on the album didn't sound quite so similar to one another.
Habits doesn't overstay its welcome with only eight tracks, a fairly low number considering only a year ago the Neon Trees released an EP. The material concentrates on more of a dance-oriented vibe, with the song themes resembling the pop variety more so than rock. The lyrical content tends to revolve around relationships and there aren't any moments that go into deep territory. Musically there are moments reminiscent to The Killers, but you'll also hear similarities to everyone from The Strokes to The Bravery.
The 1980's pop sound is well represented with the synth-heavy Animal (the first single from Habits) and the aptly titled 1983. The band shines in lighthearted, danceable moments, and the quirky, clever Girls and Boys In School deserves to be released as a single at some point. The synth most certainly takes the forefront in all three of the aforementioned tracks, and it's hard to deny there is a New Order vibe that drives the overall arrangement of Girls and Boys In School.
For as many pop/dance-oriented tracks as there are, it is finally refreshing to hear the Neon Trees delve into jazzier territory with In The Next Room. In what could easily be described as the one track that sticks out like a sore thumb (in the best possible way), In The Next Room features a laid-back, loungy style that is highlighted by piano, brushed percussion, and what sounds like snapping fingers. Granted, the chorus reverts to the same formula you hear on the rest of the album, but the verse does indicate that Neon Trees is able to venture into other genres. They certainly don't do that quite enough on Habits, but the band does show promise. // 7
Lyrics: You won't find the Neon Trees straying too much from the topic of relationships, for better or worse. While a band like The Killers does attempt to be philosophical at times (the whole dancers vs. humans bit), Neon Trees delivers your run-of-the-mill takes on love. The most entertaining lyrical content arrives in Girls and Boys In School, which basically pays tribute to that innocent game that kids play when a crush is involved: Do you like me? Check yes or no. While the band doesn't come straight out these words, they play enough with the topic to make anyone with a fond memory of grade-school love nod in approval. // 6
Overall Impression: Neon Trees is adept at writing a catchy hook or synth line, which may just be enough to garner attention at this stage in the game. You'll be hard-pressed to find anything groundbreaking or unusual on Habits, and even their most unique track (In The Next Room) returns to their typical sound by the time the chorus comes around. Vocalist Tyler Glenn has a strong, pleasing style to his singing, which does help the mediocre songs on Habits to become a bit more intriguing. With only about five years together as a band, Neon Trees still has plenty of time to prove themselves as more capable songwriters. // 7