There was a time when we all really didn’t know if we would ever get another Neon Trees album. After the release of their excellent third studio album in 2014, Pop Psychology, the band took a lengthy hiatus. Front-man Tyler Glenn released a solo album in 2016 that detailed his internal struggle with religion and his sexuality called Excommunication. There were a few teasers of new music from the band in the form of one-off singles such as “Feel Good” and “Songs I Can’t Listen To,” but no further announcements of them working towards anything concrete. The song “Used To Like” made its appearance out of nowhere in the middle of November, and that sparked a newfound interest in the band after so much time away. As shitty as a year as 2020 has been, we give our thanks to Neon Trees for making a brilliant comeback album called I Can Feel You Forgetting Me. This album is a collection of songs detailing the heartbreak in Tyler Glenn’s personal life and possibly a dual meaning of making their longtime fans remember the band they fell in love with in the first place. The vibes set forth on this LP teeter on the verge of a nighttime summer album, and the songs lend themselves well to the lofty expectations placed upon themselves in the legacy of their discography.
Starting off the record with the synth-laden, 80’s pop vibe track called “Nights,” it becomes increasingly evident that Neon Trees are picking up right where they left off. The gloomy atmospheric sounds that back the verses bleed away for a soaring chorus as Glenn outlines his heartbreak when he sings, “But the nights / I sit alone and wonder why / They say that boys don’t cry / ‘Cause all these tears and songs about you / Won’t bring back the best days of our lives / I can get by the days just fine / But the nights.” The rest of the song rallies around the fact that he can get through each day, but his thoughts get the best of him when he tries to get past the weight of the world at night.
”Used to Like” follows the solid opener, and it was the first taste of the new album that we got our ears on back in late 2019. The rock-solid single is as radio-ready as Neon Trees have ever been, and makes for the perfect introduction to the direction the band took on this album. The soaring melodies and breakneck hooks established by lead guitarist Chris Allen, bassist Branden Campbell, and the underrated drumming from Elaine Bradley make for a bulletproof song from top to bottom.
”Holy Ghost” finds Glenn continuing to outline his struggle with the religious imagery and metaphors that he described on his solo record in richer detail. Glenn describes his past failed relationship with sadness as he moodily sings on the bridge, “There’s parts of you I figured out / From all the shit you said out loud / Your spirit never left this house / And now you follow me around / You still follow me around.” As the album begins to unfold, it becomes clearer that Glenn is devastated by this relationship change, and his heartbreak is felt far and wide. While this track is heavy on deep lyrical content, Neon Trees do an excellent job of not letting the “downer material” strip away from what the band does best.
Other songs that outline Glenn’s relationship woes are found on the ultra-vulnerable “Mess Me Up.” If there is a rock bottom part to the story that he is telling, it comes in the form of this track. The singer describes the pain of not being wanted as he laments where it all went wrong as he sings, “Like, how you’re so ice cold to me / I can feel you in my bloodstream / Killing things / You’re so ice cold to me / I can feel you in my heartbeat / My heartbeat / Between the empty sex and cigarettes, I think of you between the breaths / I wanna know what’s happening / I wanna know why the phone won’t ring.” It’s hard to not root for Glenn to find his closure as the back half of the record.
”Living Single” marks a clear turning point on the LP as Glenn finds the outlook of his relationship status with rosier glasses than he had described on the earlier stages of the record. The instantly relatable words of being too connected to our devices such as, “The glow of a screen, yeah, it’s my routine / Technology, man, I’m so tired,” paint Glenn as human as the rest of us. Other outlooks are found on songs like “Everything is Killing Me,” that rocks like a perfectly crafted 80’s synth-pop gem in the same realm of a Duran Duran single. The pompous, stomp rock found on the track helps Glenn find his clear path forward in recovering from sour breakup.
On the chorus of “Going Through Something,” Glenn continues to rely on his vices to deal with all of the heartbreak as he confesses, “I think I’m going through something / All I know, all I know is tonight I got nothing / I’m not going home / When I drink alcohol, I’m happier / But I know it’s gonna kill me dead.” It’s hard to see any person go through one of these phases, yet his uplifting tone to his words make the listener believe that he’s going to come out on top by the time this all wraps up.
With so many of the songs dealing with the themes of thinking of the lonely times at night, “When The Night is Over” allows Glenn to turn the page on this time in his life by coming to terms with how he will cope with this heartache moving forward. “New Best Friend” finally brings the outlook into the realm of insanity as Glenn describes his headspace by saying, “Tripping out in paradise / Gonna watch it as it all collides / Can’t sleep no more / It’s a perfect storm / They call me crazy / But the crazy’s my new best friend.” One can only hope that Glenn and his bandmates can find solace in the fact that they can move on to better days ahead.
In many ways, Neon Trees have embraced the uncertainty of the long days and sleepless nights that coincide with a heart-wrenching breakup with all of the poise and professionalism that comes with creating perfectly crafted pop songs. The relatable content of the lyrical material is only superseded by the sheer infectious nature of the songs as they allow the listener to care for their heartbroken front-man while simultaneously dancing their cares away. And for now, I’m sure that’s exactly what Neon Trees were hoping to accomplish on I Can Feel You Forgetting Me.