Andrew Zaeh

Pop Psychology

B+
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June 04, 2014 at 04:00 AM EDT

Neon Trees first sprouted nearly a decade ago, a mohawked branch on the Killers’ dance-rock family cactus. Like their desert-bred forebears, the Mormon-rooted Utah natives mastered the Technicolor hedonism of modern-rock radio — a sound splashed all over their breakout singles ”Animal” and ”Everybody Talks.” And on their third release, they’ve boldly put the word ”pop” in the title, signaling their full-on turn to sugar-smacked new-wave revivalism.

But lurking beneath the shiny primary colors is a complex new collage of adult perspective. It’s a natural reflection of their personal lives: Since their last album, frontman Tyler Glenn has come out as gay and drummer Elaine Bradley became a mother. Glenn’s few direct nods to his revelation are just one part of the wiser, more wide-ranging sort of poetry within the sonic gloss, adding an emotional heft the band’s earlier songs lacked. ”It’s never like it used to be/Maybe it just never really was,” Glenn croons on the humming ”Voices in the Halls,” letting in enough grown-up darkness to give the keyboard throbs some weight. Nothing here is as relentlessly hooky as 2012’s ”Everybody Talks,” but its bubbly propulsion informs the cheeky ”I Love You (But I Hate Your Friends)” and swooning ”Teenager in Love.” That mix of energy and insight makes Psychology a 40-minute master class in the kind of pop that moves both the body and the brain. B+

Best Tracks:
”Unavoidable”
”Living in Another World”

Pop Psychology

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