It’s barely been a year since Utah pop-rockers Neon Trees released their third full length album Pop Psychology and they’re already giving us some new music to get excited about in the form of “Songs I Can’t Listen To”. It’s a tad different from some hit singles “Animal”. “Everybody Talks”, and “Sleeping With A Friend” in terms of subject matter, but they stayed consistent in their musical style while also showing that they are constantly growing as artists.
“Songs I Can’t Listen To” is very circa 80’s power pop instrumentally, in which Neon Trees is no stranger to. Vocally, frontman Tyler Glenn sounds a little more indie singer-songwriter than normal and showcases his vulnerability throughout the mid-tempo pop-rock track. The song certainly showcases how far they’ve come since their first single and can make longtime fans look forward to their slightly new mature demeanor.
With that new demeanor comes a willingness to experiment with different subject matters when it comes to lyrics. Not like the band has never put out a sad breakup song before, but “Songs I Can’t Listen To” is a blatantly sad breakup song that they’ve never exposed their audience to in the form of a new single. Heartbroken listeners and music nuts alike will find comfort in this track due to its focus on the idea of how a song can remind you of a person or memory, which can cause us to not be able to listen to some of our favorite songs because of it (“and it’s all because of you/I’ve got a list of songs I can’t listen to”).
From its very first lines of “there’s a song that I love/that you once played for me/it had all the right chords/and a sweet melody” it was pretty obvious that the song was going to have a more melancholy tone to it. Glenn proceeds to pour his heart to us and reveals that he wonders if the other person has been affected as much as he has (and do you still sing alone/when you’re all by yourself?/or do you switch to the next one/sing for somebody else?). There are also some points of reminiscence (“when you’re cold don’t forget/how this song kept us warm/you would dance on my bed/I would lay in your arms”), but in the end he believes that not associating with these songs is what’s best for the moment so his heart can heal (“now they’ve all been erased/on my music machine”).
Neon Trees definitely stuck to their style that they’ve established and are known for in “Songs I Can’t Listen To”, but there is so much more that they could’ve shown a different side of them with the song. With the stripping down to just guitars and vocals at the end they probably could’ve utilized that throughout the track and it still would’ve worked out. Tyler Glenn has a lovely voice that isn’t shown in a natural, emotional way very often and it’s a shame that this single couldn’t fully showcase that and still be popular. “Songs I Can’t Listen To” is the epitome of a relatively sad song disguised as peppy radio hit and may very well mark the start of a new musical path for Neon Trees in their next album.
Pop Rock | Island Records