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Artist To Watch: Neon Trees

I first heard this month’s featured artist, Neon Trees, in Austin at Entertainment Weekly’s SXSW VIP party.  And while the complimentary drink selection – some overly sweet Acai Berry vodka concoction – had me ready for a new location, I was stopped in my tracks by the four piece band as soon as they took the stage.  The high energy set which included selections from the band’s album, Habits, became the highlight of my search for the next best SXSW band.  The performance was illustrated by the band’s front man, Tyler Glenn, jumping around the stage showcasing his dynamic vocals and verging-on-insane stage presence, reminiscent of No Doubt‘s Gwen Stefani.  And it didn’t stop there. The band, fronted by Glenn, also features Chris Allen on guitars, Branden Campbell on bass, and Elaine Bradley on drums and backing vocals.  The foursome, while individually unique, blend well on the indie pop tracks featured on the band’s major label debut.  Each track finds its way to everything between garage punk rock and hook-happy new wave, offering a variety of styles appealing to the masses.

The lead single, “Animal”, is fueled by adrenaline making listeners jump up out of their seats and move to the synth-driven beats.  Undoubtedly one of the most pop driven tracks in the bunch, it showcases what else the heavy hitting newcomers have to offer on the disc. “1983” draws attention to the influences from the decade as Glenn courts a young woman, while “Sins of My Youth” draws on his childhood trials which led to self discovery.  And the band website describes “Your Surrender” as taking “Roy Orbison’s romantic plaint and sets it up against Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound”, making it one of the standouts amongst the eight track compilation. 

Although no heavy ballads appear, the first effort from Neon Trees is full of keyboard synth coolness – and plenty of hand clapping – which is surely laying the groundwork for a career of poppy punk rock classics to come.  And while the comparisons to The Killers are painfully obvious, Neon Trees seems prepared to stay true to their diverse indie sound despite where their success takes them.  Having already toured with their similar sounding counterparts, the band hasn’t shown signs of slowing since our first meeting in Austin.  Since March, the band embarked on a tour with 30 Seconds to Mars and Mute Math, were showcased on MTV as an artist on the rise, appeared on the talk circuit, and are prepping for another handful of dates, on the Civil Twilight Tour, taking their stint on the road through the end of the summer.  As one of the most promising new bands of the year, I can’t wait to see what they deliver next.  And in the meantime, you can check out the band’s Tim Burton inspired video for “Animal” below.