Album Reviews: ‘Pop Psychology,’ ‘Life Imitating Life’

By Karsten Burgstahler

Neon Trees, “Pop Psychology”

When it comes to Neon Trees’ new album “Pop Psychology,” listeners can expect more of the same radio-ready songs the group is known for.

The band’s 2012 album “Picture Show” produced hits like “Everybody Talks,” but their 2010 album “Habits” registered lesser acclaim. While they’ve gained significant popularity, they have not done much for the evolution of pop music.


This new album certainly reinforces the group’s power-pop qualities. But is this what we want on mainstream radio? After all, the decade’s music is veering off into heavily synthesized melodies, and Neon Trees does make use of their fair share of electronic noises.

The first single, “Sleeping with a Friend,” is the epitome of electronic melodies. The music illuminates the synthesizer, but it does not move like the rest of the electronic pop music these days. It just sounds contrived.

“Psychology”’s lyrical content matches the present state of pop music. The lyricism is thick with sexual themes — the album is all about sex in general. The references, though drawn on personal experience from the vocalist, are known universally.

In this respect, the album manages to take off lyrically, though it’s weighed down by clichéd movements in melodies and structures. If “Pop Psychology” were an airplane, it is not to be flown long distances, for it surely will crash and burn.

Augustana, “Life Imitating Life”

There are quiet melodies that can resound with surefire passion. Then there are songs that echo with a louder fervor. And there is a thin line between the two.

Augustana manages to ride that line in decent measure through a majority of their songs. With their latest album, “Life Imitating Life,” these methods come back into play.


The band, well-known for their somber tune “Boston” from the 2006 album “All the Stars and Boulevards,” has released three albums and count “Life” as their fourth. Eight years later, their music finds its pace in good stride with the slower tempo.

Naturally, there are louder and more progressive songs, and certainly there are tracks that combine the calm with the lively, but there are also tracks that ride the line between the subtle and the garish.

What works for Augustana is their concentration on smooth and simpler melodies. “Ash and Ember” finds the correct line to walk. It leans back and forth on the reserved and outgoing and the track plays out nicely in this respect. “Youth is Wasted on the Young” is another fine track that offers plenty of angst and yearning without being melodramatic

The majority of the new album sticks with this premise. And for this, “Life Imitating Life” manages to accomplish a fine feat other contemporary rock bands may find difficult.

“Life” breaks boundaries and holds onto the strength the band once lacked and the vulnerability that they have always had. Here, they produce their concentrated sound quite well.

Jake Saunders can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @saundersfj or by phone at 536-3311 ext. 254.