Scoring hits such as "Animal" and "Everybody Talks," Provo, Utah's Neon Trees kicked off the 2010s with smart, catchy pop that blended new wave, dance, and indie with mainstream-friendly hooks. Featuring vocalist/keyboardist Tyler Glenn, guitarist Chris Allen, bassist Branden Campbell, and drummer/vocalist Elaine Bradley, the group's roots go back to Campbell and Allen's time growing up in Southern California: when Allen moved to Utah for school, Glenn, a self-taught musician, followed him. The pair connected with Campbell and Bradley; the latter began playing guitar in bands when she was 14 before switching to the drums. The band perfected its new wave-tinged sound at local shows and got its big break when chosen to be one of the opening acts for the Killers' 2008 North American tour.
Early in 2009, Neon Trees were signed to Mercury Records; they were also voted Band of the Year by Salt Lake City's City Weekly. The group's Mercury debut, Habits, arrived in early 2010. The following year the band scored a hit, "Lessons in Love (All Day and All Night)," with house producer Kaskade; a guitar-heavy version of the song appeared on the band's 2012 album Picture Show, which found Neon Trees going in more rock and electronic directions at different times. They went on to tour the record shortly after, with performances alongside the likes of the Flaming Lips and the Offspring, as well as performing their hit song "Everybody Talks" on that year's edition of America's Got Talent. In 2013 they reunited with Habits producer Tim Pagnotta, recording in Cabo San Lucas, Los Angeles, and Provo; in January 2014 the single "Sleeping with a Friend" offered the first taste of Neon Trees' more polished approach. That March, Glenn revealed he was gay, and a similar soul-searching mood ran through the band's third album, Pop Psychology, which arrived in April 2014. In 2015 Neon Trees returned with the non-album single "Songs I Can't Listen To." The following spring, Glenn released his first song as a solo artist. The brusk electropop single "Trash" and its accompanying music video drew controversy for criticizing the conservative values of the singer's former faith, Mormonism. Titled Excommunication, his full-length debut arrived that fall. ~ Heather Phares