A band coming off a string of hit singles faces a daunting task. If it goes back to the well once too often, it can be derided for stagnating. If it takes a left turn, fans may bemoan the change of pace. Neon Trees, the Utah band behind the unavoidable “Animal” and “Everybody Talks,” seem to have split the difference on their third effort. “Love in the 21st Century” navigates the intricacies of romance in the social-media age with sleek pop-rock contours, but it’s overly familiar in its echoes of previous hits. “Sleeping With a Friend” stands out with its languorous vibe and echoing, ’80s beach-rock-style drums. As for the lyrics, with “Sleeping,” as with “I Love You, But I Hate Your Friends,” a synth-bass-popping, hand-clapping, relentlessly hooky would-be hit, one might be tempted to read between the lines of Tyler Glenn’s giddy crooning; the singer recently came out. “All this emptiness would end, stop pretending,” he sings. Pop psychology indeed. “Unavoidable” offers a change of tone with drummer Elaine Bradley and Glenn coming together in harmony, but it’s yet another professionally done, radio-ready single. That’s not always good news. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “I Love You, But I Hate Your Friends”
Neon Trees perform at the Radio 92.9 EarthFest on May 17.Luke O’Neil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.