It’s no surprise that Neon Trees opened for the Killers on their 2008 North American tour -- the same kind of hyper-literate lyrics and whip-smart hooks run through the band’s debut album Habits. However, the Provo, UT quartet doesn’t have the huge, and occasionally cumbersome, ambitions that Brandon Flowers and company possess. Instead, Neon Trees keep it focused and catchy, crafting unrepentantly slick songs with huge choruses, and where everything falls into place at exactly the expected moment. Though elements of post-punk and dance-punk pop up here and there -- “Love and Affection”’s jabbing riffs are pure Bloc Party -- Neon Trees know how to absorb them fully into irresistible pop. Habits’ first single, “Animal,” uses the precision punk-pop of the Strokes for its underpinnings, then tops them with piles of shiny synths and handclaps. “In the Next Room”’s mischievous pianos instantly bring the Cure’s “The Lovecats” to mind, though the rest of the song is pure 2000s alt pop. Neon Trees are so savvy that it’s almost a flaw -- next time out, they could let a little more idiosyncrasy into their songs. Regardless, this mini-album shows off their undeniable pop skills. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi

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