Breakup albums are pop music's bread and butter, but Tyler Glenn's Excommunication isn't quite like all the others. Neither was his breakup: a lifelong Mormon who spent two years as a missionary, Glenn came out as gay in 2014 -- shortly before the release of Neon Trees' third album, Pop Psychology, and just over a year prior to when the Mormon Church strengthened its anti-gay doctrine. On Excommunication, he examines how losing his religion felt, from anguish to liberation. While the album is as catchy as any of his work with Neon Trees, it's clear why he needed to record and release it on his own. These are easily some of his most personal songs: "I never asked to fall from grace," he sings on "Sudden Death (OMG)," which opens Excommunication with ground-zero feelings of shock and betrayal. Going solo also lets him try on different sounds for size, whether it's the R&B-tinged anthem "Shameless" or "Trash"'s defiant electropop. As he shares frank, catchy confessions like "G.D.M.M.L. Grls" ("God didn't make me like girls"), he ends up speaking for many others as well as himself. Similarly, there's a sense of joy that's infectious, particularly on "Gods + Monsters" and "Waiting Around," where Glenn's sense of relief is palpable. Moving, funny, and danceable, Excommunication is some of his finest music yet.
by Heather Phares