Neon Indian – Era Extraña
[Static Tongues / Mom + Pop, 2011]
Nick Torsell, September 14, 2011
Originally published by Life’s Sweet Breath
Listen: “Future Sick”
By this point in his career, Alan Palomo of Neon Indian fame has headlined tours, played festivals, and appeared in any music magazine you can think of. It’s a sort of pseudo fame that doesn’t go that much further than that for him. He still plays to relatively small venues when he does cross country tours and isn’t exactly filling venues in the smaller in-between towns of America where he still has to play. Era Extraña is a plea, a reminder that Palomo’s Neon Indian project aims to be around long after the glow sticks are swept from the trash-strewn floor.
So where does he go from here? The Hypnagogic Pop (a more sophisticated term for Chill-Wave) “movement” that played out of the cracked open windows in the cool parts of town has suffered a backlash. Whether people had enough of nostalgic sounds that sounded like buffers played after and before the next showing of Sesame Street, or there was just too much of it at once, there’s no more “next big CHILL-WAVE band” blog posts. Fortunately for Neon Indian, he happened to write better pop hooks than the rest of the hype-machine crowd. The last record, Psychic Chasms was an exercise in hazed out anthems. “Should’ve Taken Acid With You” as well as “Deadbeat Summer” filled a sort of festival exhaustive sound that I never knew I needed.
Those more upbeat and fuzzed out synth sounds have been replaced by punchier production on Era Extraña. Palomo built his own synth, and gave it the appropriately sci-fi title “PAL198X.” He seems more dialed in as a result, the album sounds more like Ford & Lopatin’s smoldering midnight terror rhythms than Washed Out’s AM radio backwash.
“Polish Girl” is the obvious single, a trip through New Order’s weirdest pop ideas that sounds more “right now” than anything released this year. The video features Palomo swaying back and forth in time to the glitchy squall that pulses through the song, playing synth lines on a guitar without a head. While “Polish Girl” guards the album from sophomore slump territory, Era Extraña impresses throughout. “Hex Girlfriend” has the sort of exhilarating ending you’ll always want to skip ahead to, while “Fallout” is the most confident Neon Indian has ever been. At 23, it’s amazing how comfortable he sounds making last call hymns. “Future Sick”, the last real stunner on the album, sounds like what would happen if Boards of Canada released an album you could dance too without looking like a member of the undead.
Palomo has distanced himself from the hypnagogic masses, pushing his way into a more stable role in current music. That he is already adapting and avoiding the same signifiers as his first well-received album is a good sign of what’s to come.