I remember the first time I heard “Deadbeat Summer” by Neon Indian, a track title that so well embodied its own atmosphere. Not only did this song leave me captivated, it was also my very first introduction to the genre of chill-wave. Though chill-wave in itself is a fairly cheap and lazy term for a lot of 80s’ influenced, pseudo-nostalgic, lo-fi synth pop in this day and age, it is still a genre that can shine when the time is right. Toro y Moi’s “Causers of This,” for instance, is one album that blows me away still to this day, and after delving into Psychic Chasms, Neon Indian’s debut album – I was left with something “Causers of This” hadn’t given me: boredom. Anytime I was asked if I was a fan of Neon Indian, I’d reply “Yeah, Deadbeat Summer is really good,” and that’s as far as the discussion would go. Now, with his newest release of “Vega Intl. Night School,” Alan Palomo isn’t holding back and impresses exponentially. Much like the title of ‘Deadbeat Summer’, the album art for Palomo’s newest LP encapsulates the entire vibe of the album.
As fluorescent signs fly by and blur with the more cheap liquor you drink and cigarettes you smoke, Palomo takes you on a guided tour through a confusing blend of streets where the crime doesn’t stop and neither does the partying. Before you know it, the sun starts to rise and you crash on a couch in a house you’ve never been before. “Street level line of sight / Just trying to survive the night / Street level line of sight / With a head full of pesticide / Just trying to survive the night” these lyrics off “Street Level” capture the feelings of this album pretty well. When the night comes and you’re still out and about, sometimes it feels like you’re not the one moving and rather everything and everyone is moving past you at lightning speed; and as quick as your head hits the pillow, the album is over.
Coming in at just under an hour and with fourteen songs, Palomo proves he can keep up with some of the 80’s grooviest and funkiest artists, even while doing it in 2015. The album in its entirety flows incredibly well together, each song picking up the 16-bit synth pieces that its former left behind.
Neon Indian’s influences seem to dance all over the place, with songs like “Baby’s Eyes” seeming oddly reminiscent of Pink Floyd at times, with it’s strong, pouncing bass line, distant, swift guitar chords throughout its verse, and the marching drum beat. Once the bridge and chorus come into play, I can’t help but think of MGMT and Tame Impala with it’s near psychedelic melodies. Yet of course there is the the comparison to be made of his chill-wave brethren, specifically with Toro y Moi and Washed Out. However, it’s impossible to confuse Neon Indian to either of his genre-mates, especially on this newest album that is, in composition terms, way beyond anything either has created to date.
His constant instrumental switch-ups as well as production layering make certain songs really maintain a strong identity on their own. “C’est La Vie (Say the Casualties!)” provides a brief walkthrough of a funhouse that’s continuously shifting, leaving you disoriented. It quickly leads into “61 Cygni Ave,” a song that envisions walking down a boardwalk where people are roller-blading, 1980s’ short-shorts and trash-stache style, and having fun, but there’s still some residual effects caused by the funhouse. Things seem slightly… off, and you can’t help but feel cautious, yet it’s too fun of an experience to pass up. The album closes on “News from the Sun [Live Bootleg],” a song that Prince himself might even say was too sexy. What starts as a Duran Duran-guided opening riff develops into a harmonized ode to the glimmering star above us. Once the album comes to its end, you can tell that Palomo didn’t hold back on this kaleidoscopic view into his lifestyle. Pitchfork Media described him as “moving from PG-13 to NC-17,” which is an accurate depiction of the nightlife he attempts to paint within “Vega Intl. Night School:” a drug-addled, after-hours love story that ends with an empty dance hall and bags under Palomo’s eyes.
FCC Dirty: N/A
Recommended Tracks: “Street Level” (easily up there for song of the year), “Slumlord,” “Baby’s Eyes”
RIYL: Toro y Moi, MGMT, Washed Out
Rating: 8.8 / 10
Zach Ritz is a third-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at ZR812833@wcupa.edu.