Release Date: Oct 16, 2015
Record label: Mom + Pop Music
There is really nothing to see here. Neon Indian is boring. Alan Palomo, the brains behind the band, has released another superb album, and like Psychic Chasms and _Era Extrana, Vega INTL. Night School_ will be credited as one of the best albums of the year. And like the aforementioned albums, the ….
Alan Palomo of Neon Indian recorded VEGA INTL. Night School over the span of four years at a number of crash pads across America, but most crucial to the album was a self-described "magical winter" the singer spent on a Carnival Fantasy Cruise ship with his brother, who played in the house band. (Insert chillwave joke here.) The album contains enough reggae and Balearic tropical breeze to prove Palomo doesn’t shy away from pleasing the lido deck, but beyond the kitsch, an extended stay in a floating, inescapable city is an apt metaphor for VEGA INTL.
Neon Indian (aka Alan Palomo) is frequently pegged as an artist who pedals Instagram-filtered images of the 80s to a generation of listeners who weren’t even born in the infamous decade of cocaine, capitalism and conservatism. For his third LP, Palomo has turned his attention to a more personal genre of nostalgia: the double title for this LP derives from a previous monkier: VEGA. Given it draws on Palomo’s earlier dance-oriented project and was written on a cruise ship (with assistance from Palomo’s brother, who was playing bass in the house-band at the time), it's a world away from Palomo’s recent work with the Flaming Lips, but that’s not to say this LP has any of the geriatric charm of a Caribbean cruise either.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. It is hard not to feel badly for Alan Palomo, the mastermind behind Neon Indian, in the aftermath of the leak of his third studio record, VEGA INTL. Night School. The greatly anticipated project, which has been four years in the making, was accidentally put out by iTunes for a brief period to those who had pre-ordered it and so, as Palomo put it on Twitter, his work was "prematurely spurted into the ether with grace of a burrito fart" more than a month before its official October 16 release date.
While making Neon Indian's third album, Alan Palomo turned a crisis into an opportunity: When his laptop -- which contained demos of his new songs -- was stolen at the end of the Era Extraña tour, he started anew by drawing inspiration from his past. Vega Intl. Night School takes its name and sound from his previous electronic project VEGA and his pet name for his after-dark adventures, conveying the dazzling, fleeting allure of a night out.
Funk's always been at the heart of Alan Palomo's work. The Neon Indian vanguard may have spent the past six years convincing us he's some sort of psych pop freethinker, but the facts speak for themselves. His 2011 LP Era Extraña was laced with deep lying grooves and warped skewering melodies, while his early VEGA efforts were busty bass heavy gyrations.
For the first time since his 2009 debut Psychic Chasms crystalized a new microgenre of home-brewed dance music, Alan Palomo has married together his alter egos. While he once used the name VEGA to emit flashes of pop, house, and disco too lucid to be grouped under his dreamy main gig, Neon Indian, he’s now fused the party and the afterparty into the same venue. VEGA INTL.
Alan Palomo’s third album as Neon Indian opens with the boastfully titled “Hit Parade”; it’s nothing more than a 30-second instrumental blip that would be easy to write off as ironic self-aggrandizement, but the following 13 tracks on VEGA INTL. Night School are indeed a cavalcade of irresistible Balearic rhythms straight from the battered vaults of an abandoned Ibizan club. On VEGA INTL.
You don’t tend to hear much about chillwave these days, but two or three years ago, it was very much the cooler than thou genre of the moment. Heavily indebted to the music of the 1980s, its electronic soundscapes – sometimes dreamy, sometimes funky – and ethereal vocals were typically the work of one man in his bedroom on his laptop. Mostly young Americans based in unlikely outposts like Georgia and South Carolina, they adopted suitably enigmatic names such as Washed Out and Youth Lagoon, sat back and lapped up the surge of acclaim from critics across the board.
It's always been easy to pick out the strands of dance music in the DNA of Alan Palomo's music as Neon Indian, but it's taken three albums for the dreamy synth-pop artist to really let his hair down. On this LP, Palomo peels back the layers of psychedelia that have sometimes obscured his work in the past, striving for a directness that results in the most crystallized – and accessible – version of his aesthetic yet. He accomplishes this without losing the restless curiosity of his music, which remains in constant motion (see the mutating throb of "Techno Clique").
As much as I support the resurgence of cassettes as a tool for cheap distribution, I’ve always been more of a sucker for the way music sounds coming out of my iPhone speakers. I mean, right here in my pocket I have a bona fide sonic filthifier that doesn’t require the use of 20-year-old technology to give my jams a relatable sense of scuzz. Especially nowadays, when everything is captured in pristine HD, it’s comforting to know that there’s still a beautifully imperfect method of transmitting music that our generation can call its own.
It’s October 2015, so here’s a question - is chillwave still a going concern? The tag still seems to be following Neon Indian around, which is especially beguiling given that this is his first album in four years, or in other words, his first record since the genre actually seemed to take off. Whether or not it’s going to end up filed alongside the likes of ‘nu-rave’ and ‘nu-folk’ as little more than a stylised flash in the pan remains up for debate, but regardless, ‘VEGA INTL. Night School ‘is evidently not the sort of record that’s going to comfortably fit within the confines of one genre either way.
No musician approaches the concept of time nonchalantly, because time is fucking scary. It’s the only element at play within the industry (and every other industry, for that matter) that follows its own agenda regardless of—and at times, in spite of—everyone else’s. It’s as capable of creating a career as it is of destroying another, and every musician afflicted takes it upon themselves to dictate exactly how much of a role it will play in the cultivation of their work.
In the late ’00s, as a consolation for the disappearance of the monoculture, sentimental indie fans old enough to remember the ’80s got chillwave. Codified and vilified in roughly the same internet moment, it was atmospheric electronic music meant to evoke rec-room sleepovers, rented Nintendo cartridges, cheesy sci-fi soundtracks, and other such shared experiences. As comforting as this nebulous nostalgia can be, there comes a time when you have to make new memories.
Since turning into an indie staple with 2012's "Polish Girl," Neon Indian's Alan Palomo has done some growing up. Resurrecting his original electro master persona, Palomo introduced Vega Intl. Night School with a hotline welcoming listeners with a "Hey there, sexy." The 51-minute groove compilation emulates late-night VH1 on a heavy dose of synth and a sprinkle of Eighties pop.