When it comes to discussing Neon Indian, we must first answer some questions. Are we talking about a band, or merely the creative outlet of songwriter Alan Palomo? Would you categorize Neon Indian’s melted-plastic pop as “chillwave,” or is it actually stylistically-restless synth music? And finally, does the heavily-hyped Era Extrana live up to its acclaimed predecessor, Psychic Chasms, or is the debut, in retrospect, ripe for reassessment? The answer to all of these questions is “yes.”
Palomo is undoubtedly a burgeoning talent with two albums, a half dozen singles, and a collaboration with the Flaming Lips under his belt (all before turning 24), but Era Extrana, thankfully, feels like a progressive step beyond his once-terminally-chill aesthetic. Granted, Extrana‘s 42 minutes, at first listen, plays out like a collection of weed-inspired ideas, but Palomo’s breathy vocals and dizzyingly hazy instrumentals take time to unfurl and reveal a mature depth.
Opening with the short “Heart: Attack,” the album quickly enters into DayGlo territory, with “Polish Girl,” “Blindside Kiss” and “Fall Out” all feeling distinctly ’80s-derived. The general blueprint is simple: Palomo channels the distorted buzz of the Jesus & Mary Chain and couples it with the glossy coloring of the Psychedelic Furs. And for the true nostalgic, Neon Indian even incorporates Nintendo game console sound effects into most songs — particularly “Arcade Blues.”
But while colleagues like Washed Out and Toro Y Moi have all developed their sounds to include elements of pop and funk, Palomo seems satisfied with simply revisiting the strangeness he first explored on Psychic Chasms. Which isn’t all that surprising: The terminally chill generally don’t mess with a good thing.