“This in no way a return to basics; it is an example of how to successfully tackle the complex.”
If there was one thing Alan Palomo would have to answer to with his second album as Neon Indian, it would be the huge amount of hype and acclaim from his 2009 debut Psychic Chasms. The Texas-based musician, coming off of rave reviews and praise, also had the distinct problem of being grouped among a handful of musicians making similar, yet compelling music. All this combined did not necessarily make it easier for Palomo and company to make a successful second album.
With labeling and comparisons easy to make in a market of music that includes a wide range of rising musicians including Toro y Moi, Washed Out, and well-established artists like Caribou, they had to make an album that was different from an ever-growing crowd of talented musicians and grounded favorites, yet true to the essence of their sound.
In the face of this diversity, Neon Indian was able to answer with one of the most compelling synthpop albums of the year in Era Extraña.
The art of mixing layers of synthesizers is one of the distinguishing factors of this album. Delicately placed and perfectly timed, the ability that Neon Indian has in execution in an area that could have easily been cluttered is one of the more admirable qualities of the record. The expertise of placement lays in the fact that Neon Indian is able to get these really poppy, intricate patterns of synthesizer without being cluttered or ruining their sound.
The best example of how this execution works so masterfully comes within the track “Polish Girl.” The track is able to build upon itself, adding diversity and spouting with moments of colorful synthesizer that shoot from the heart of the track itself. On top of this includes subtle moments that add rhythmically and effectively to the overall track.
With all this in mind it’s also necessary to point out the amount of variation that Neon Indian goes through from track to track. From glittery synth tracks like “Polish Girl” to grittier, harder sounds like “The Blindside Kiss,” Neon Indian demonstrates how they are able to change up their sound while keeping the essence of their synthpop intact.
Much of the credit of this album is in response to how Palomo’s harmonic arrangements hold this collection of wild songs together. It is his effort as a singer that has the impact of charging this coherent sound forward.
Coherence is a big part of the story of this album. Though it is able to change, the album still holds onto its original focus. This not only keeps it compelling to listen to, but it gives the listener a sense of anticipation on how Neon Indian will go about making the next track different.
This in no way a return to basics; it is an example of how to successfully tackle the complex. At its core, it’s a rewarding, fun, electro-pop record that leaves much to the imagination, and demands its listeners to hold on for what is coming up next.
At 23 years of age, Palomo is creating complex musical arrangements at a level that seem way beyond his years. Throughout Neon Indian’s sophomore release, they are able to tackle the hype of their previous success, and leave the listener wondering what the boundaries of such a young act are.