Chillwave is a genre name that is kicked around a lot in music today. It’s flimsily tagged onto releases and comes across as almost of an insult. Maybe it’s because chillwave has a lazy connotation attached to it. Lots of people just assume some hipster kid plops down in his bedroom, thinks of beaches and 80’s pop culture really hard and poops out an album. That’s unfortunate for Alan Palomo a.k.a. Neon Indian. He’s one of the genre’s pioneers and yet doesn’t seem to fit the classification. Rather, he is one of the few chillwave artists that seem to have outgrown it. This maturity is apparent on Era Extraña, the sophomore release from the Brooklyn/Texas-based artist.
This Psychic Chasms follow-up is drenched in heavy synth lines and retro video-game nostalgia. Unlike its predecessor, it was recorded during winter in Finland and heavily inspired by Blade Runner and painkillers. So, uh, this should be interesting. The album opens with a short but sweet intro track that lets you get a feel of what’s to come. The first full song is ‘Polish Girl’, possibly the most immediate of the songs on the album. It was the first single released and happens to be one of the catchiest. The beat bounces in technicolor and the decaying synth comes in waves. Another highlight, ‘Hex Girlfriend’, sparkles and swooshes through the speakers with familiar video-game sound effects. My personal favorite is the heavy ‘Fallout’. The big guitar-like synths thunder through Neon Indian’s signature haze. The lyrics are full of regret and loss and shows us an emotionally developed side of the young artist. ‘Era Extraña’ and ‘Halogen (I Could Be A Shadow)’ feature some impressive key work. There is a potential single in the hazy arcade jam ‘Future Sick’. It’s another standout from a very strong album and one of my favorites. ‘Suns Irrupt’ heavily evokes the similar ‘Someone Great’ by LCD Soundsystem, particularly in the beat, but doesn’t come across as a cheap attempt to copy it. The album finishes strong with ‘Arcade Blues’, featuring samples from the classic Streets of Rage, with very cool instrumentation and glittering atmosphere. “I don’t know what to do,” Palomo panics throughout this awesome track.
This whole album is a triumph for the chillwave genre and bedroom pop as a whole. It manages to find its legs and shine in all its 16-bit glory. Neon Indian has avoided the dreaded sophomore slump and delivered one of the most interesting and essential releases of the year. Buy it ya geek!
Listen/Watch: Video for Polish Girl (directed by Tim Nackashi)