Review Summary: Off of the coastline and onto the dancefloor
It’s evident from previous releases that Alan Palomo has a talent for building atmospheres within his albums, even if the songs themselves don’t link together conceptually. With 2009’s Psychic Chasms
, heavily reverbed vocals and nostalgic analog synths were thrown through a lo-fi filter to create the perfect soundtrack for waking in the early morning, high as a kite on the beach in the '80s. However, the haziness of an experience like this translated to the record, which seemed to pass by inoffensively, like a gust of wind. 6 years later on Vega Intl. Night School
, Palomo's infatuation for analog synths is as strong as ever. The difference now is that instead of an early morning coastline, the scene has moved to a neon-lit nightclub that reeks of sweat and alcohol in the best way possible. The thick synths warp and swirl across funky, hard-hitting grooves throughout the entire record. This strong improvement is only upholstered by the much more engaging songwriting for the majority of the LP. The first half of Vega Intl.
is a gauntlet of catchy synth funk and synth pop tracks that flow perfectly through each other, yet are distinct enough to justify their existence as separate pieces. Whether it’s the tropical, reggae-inspired “Annie”, the retro “Dear Scorpio Magazine” (it’s got a Prince-esque guitar solo and a sax solo in the same song; how could It get more '80s?), or even the superb extension of “Slumlord”, “Slumlord’s Re-Lease”, Neon Indian does not hold back on the jams. When this album hits its stride, almost no other pop album this year rivals it.
The slow jam of the album, “Baby’s Eyes”, opens with a waterfall of synths, sounding like a transition into some kind of dream. Consider this the moment where all the fruity cocktails finally catch up with you, making everything seem as if it were a confused blur. The next two tracks, “C’est La Vie (say the casualties!)” and “61 Cygni Ave” may still be as funky and warped as the rest of the album, but there’s one crucial detail left out that bites these two tracks in the ass majorly: the hook. The weak hook on “Cygni” and the almost nonexistent one on “C’est La Vie” leaves the listener with nothing to grasp onto, resulting in these inheritably twisted synths grooves feeling like sloshy, dizzying messes (especially “C’est La Vie”). Luckily, the closer “News from the Sun (live bootleg)” acts as a recovery from that sonic hangover. The bright, funky bassline and comparatively sober synths on this song along with the most celebratory chorus of the record carries you out of that Night School and out into the shining sun, figuratively and literally. While it's back end had some rocky moments, at least 2/3rds of Vega Intl. Night School
is Neon Indian's catchiest, funkiest, and most eccentric album yet. But if you're looking for the guy that helped you get your daily dose of Chillwave back when Chillwave was still a thing, he's long gone.