by Devon Chodzin, ’19
Fall 2015 has been a season of long awaited releases. Several artists are still long overdue for new releases (I’m looking at you, Frank Ocean). As of three weeks ago, however, Neon Indian finally dropped their third original studio album after four years of silence. VEGA INTL. Night School is an absolute departure from 2009’s Psychic Chasms and 2011’s Era Extraña; here, Neon Indian harnesses the power of disco and lo-fi to reflect the genre hybridization which characterizes the late 1970s up until the early 1990s. It is obvious that over the past four years, Neon Indian’s leader and primary composer, Alan Palomo, took his time to find a more perfect sound that aligns with what he wants to produce and what his fans want to hear.
Neon Indian really hit the nail on the head here. The album is comprised of 14 tracks, three of which have been released as singles. The first to be released, “Annie,” is quite groovy, with strong disco influences. The sound is as sharp as most modern chill-wave, so it is fairly similar to previous Neon Indian tracks. The vocals and instrumentals coexist with one another without either overwhelming the other, which is unique, considering most music will feature one, the other, or both at alternating instances.
The second single to be released, “Slumlord,” is one of the lengthiest tracks on VEGA INTL and arguably a fan favorite. It opens up almost without a discernable beat and eventually settles on a groove reminiscent of Donna Summer. Within the context of the full album, “Slumlord” is the climax. The subsequent track on the album is entitled “Slumlord’s Re-Release” and extends the ecstasy of the climax for an additional two minutes.
Neon Indian dropped the third single from VEGA INTL, “The Glitzy Hive,” eight days before they released the entire album. “The Glitzy Hive” offers the lo-fi discotheque sound that today’s chill-wave fans have come to appreciate and is not dissimilar to music produced by artists like Skylar Spence or NIVA. “The Glitzy Hive” is definitely my favorite track on the album. It’s highly conducive to dancing and offers the basic pop music structure I’ve come to love, at least subconsciously. On the album itself, “The Glitzy Hive” is placed very well. Preceding it is one of Neon Indian’s signature short tracks, entitled “Bozo,” which functions as transition. Following “The Glitzy Hive” is “Dear Skorpio Magazine,” another particularly enjoyable, lo-fi, danceable track, and following that is the “Slumlord” duo. Essentially, “The Glitzy Hive” is the first step in this album’s lengthy climax and precisely hits the spot for me.
Even though the tracks are all particularly peppy in their overall sound, many of them convey bizarre or dark messages. Tracks such as “Baby’s Eyes” or “C’est la Via (Say the Casualties)” illustrate this perfectly.
Overall, there are but a few tracks which don’t sit well with me. It’s to be expected that the album would have a handful of imperfections, and when there are 14 tracks on the album, there are more opportunities for failure. Of Neon Indian’s three albums which contain exclusively original content (there are a few which contain just remixes), VEGA INTL is my favorite by far. Even Pitchfork bestowed a rating of 8.6 on this album, declaring this album part of a collection of this year’s “Best New Music.”
Critics compare Alan Palomo to a cinematographer in that he creates an album with focus on the entire work rather than the collection of works. In VEGA INTL, Palomo crafts a diverse world, a particularly chill symphony of sorts, which bridges and mixes genre and era in ways much more cohesive than many other artists can hope to achieve.
You can attend VEGA INTL Night School right here at Kenyon: