2015 has seen some of the pioneers of the retro-esque chillwave movement move away from the eccentric musical genre and more toward generic indie sounds, as was the case with Toro y Moi’s What For and Twin Shadow’s Eclipse (two albums that took some warming up to). One would expect the same from Neon Indian, given the fact that the band and its frontman Alan Palomo have been riding the waters of the chillwave genre for some time now.
Riding the wave rather than venturing out, however, has appeared to work for Neon Indian given the success of their latest album, VEGA INTL. Night School. With the release of this album, Neon Indian has brought back meaning to the chillwave genre. Unlike 2011’s Era Extrana, the band’s third studio album does not feel overly synthesized and definitely possesses more emotion than predecessors. It does not feel as groundbreaking as the band’s debut album, Psychic Chasm. Even so, VEGA INTL. Night School reigns as the most danceable of Neon Indian’s albums.
All throughout the record, Palomo gives his listeners enough chorus to jive to, all while presenting well-put-together, deep-synthesized melodies that result in an aesthetically pleasing palate conducive to listening. By infusing the synths that defined 1980s America with the cumbia-styled beats of Latin American dance music, the first single on the album, “Annie,” combines the two worlds that inspired Monterrey-born Alan Palomo. It is not as cohesive with the rest of the tracks on the album, but still provides a good first impression to the listener. Much of VEGA INTL. Night School picks up around the third track, “Street Level,” which sets listeners up on a journey that does not ease off until the album’s end.
Sounding like a circa 2011 Toro y Moi song, the ‘80s-inspired “The Glitzy Hive” jumps straight in with its jovial chorus and funky bass line that are eventually cut with a clever ambient outro. “The Glitzy Hive” is an overall feel-good track that complements the ambience of the rest of this album. Its groovy rhythm, along with the emanated pulsing sounds of “Slumlord” and the catchy chorus of “61 Cygni Ave.,” leaves the listener wanting more; that is, until the album closes with Palomo channeling his inner Prince on “News from the Sun (live bootleg),” a track that, while not an actual live bootleg, makes one wonder how far Palomo has come from being that peculiar kid on the synthesizer to this unruffled individual showing off his smooth vocals.
With its quirky ‘80s synth funk and lo-fi recording techniques, it is hard to tell whether Palomo’s efforts to capture the hipster zeitgeist in VEGA INTL. Night School are deliberate, because everything about this album—from its melodies to its instrumentals— comes off as natural and nonchalant. This particular appeal of VEGA INTL. Night School is apparent at all levels and the album is a cohesive listen that enlivens listeners while sedating them.