Alan Palamo—who was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León and raised in San Antonio, Texas—is now three LPs deep into his career as Neon Indian, and has certainly made a place for himself amongst indie pop artists and chillwave enthusiasts. On his new album, VEGA INTL. Night School, he departs further into disco and dance territory, taking listeners on a electronic ride that is equal parts nostalgic and experimental.
Always mindful of how to marry the old with the new, Palamo relaunched his website for the release of VEGA INTL with Nightschool.biz, which provides visitors with the campy hotline number +1-512-643-VEGA. A cheeky lady in a phone sex operator voice gives you information about the album and tour, and if you’re calling from a cell phone the hotline will auto-send you a text to download two tracks from the new album. The whole thing bit much, but this is Neon Indian we’re talking about here, and, like his music, it’s pretty fun.
Speaking of a bit much, one way to describe VEGA INTL. Night School is MORE. It contains all the chill wave, lo-fi elements that we’ve come to expect from Neon Indian. except MORE. More flangey melodies and distorted vocals and dance compositions that melt the songs into one another. More layers of sound that oscillate like water floating between the sides of your headphones, sometimes leaving your head spinning. (Or maybe I’m just getting too old to appreciate all that was going on until a second or third listen.)
What there is more of, in particular is Palamo playing around with genres, paying homage especially to 70s and 80s pop (unsurprisingly). The rhythm on “Annie” in particular has a psuedo-reggae revival thing going on (a-la Ace of Base), and ties in some rhythmic glamrock guitar riffs at the end. “The Glitzy Hive” is perhaps the most R&B song, with Palamo testing out his higher range falsettos and exploring his inner Soul king. The prevalent synths on “Street Level” give it a video game theme feel, recalling 2013 when Neon Indian contributed a song to the Grand Theft Auto soundtrack.
The latest single “Slumlord” is probably the most catchy and banging track on the album. Opening up with a single, catchy synth keyboard melody, the song opens up into a dance track, more or less, memorable chorus and all. Perhaps to keep the single a managable length, it has a parte deux called “Slumlord Re-release”, which is a heavier continuation-slash-dance remix of parte une and is possibly my favorite song on this album. Released yesterday was an extended music video for the song as “Slumlord Rising,” which Palamo co-directed with Tim Nackashi and plays like a music video version of the wannabe-B-movie Drive or a seedy, violent Paul Thomas Anderson flick. “Slumlord Rising” shows the outside line to a kinky disco club when some rich people pull up in a convertible. A man in a Miami Vice era white suit jacket steps out and gets a briefcase attached to his arm. He and his posse enter the club into a Boogie Nights-type club scene that makes someone like me, born in 1990, think of badass and fun and sketchy the late 70s and 80s must have been. In the middle of the club fun, some shit goes down and someone writes “Slumlord wuz here” on the wall…
As this video shows, VEGA INTL.Night School is very club-friendly, but not necessarily of modern times; it intentionally meanders among disco, R&B, pop, and techno, with Palamo’s experimental way of tying it all together. In more explicitly named songs like “Techno Clique,” Palomo repeats only a couple of phrases throughout the song and lets the song go where people dancing to it would feel it the most. Still, for every up on the album there is a down, covering all the nostalgic bases. The song “Baby’s Eyes,” for example, slows things down to good ol’ baby making music levels. Backseat listening, anyone?