Four years after releasing “Era Extraña,” an electronic maelstrom of Tetris-sounding beats and elusive vocals, band Neon Indian is back again with their 14 track album “Vega Intl. Night School.”
“Vega Intl. Night School”starts with the gradually building sounds of “Hit Parade”, characterized by Neon Indian’s signature sound, electronic and playful hits floating in and out until something bawdy and psychedelic comes to be. Soon, this layered track is interrupted by the jumpy start of “Annie,” naturally one of the strongest songs on the album and, unsurprisingly, one of the singles. The concluding watery sounds of opening song abruptly taken over by the heavy hitting “Annie” is paradoxically jarring and suave. Underlying electronic themes allow the transition to happen without significantly startling the listener, but the diversity in sound between the two tracks is evident. Unlike the first track, “Annie” starts off with an already developed sound, a heavy bass line covered with an electronic guitar loop that seems reminiscent of the soundtrack of a trek through an exotic jungle. Similar transitions take place throughout the EP, seamlessly and simultaneously highlighting differences in sound but still creating a sense of unity. At times, the construction of each song can be a bit overwhelming, like in “Smut!” The fourth track on the EP starts with an audio of conversation, complete with a hysterical laugh and topped off with a high pitched keyboard synth sequence; the track quickly transitions into a heavier beat and puzzling vocals, which may strike a cord in some and not in others. In other tracks, like “Glitzy Hive,” the most commercially friendly song, the trademark styling of lead singer Alan Palomo’s makes the lyrics difficult to understand.
Aside from the production, “Vega Intl. Night School” showcases Palomo’s best songwriting to date. On “Era Extraña,” Neon Indian deals with tumblr-esque love and manic pixie gals, but on this new EP, Palomo deals with far more personal and controversial issues. That isn’t to say there aren’t tracks with popular themes – “Techno Clique,” easily fits the script, with content that rivals Rihanna’s “Only Girl (in the World).” Nevertheless, Palomo deals with issues that hit closer to home, for himself and the band’s listeners. The band frontman sings in “Slumlord,” about the unforgiving nature of landlords, alluding to his own experience with apartments in New York City . With the words, “He enters the basement with three gallons of gas / And four hours later, there’s nothing left but ash,” Palomo utilizes simple diction and rhymes to illustrate a disturbing sight: a heartless property owner burning down a whole complex, housing poor tenants, without a second’s thought.
In a lot of ways, “Vega Intl. Night School” mimics their previous sound, layering videogame-esque sounds with funky beats and synths. However, there’s an undoubtable recklessness and authenticity about this third full length album that makes the work not so much a sibling to Neon Indian’s previous discography, but perhaps an estranged cousin.
Photo courtesy of Highclouds.org.