Artist: Neon Indian
Album: VEGA INTL. Night School
buzz factor: 4.7/5
When I’m an old man, I’ll gather my grandchildren around a fireplace and tell them about chillwave. I’ll tell them how it was the perfect genre of music, simultaneously making you want to dance and relax. I’ll bring up how it slowly and surely died out, with artists either disappearing completely or changing their sound. And I will definitely bring up VEGA INTL. Night School, chillwave’s most accomplished and refined album to date.
Neon Indian always seemed like the perfect candidate to deliver chillwave’s most accomplished album. Many might only know Neon Indian by his hit single “Polish Girl” from 2011, which might be infuriating for some of his loyal fans, but I can’t think of any better song to represent an artist. Neon Indian is all about electrifying beats, intriguing technical flourishes and hooks so simple and addicting you’ll find yourself pressing play again just as the song ends. His debut, Psychic Chasms was druggy, filled with sadness and uncertainty in lyrics, but joyful in tone. His sophomore album Era Extrana was far more refined and pulsing with energy, yet it had lost some of its jovial and druggy edge, while remaining downtrodden. Night School is all of these things- great dance tracks, the production is clean and energetic, and you get a sense of problems afoot while everything else tells you to dance.
While the lead single “Annie” captivated listeners and reactivated the meme “CHILLWAVE IS BACK”, but it’s all the work that came after, like the funkier “Slumlord” and the finger snapping “The Glitzy Hive” established a new type of music coming from Alan Palamo. Since his inception, Neon Indian haters were quick to highlight that he was just some kid “mumbling over Todd Rungren samples,” but on Night School, Palamo shows off his chops, with beautiful singing over his own production, dismissing any qualms about his ability as a musical artist in seconds.
Beyond the album’s singles, Neon Indian’s songs shine, showing great depth from beginning end. “Smut!” is by no means Palamo’s most catchy song, but just a fun track that makes you want to get up and dance like an idiot. “Dear Scorpio Magazine,” would be the album’s highlight if it’s singles weren’t so damn good, as it feels like a continuation of the song “Annie” telling the song of a man looking longingly onto a woman, and shifts its sound from funky, to tropical, to jazzy than right back to funky in a manner of a few minutes. Then comes “Baby’s Eyes,” a track that screams “DAVID BOWIE!!!!!!!!” and will turn the heads of adults, but might escape Neon Indian’s younger audiences as one of the album’s weaker tracks.
Night School isn’t without it’s blemishes though, the song “Techno Clique” wastes an energetic dance beat with some pretty bland and repetitive singing. “Slumlord’s Re-Lease” is a clever double entendre, but feels like a half-assed remix of it’s namesake. I’d suggest that it gets added onto the original, as an “album version” but “Slumlord” stands fine on it’s own.
In what seriously is shaping up to be the best year for music in recent decades, Night School certainly should take its place among the years top ten best albums. This album not only represents and culmination of all of Palamo’s genius, but is the collective genius genres of both chillwave and alternative dance music.