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Album Review

Neon Indian – VEGA INTL. Night School

After what seemed like a relatively boring end of summer in terms of new releases, we’ve got a bunch of goodies coming out from indie icons. Seasoned veterans (Wavves) and 22 year future bedroom stars (Alex G) have both put out new stuff this month, but we’re going to talk about something in between: Neon Indian’s VEGA INTL. Night School.

Okay, this album is just good. Neon Indian has always sounded like a classic arcade video game turned sentient and shoved into a studio. VEGA INTL. Night School follows suit in this regard, just in a more hi-fi, more dance oriented way. It’s like Tron: Legacy.

Sorry, let me clear that up. Not everyone liked that movie. Actually, most people hated it. I liked it, because it sucked. It’s gonna be a cult classic in a few years just because it was so bad. That’s not even remotely close to the comparison I’m trying to make, though. Neon Indian feels like stepping into an arcade video game world. Without the terrible acting and Olivia Wilde’s stupid cyberpunk haircut.

This album is a whole lot dance-ier than previous Neon Indian releases. Tracks 8 through 10 (“Slumlord,” “Slumlord’s Re-Lease,” and “Techno Clique”) pretty much solidify that concept, if you hadn’t figured it out somewhere along the first half of the album. The three melt together seamlessly to make a mini-DJ set of sorts. They have a Daft Punk (Tron soundtrack excluded) meets Caribou meets this compilation of arcade game music by Youtube user finalgamerjesus kind of a feel.

The whole album sounds like a party, which is probably what Alan Palomo was going for with it. Surely inspired by Palomo’s life post-Neon Indian rise, he took his time with this one, in part thanks to a laptop theft that left him without demos for a bunch of the songs on the album. He also mentioned, in this interview, that he “wanted it to sound like a party, you know?”

You’ve already heard “Annie,” the funky first single off the album that has the energy and catchy appeal that “Deadbeat Summer” gave us years back, complete with a much more hi-fi appeal. It somehow manages to work dub influences, soulful vocals, and an orchestra of synthesizers into a funky up-beat love song.

It wouldn’t be a Neon Indian album without some sort of sadistic album track, and on VEGA INTL. Night School, we “C’est La Vie (Say the Casualties).” The track starts out with a dull and sweeping synth-dirt intro that leads to a loud and upbeat beat and progression straight out of 80’s pop music. A little past halfway through the song, it breaks down completely and re-starts into some sort of a weird carnival of sounds complete with a dopey de-tuned synth and sporadic bubbly electronic noise. Those synth bubbles and Palomo’s killer falsetto are really the only link between the two halves of the song.

Basically, this is a make-or-break album for Neon Indian in terms of indie superstardom. And seeing as I couldn’t get on the band website last night due to traffic, it’s definitely safe to say that Alan Palomo passed with flying colors on VEGA INTL. Night School. It creates a totally new sound with an absolutely ridiculous amount of stuff going on musically, while hanging on to the original Neon Indian sound.

Grade: A

Written by Joe Cardina

Written by Joseph Cardina