MusicOctober 4, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Neon Indian Review: A New Era

Neon Indian Sinks Into a Sonic Abyss on Sophomore Effort

It’s a weird thing, reviewing an album end–to–end through NPR’s “First Listen” console. Not only is it extremely rare to hear an album out in full in these hyper–distracted, corn–syrup–haze times, but moreover, not knowing which precise track you’re listening to at a certain point in time has a disorienting effect. That effect, where tracks run together, swell and wane over the top of each other and form what is close to a nebulous mass of sound, is never more pertinent than on Era Extraña, the sophomore release from Texas–based chillwave act Neon Indian. Championed by a veritable smorgasbord of media outlets including Pitchfork, Spin and Hype Machine.  With great hype, almost inevitably, comes great expectation.

On Era Extraña (Spanish for “strange era”) we get frontman Alan Palomo’s murky, washed–out vision of 2011. From the opening Chemical Brothers–esque synths on “Heart: Attack” through to the constant drone of the bass on “Fall Out,” it seemed a shame that Brooklyn emcee Theophilus London had already taken the title Timez Are Weird These Days for his stellar debut earlier this year. Underwater vocals, vague bleeps and lush synths are core to any chillwave act, but on Era Extraña, Palomo has taken the “chill” part a bit too seriously; the album lacks any definite “wave,” any sense of kinetic progress. Instead, what we get in twelve tracks and over 42 minutes is essentially a mood. Listening to tracks consecutively without a more vital awareness of track names serves Palomo well. There is no doubt that Neon Indian knows how to do atmosphere, but the problem on Era Extraña is that atmosphere in spades chokes out any prerogative for more action. My open–minded housemate wandered into the rom during the middle of a song, and his opinion really hits home — “They all sound the same. Like not in a good way.”

3/5 stars
Neon Indian
Era Extraña
99–Cent Download: “Polish Girl”
Sounds like: An abyss of hazy atmospherics
Good for: Chillwave purists; being stoned

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