Four years later, Neon Indian endures, evokes nostalgia

Courtesy of WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Not too long ago, I reviewed this album. I gave it four out of five stars. I said that it isn’t a perfect album, but that it was a fun one. And I still generally agree with what I wrote way back when in my first year. I’m gonna give it five stars now, however, because I have to go out on a high note.

This was the first album I reviewed for the Misc in my very first column for the paper. Since then, there have been lots of other things I’ve been kicking myself for not reviewing. Death Grips released two albums—three if you count “Steroids (Crouching Tiger Hidden Gabber)”—and I didn’t review a single one. It doesn’t really matter; they all would have received five stars anyways. My last wish for this paper is that more people who read this listen to “Steroids (Crouching Tiger Hidden Gabber).”

I have also just straight-up gotten more things wrong than right. I gave Kali Uchis and Childish Gambino lukewarm reviews for albums that I truly love now. I was harsh on Rupi Kaur’s poetry for no real reason other than it was affecting me more than I thought it would. And I feel like I never reviewed enough books.

But there are also some reviews out there that I am proud of. I thrashed Kanye West’s overrated “808s and Heartbreaks” recently. I also thrashed “The Life of Pablo” when it came out during my first year. That review was unique as well, as it prompted someone to write a second review of that album claiming that I got it wrong. I also wrote a little memorial piece to Ursula K. Le Guin the week after she passed.

But these are all just my opinions, and opinions are certainly something I learned to express in this publication. I also wrote my fair share of articles, but they also came across more as personal reflections than classic reporting. Those are probably the pieces I feel the most proud about, but those are somewhere on the Misc website. This article is supposed to be a review.

Neon Indian is the musical project of one Alan Palomo. “Vega Intl. Night School” has actually turned into the outfit’s last album as Palomo has pivoted into acting, even appearing in Terence Malick’s new misgoynysticlly masturbatory masculine mystical movie (I mean come on, have you guys seen “Knight of Cups”)? Neon Indian is a group that is colorful and well worth your exploration.

Cuts like “Deadbeat Summer” from the album “Psychic Chasms” are real classics for me. You’d better believe this song was my anthem every summer I was at home in Oregon, dog-sitting instead of interning. And, of course, we’ve all heard the band’s hit “Polish Girl” from their “Era Extraña.” If you haven’t, go listen to it and you will quickly see what the hype is about.

But, after a thorough four-year consideration of the band’s discography, I can’t help but consider “Vega Intl. Night School” to be the best album from Neon Indian. This album is a smooth romp through a musical world that was just escaping from its chillwave cocoon. The opener “Hit Parade” still has all the best qualities of such wavy music.

But, if I’m being honest, this album excels when it gets far away from those influences. If the chillwave/vaporwave movement is seen as a downer—something that blurs the boundaries of the world together—“Night School” is undoubtedly an upper. Songs like “Annie,” “The Glitzy Hive” and “News from the Sun” revel in clear vitality. These songs bounce, interject and groove like all things reprising the ethos of the ’80s.

In other words, this was a great album to carry with me through my time at Vassar. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been overly caffeinated, walking around the lunch rush in the Retreat, finding moments in songs like “Smut!” that just take me out of my body. Or whenever I would find myself leaving campus on some break, “Annie” has always been right there beside my high-flying mood.

My favorite memories of this album come from its undeniable masterpiece: the epic nighttime trilogy that everyone deserves the pleasure of experiencing. I’m talking about the songs “Slumlord,” “Slumlord’s Re-lease” and “Techno Clique.” I’ve listened to these songs everywhere and at every time of day, and they are jammin’.

“Slumlord” is a journey. Surfing through wavy synths and bright, glitzy keyboards, this track details the cruel rule of the landlord. This song takes its time getting started, but when it ascends into its groove, it is impossible to come back down. And it just keeps getting higher and higher until its sublime transition into “Slumlord’s Re-lease.”

A mainstay of my college experience has been walking to class, walking to the Deece, walking to the bathroom and fast-forwarding to the end of “Slumlord” just to hear this transition. Palomo nails it. This drop from ecstatic heights to the broiling, groovy depths of “Slumlord’s Re-lease” is like turning on a light switch on the dopamine center of your brain. It’s like all of “Miami Vice” distilled into one pure, liquid shot injected straight into your ear.

And then there’s “Techno Clique.” If “Slumlord’s Re-lease” was the fall into the pit, “Techno Clique” is the splash you make once you hit the bottom. What I love about all three of these songs is how they incorporate aspects of each other into their structure and DNA. “Techno Clique” could only come after the other two tracks because it is the culmination of everything started in “Slumlord.”

I’m going to leave this review here, just like I usually leave this album. There’s an ending to it, but I always feel quite exhausted after “Techno Clique.” There’s a lot more to this album that I didn’t touch on, but the majority of it is just the personal stuff I have attached to each song, and I won’t bore you with the details. If I can leave this paper with one last wish, it would be that more people go out and listen to this epic trio of tracks, in some setting where other people are present. (And that you also go and listen to “Steroids (Crouching Tiger Hidden Gabber)).”

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