Outside of hipster circles and Pitchfork devotees, bands like Neon Indian don’t earn much credibility. The masses demand instant gratification and immediate connection from their music — and for the most part, rightly so. There’s a lot of worthless material in the fringe of the indie genre, and who has the time to sift through it? Who really wants to make the sometimes-gargantuan effort that the music truly deserves? Unfortunately, such discrimination leads potential listeners to pass over more rewarding albums like Era Extraña and go straight to the pop idols. If only it weren’t so.

Neon Indian

Era Extraña
Static Tongues

Neon Indian’s second record is a foray into synesthesia — an experiment of making sounds pop and burst like an electric fireworks show. The one-man show that is Alan Palomo brings the brightness early and often. “Does it make you feel alright?” he asks on “Hex Girlfriend,” as 8-bit effects and dark guitars flash in the background — and it’s safe to reply that yes, yes it does. The first single, “Fall Out,” begins with bravado, and transcends into a homey ’80s throwback tinged with bits of modernity. If accessibility is truly a problem for the Mexican-born musician, then “Fall Out” should be one of his most valuable offerings.

The star piece of the album is obvious after just a few minutes. “Polish Girl” begins with a cheery synthesizer riff, and adds instruments like ingredients to a summer stew. The four-minute track somehow manages to express conflicting emotions simultaneously: A pure, almost childlike joy is evoked even as Palomo cries out in wistfulness. It’s the rare song that fits both on poolside “chill” playlists and party mixes, and yet is still even better through a pair of headphones. Don’t be surprised to hear “Polish Girl” making the rounds at hipster parties throughout the next year.

The major problem that Era Extraña faces is the same for most in burgeoning genres. The “chillwave” movement is characterized by heavy sound processing with regard to both vocals and instruments. While the grand harmonic landscapes produced can be quite beautiful, the progressiveness involved can alienate some listeners. Take “Future Sick” — the track can be easily appreciated after a number of listens, but it seems at first glance the instruments tend to run into each other. Only after careful consideration of the combined lo-fi vocals and hi-fi mixing can “Future Sick” actually be understood and enjoyed as a variety of electric instruments that complement each other.

After the release of 2009’s Psychic Chasms , Neon Indian led the indie community to question whether the new solo act from Texas was a flash in the pan or a permanent fixture in the chillwave venture. Era Extraña should prove that Palomo is well versed in his craft of computerized composition. The question will no longer be whether Neon Indian can make a memorable impact, but whether chillwave is a legitimate contender as a music genre. Hopefully the masses will one day accept it, and if that day comes, Era Mañana should be verified as one of the pioneers of the movement.

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