Don't forget to rate this album at the end of the post (something I'm trying out)
out October 13th
I’m pretty sure that if Neon Indian had come around ten or fifteen years ago, he would have been laughed at, dismissed as quickly as he has burst onto the scene. But here, in the context of this year’s bizarro lo-fi resurrection that we find ourselves living through, Neon Indian is a logical next step. It’s Passion Pit for the Gorilla vs. Bear crowd. What a strange turn of events.
Luckily, Alan Palomo, the man behind Neon Indian’s tunes, acknowledges his precarious position in the world of popular music. In an interview with Pitchfork, Palomo admitted, “I'd be lying if I said lo-fi was a completely gimmick-free genre. It's an old trick to just cover songs in reverb and distortion— one I've been guilty of in the past.” He went on to later say that, “I do have some ambivalence towards lo-fi where it stands right now. There's so much stuff coming out on blogs and I have this impending anxiety as to whether it's going to become another electro disaster.” I’m right there with Palomo. We’re on the verge of lo-fi overload – perhaps half a year away from the type of backlash that surrounds bloghouse and autotune.
We’re not quite there yet, though, so there’s still some room for Neon Indian. Hence, Psychic Chasms, Palomo’s debut album. The album is a mixed bag, full length fuzzpop jams intertwined with shorter bliptracks. It’s made up of heavy, layered tunes in the style of gimmicky elevator music. Bluntly put, Psychic Chasms sounds like my Nintendo had sex with a Theremin and then got run through the washing machine.
I find myself consistently confused by Psychic Chasms, perhaps a sign that it’s hitting its mark. At points, I think it’s brilliant. Lead singles “Deadbeat Summer” and “Terminally Chill” are awesome summertime pop songs. “Mind,Drips” sounds like a fantastic re-tread of some cheesy 80’s TV show theme, and manages to turn that sound into a beautifully complex song. “Should Have Taken Acid With You” boasts one of the best song titles I’ve heard in a while, and backs it up with sound.
Elsewhere, though, the album falls short. To be honest, I can hardly listen to Psychic Chasms straight through. There’s only so much I can listen to high-pitched lo-fi psychedelic synth pop before my ears need a break. The repetitive nature of Neon Indian’s tunes are what make them great, but about nine songs in it becomes a wearing formula. Even at a mere 30 minutes (barely past the EP mark, in my book), the album seems long. When the lo-fi style works in favor of a tune - as in the case of the aforementioned “Deadbeat Summer” – it’s positively stellar. When it works against a tune, though, as it does on “Ephemeral Artery” and “Local Joke,” it seems forced and good music transforms into mediocre mush.
Psychic Chasms isn’t a bad album. It has its share of beautiful moments and great songs. But mixed in with those songs are some baby steps and hiccups from Alan Palomo. He’s still finding his legs as a musician, and still trying to find exactly where Neon Indian fits in with this whole lo-fi pysch pop movement. Given his awareness of the genre – and the genres surrounding it – Psychic Chasms is a promising sign, showing room to grow and giving him the credit he needs to produce some truly great music. My only hope is that Neon Indian outgrows fuzzy production and 8-track sound to outrun any potential cries of ‘gimmick!’ Because I’m not sure the audience will be up for it by the time the next album around.
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