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Friday, September 9, 2011

Neon Indian: Era Extraña (Release Date: 9-13-2011)

        It seems like right around now, all of the leaders of the often name-dropped, 'chillwave,' movement are due for their sophomore albums. The upstart genre has seen a series of releases in the last few years or so, but 2011 seems to be a banner year for the stuff. This 365 has already seen a second major release from Toro y Moi, Washed Out, and The War on Drugs. This week, it's Neon Indian, whose debut release, Psychic Chasms, helped popularize the woozy, fuzzy, computerized genre.

        By the initial sounds of it, you would think that the pet project of Alan Palomo had another hit on their hands. After the digital age freak-out of the seconds-long opening, 'instrumental,' track, Era Extraña bursts open into the lush sounds of early single Polish Girl. A bouncy little keyboard part leads the way, never straying as layers and walls of sound are added and subtracted, Palomo's ever-hazy voice misting over the tune. The affect is a marvelous piece of pop bliss, an ear worm on first lesson, and its because of that immediacy that the song's 4:24 runtime seems exhaustive in length. As can often be a stumbling block for the genre, the lack of song evolution here drags down the initial impact of what should be a stellar song, holding it back to merely very good.

        As it turns out, Polish Girl is largely not emblematic of the disc as a whole, but that's not exactly a good thing. Many of the album's tracks play like a redux of what we already heard on Psychic Chasms, Fallout replicating the slow-mo space-out 6669 (I don't know if you know) to diminished effect, Future Sick (while One of the LP's finest tunes) sounding like Deadbeat Summer sans single potential. Unfortunately, it would appear that the band is better served by retracing their steps than making bold new ones, as the instantly forgettable guitar cruncher Blindside Kiss, and poppier than pop Hex Girlfriend can readily attest. Sure, the production value of Palomo's project has risen over the last few years, but that doesn't matter much if the man turns out to be a One trick pony. It's easy to forget that Psychic Chasms was itself a pretty inconsistent album with a variety of high points, and Era Extraña just has fewer of them. Not a bad listen by any stretch, but One that slips comfortably into the background after the first few minutes of Polish Girl are over.

Grade: C+

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