Two years ago, Neon Indian was one of many bands making music that emphasized nostalgia and was largely synth based. Many among the music press determined this style constituted a new “genre,” and chillwave was born. I use quotes around genre because many people, including some of the artists contained within it, are second guessing the validity of such an association. And while there are certainly similarities between many of the debuts of these bands, the differences in their sophomore efforts certainly supports the idea that “chillwave” was little more than a coincidence. Neon Indian’s second LP Era Extraña is no exception though he retains much of the sound he cultivated on his debut Psychic Chasms.
Era Extraña opens with “Heart: Attack” in the same fashion Psychic Chasms’ “(AM).” Each is a short intro that helps to set the soundscape of the album to follow, so well in fact that the comparison between the two tracks mirrors the comparisons between the albums. “Heart: Attack” is longer and has richer sound, no doubt in part due to the mixing work of Dave Friddman who has often worked with the Flaming Lips. Both songs feature arcade sounds and obscured vocals, but where there was brightness in “(AM)” there’s a taste of melancholy in “Heart: Attack.” In spite of the differences, they largely feel like two chapters from the same book.
Much of his growth on this album is horizontal. He’s broadened and developed what he has already done, without much exploration into new territory. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing.
“The Blindside Kiss” features a harsh, crackling filter and droning synths resulting in complexity without sacrificing its danceability. On “Fallout” the tempo is slowed down sounding more deliberate and layered than much of Psychic Chasms. Synths reminiscent of Boards of Canada queasily bend in and out of pitch to set the backing of “Future Sick.” The songs all have familiar Neon Indian tones and vocals that helped define his sound. I’m in love with Psychic Chasms– it was in heavy rotation for me in summer 2009– so I don’t mind the similarities on Era Extraña, but I am eager to see what else he can do.
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-G
Key Tracks: “The Blindside Kiss” “Polish Girl” and “Future Sick”.
RIYL: Toro Y Moi, Stereolab
W = Poor
W-P = Fair
W-P-G = Great
W-P-G-U = An instant classic!