Album Review: “VEGA INTL. Night School” – Neon Indian

Four years later, VEGA INTL. Night School finds itself at the intersection of dreamy pop and funk, and slyly struts right down the middle.

Like a Snapchat, microgenres disappear almost as quickly as they pop up. The microgenre makes its’ proprietors synonymous with the sound, spotlighting artists in a fun yet fleeting encapsulation of music culture. But, just as those snaps from last night’s party dissipate, so do microgenres. When time has run out on the genre, what do the artists do?

If you’re Neon Indian, you evolve.

Neon Indian’s debut album Psychic Chasms provided anthems for 2010’s ‘chillwave’ genre, with hazy classics like “6669 (I Don’t Know If You Know)” and “Terminally Chill” making Neon Indian the unofficial poster child of the dreamy movement. Those murky filters and penchant for distorted 80s pop carried over into 2011’s Era Extrana, presenting itself as the older and wiser cousin to chillwave with a keener sense of precision in each track. Four years later, the mature VEGA INTL. Night School finds itself at the intersection of dreamy pop and funk, and slyly struts right down the middle.

Gauzy opener “Hit Parade” is reminiscent of Battles‘ 2011 track “Ice Cream,” with its’ sharp edges softened by synthesizers. “Hit Parade” unveils the album’s direction in a sense, as textures, tones, and tempos introduced in the leading track reappear and converge throughout the runtime of VEGA INTL. Night School. “The Glitzy Hive” and “Bozo” draw parallels to Neon Indian’s past work consisting of 16-bit synths and melted, warped samples. Unlike their previous albums however, vocals play a larger role in setting the mood on VEGA INTL. Night School – on “Slumlord” and “Annie,” lyrics graffiti the murky 80s discotheque instrumentals to place you deeper in the mysterious night-tinged world of the album. The falsetto croons and murmurs of lead vocalist Alan Palomo’s voice are comparable to the breathless timbre of Prince; that is, if Prince was really into psychedelics and reggae influenced rhythms (heard on tracks like the sweltering “61 Cygni Ave“). The album meshes into an easily listenable 51 minute piece, but it’s the closer “News From The Sun (Live Bootleg)” that really cinches it all together. An indelible guitar riff surrounds a spacious 80s power pop chorus, as audible beams of light permeate through the remnants of a slinky, sultry night out.

VEGA INTL. Night School is Neon Indian’s most concise offering yet, layering a variety of sounds and styles together into an intricately designed semi-concept album. While the genre that brought Neon Indian into the spotlight has since disappeared, it’s clear they have no such intentions.

Overall: 4.3 / 5

You can grab VEGA INTL. Night School (Mom + Pop Music) on iTunes now, and watch the visual soundtrack created by artist Sabrina Ratté below.

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