Pre-Screening: Neon Indian

Album: Psychic Chasms
Artist: Neon Indian
Label: Lefse Records
Due Out: October 13th

Of all the internet hype bands of 2009, Neon Indian may take the cake as the biggest deal of all. Consisting of just Alan Palomo, a barely-legal-to-drink kid with an immense amount of talent, and some synths, it's a wild, trippy and hypnotic ride to say the least. His debut, Psychic Chasms, seems to be at the forefront of the newly-dubbed "glo-fi" movement, and rightfully so. The music is innovative-- it's not just lo-fi, not just psychedelic and not just pop. It's a strange combination that sends you forward and backward all at once. Regardless of which direction you choose though, it's sure to be a surreal and ethereal experience.

"(AM)" starts us off as some sort of alarm clock on acid, seemingly shooting off in every logistical direction, just trying to make contact. To put it simply, it's an audio laser light show. "Deadbeat Summer" reigns in it briefly however, as the sounds are more controlled, yet just as spacious and scenic. As relaxed as it first appears, the song is a synth-pop circus, appropriately characterizing a summer that has long since past us by. It reeks of youth, but not of the naive sort. Palomo manages to hide his age throughout the record in terms of execution, while still letting in bleed through in its energy and uptake. Next, another appropriately-named track, "Laughing Gas" takes us on a staggering and high-pitched ride through a fun house. If it wasn't so short, it has the potential to lose you, but luckily, it catches just the right length for its squeaky, distant instrumentation.

Waking you up from the previous stupor, "Terminally Chill" kicks in as the album's best offering-- one of his best vocal efforts, combined with a spacey, psychedelic guitar riff bouncing up and down in the background. On a record that can get a bit "out there," it's an accessible, interesting jaunt one can't help but get caught up in. Not so with "(If I Knew, I'd Tell You)," the previous song's exact opposite. Employing a short, mechanical approach that seems to let the album breathe for a few seconds, completely necessary given the next track. "6669 (I Don't Know If You Know)" functions as the most dance-centric and trippy piece of 1970s hip you'll encounter this year. With a jumble of electronics bursting every which way, it's easy to see yourself nodding your head within seconds.

From that brightness, "Should Have Taken Acid With You" tries to bury the album in a darker mood. Using brooding and overpowering keyboard, mashed with a heavy dance beat, it appears cold and calculated, before its impending collapse near the song's end. "Mind, Drips" also tries similarly, with a more club-oriented feel, skipping and colliding with itself to create a colorful sonic explosion for every ten seconds. The echo effect creates a feeling like you're in a cavernous, hollow auditorium, sitting on a stage surrounded by sound. For lack of a better word, the title track, "Psychic Chasms" then sparkles. With the type of synths you may only remember from Super NES and SEGA Genesis, it's a literal pop adventure, hopping and jumping its way through hoops and some driving vibes. Even with four tracks to go, the enterprising song almost sounds victorious, and rightfully so.

"Local Joke" keeps the mood up, as the song steadily bops to its own rhythm until the very end. It doesn't so much float, but rather, it flies through its progressions, with Palomo sending out spurts of energy in a haphazard, chaotic fashion that maintains a sense of interest amidst the sprawling landscape. It's almost as if the album gains momentum as it closes too. "Ephemeral Artery" attacks from the opening night, with some heavy bass and hair metal imitations on synth. Surprisingly, the experience becomes quite club-like in nature, as crazy riffs and drum machines dive in from every side. Our final track differs completely, however. "7000 (Reprise)" sounds as if Bob Marley covered Radiohead's Kid A, in an odd synth-tropical outro lasting a little under a minute. It's a cautious conclusion, yet, after the show he puts on with "Ephemeral Artery," anything else as a closer would probably pale in comparison.

For the first time out, Neon Indian has already accomplished quite a bit. Establishing himself as the fan-favorite of a growing sub-genre is no small feat, but Palomo's pulled it off, and should only reap the benefits in the future. Psychic Chasms lights up the room like few albums have managed to do in 2009, as its trippy delivery of crazed, psychedelic pop has already struck a chord with its listeners, and will continue to do so. Consider your next party playlist completed. For similarities, check out Washed Out, Memory Cassette and Micachu.

Rating: 8.0/10

Best Track: "Terminally Chill" (via Pitchfork)

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