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Neon Indian – Era Extrana

Neon Indian, Era Extrana

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

After nearly two years on the road following the success of his debut, Neon Indian returns this fall with his proper follow-up album Era Extraña. And it’s a bit of a disappointment!

Written and recorded last winter in an efficiency apartment in Helsinki, Finland during its short solstice days, the album was ice sculpted from arpeggiated synth-scapes and scribbled journal entries made during his stint there alone in constant solitude.

Hence, the sample-happy stylings of his previous efforts have been traded in for acid-stained commodore 64 jams and bit-pulped guitar sludge ballads.

Once completed, the layers were then thawed and re-assembled by Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, MGMT), who mixed the album and did additional production with Palomo at his upstate Tarbox Studios.

The ensuing sound is certainly designed to reflect the feeling of being at the edge of the world, or possibly entering a futuristic one, given the heavy reliance on synths and cinematic values.

But while there are certainly some interesting arrangements, the overall effect is pretty soulless. Neon Indian, himself, fails to project any emotion in the vocals, sounding almost robotic at times, making it often hard to understand why Massive Attack and The Flaming Lips are credited with being such fans.

On the title track Era Extraña, for example, the synth backdrop has a very Vangelis Blade Runner-ish vibe but are ill-served by the unnecessary vocals, which sound distracting.

While on a more resolutely ‘pop-synth’ moment such as Halogen (I Could Be A Shadow), the overall vibe is once more marred by the washed out nature of the vocals. Instrumentally, it has potential… the slick beats and crisp synths lending the track a surge that would do well on the dance-floor. And this is still one of the highlights.

Neon Indian does himself very few favours, however, when warping the synths to woozy effect on Future Sick… the sound that results emerging like an odd mix of Go West-era ‘80s kitsch and futuristic pop. The beats are good but the synths irritate, while once again the vocals are lifeless.

Earlier, former single Polish Girl has a playful electronic arrangement as a hook that endears it while instrumental interludes such as Heart: Decay offer a ballad of sorts (albeit an electronic one with swirling synths as a backdrop) that work because of the lack of vocals.

But attempts at coming over all indie or psychedelic, such as Hex Girlfriend, succeed in giving the vocals more grit, but still don’t convince. And the computer gaming backdrop that allows Arcade Blues to unfold finally lend the album a DIY feel that’s out of keeping with what’s come before and feel like a backward step.

In short, it’s the type of album you’ll probably want to like more than you do. For while certainly not short on ambition, it never quite gels either.

Download picks: Halogen (I Could Be A Shadow), Polish Girl

Track listing:

  1. Heart: Attach
  2. Polish Girl
  3. The Blindside Kiss
  4. Hex Girlfriend
  5. Heart: Decay
  6. Fallout
  7. Era Extrana
  8. Halogen (I Could Be A Shadow)
  9. Future Sick
  10. Heart: Release
  11. Arcade Blues