We talked about Neon Indian’s Era Extraña before, when synth-wizzard Alan Palomo released a couple of teaser videos for the project, but now that the full album is here it’s time to take a closer look. The first thing that should be noticed is that there seems to be a concept behind this collection of songs, one that has to do with failed relationships and and a general feeling of heartbreak. The album is split into three main phases, each of them marked by an introductory instrumental track (the ones that Palomo used as teaser videos). Heart: Attack is the first stage and it seems to express denial and frustration at the end of a love affair, Heart: Decay is the second and signals a period of depression, while the third and last phase is called Heart: Release and culminates with acceptance and freedom.
But the plot of the album is nothing without, well, the music. This doesn’t seem to be a record that wants to be confined to the chillwave subgenre, one that Neon Indian much helped to establish with his 2009 breakthrough debut Psychic Chasms. Instead, Palomo opts for experimenting with different sonorities and influences, in a search to add new music colours to his own sound. And that is what makes Era Extraña such a pleasurable experience.
Let’s get to the tracks: Polish Girl (the first single, watch the video below) is a catchy, 8-bit Nintendo-inspired song, filled with rich dreamy synths and cleverly balancing experimentation with accessibility while talking about an unresolved break-up. It is followed by The Blindside Kiss, a track that shifts the album’s mood completely by bringing a rock-infused vibe to the table not totally unlike Jesus and Mary Chain-style buzzsaw guitars and dark reverberating vocals. During the second act of the record (the one about depression) the tempo drops down a bit on intention and the tone in the voice gets lower as well. Fallout seems to be a good example of that, full on melodic synthesizers and breathy vocals while Palomo lists bitter post-relationship feelings. Halogen (I Could Be A Shadow) alludes to the seductive pop of the early-’80s New Romantic movement and could easily make an interesting single. As the album comes closer to the end the feeling of depression seems to fade giving space to a more upbeat approach, culminating in the final track, Arcade Blues, an 80’s inspired dance song that sometimes recalls the extended versions you would find in 12 inch singles during that decade.
In essence, on Era Extraña Neon Indian artfully crafts the emotional journey of (his?) break-up through the integration of other genres into the chillwave scene, somehow making the sound accessible to general fans of electronica and even straightforward pop. There seems to be a feeling of inconclusion to the story that might be deliberate or not. In any case, if you think of it, that might be the perfect way to close a story of heartbreak. The feelings are resolved, the sadness dissipates and life goes on. (8,5/10)