Pitchfork (Website) - "Palomo acts a gracious host, delivering the most deluxe, comprehensive Neon Indian album yet."
Photographer: Luke Lauter.
While making Neon Indian's third album, Alan Palomo turned a crisis into an opportunity: When his laptop -- which contained demos of his new songs -- was stolen at the end of the Era Extraña tour, he started anew by drawing inspiration from his past. Vega Intl. Night School takes its name and sound from his previous electronic project VEGA and his pet name for his after-dark adventures, conveying the dazzling, fleeting allure of a night out. Era Extraña's crisper beats and textures hinted that Palomo might be headed in a more danceable direction, but on his third album, he finds ways to subvert expectations while remaining true to Neon Indian's essence. He applies his flair for mood-crafting to a palette of electro, funk, disco, new wave, and reggae, transforming his synth-heavy sound into a love letter to the fabulous keyboard tones of the '70s and '80s: Note the Baroque embellishments to "Slumlord"'s filter-disco and the squiggles that make "Street Level" sound even more like forgotten Paisley Park brilliance. Prince and Daft Punk are two of the album's biggest influences, not just in sound but in spirit. The way these tracks flow into each other recalls the uninhibited, possibly inebriated way Homework's first few cuts blended into an atmospheric portrait of nightlife, a concept Palomo runs with on Vega Intl. Night School. Sounding like a field recording from an '80s nightclub, "Smut!" captures the disorienting, intoxicating feel of entering a party that's already in full swing; "Techno Clique" expresses the anonymity and intimacy of dancing with a stranger, and the luminous synths that close "The Glitzy Hive" might as well be sunrise peeking through the club's doors. Vega Intl. Night School's more structured songs are so good that it's easy to wish there were more of them: "Annie"'s pastel reggae-disco is as breezy as the Miami Vice soundtrack or Palomo's chillwave roots, while the André Cymone-esque "Dear Skorpio Magazine" nails its period details (writing an actual letter to an actual magazine is so retro). However, these are just parts of the bigger picture, and the album's psychedelic collage of sound effects, interludes and songs actually feels more effortless as it becomes more elaborate. In its own way, Vega Intl. Night School is just as immersive as Neon Indian's previous work and even more impressionistic, with a flamboyance that makes it a captivating standout within his own work as well as his contemporaries'. ~ Heather Phares