Right at the turn of the aughts, the nebulous genre known as “chillwave” was all the rage, and Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo was its poster boy. On the excellent Psychic Chasms, he took chintzy beats and funky lo-fi synths to psychedelically chilled out heights, while the underrated follow-up, Era Extrana, looked further into the underbelly of ’80s pop for a nighttime pop album worthy of Donnie Darko. Now years later, Palomo has his work cut out for him as EDM rules the summer fest circuit. Somehow, Vega Intl. Night School manages to remind you of the bets bits of chillwave while successfully moving forward. For those in the know, “Annie” was the banger of the summer, flowing new agey flutes into a digi reggae bounce that sounds like a reconfigured synth-funk memory. The old school hip hop vibe of “Street Level” and synth R&B smear “Smut!” seem to drip acid, coming at you and receding simultaneously. “Slumlord” and “Techno Clique” really let Palomo venture into his classic house fetish, naturally extending the sound he’s cultivated thus far into a rewarding new direction. By far his longest and most complete album, Vega ends on a few lightly tossed off tracks—“C’est La Vie” is an italo disco-inspired splatter of color, “61 Cygni Ave” sounds like two Men at Work and Cameo tapes were left in the sun and melted together, and “News From the Sun” ends things on a straight up Prince homage. Detractors might still find fuel since Palomo primarily mines well-worn ’80s pop influences. However, his ability to render those inspirations as alien forms makes him as relevant as ever, bleeding tracks into one another in a perfectly packaged, post-Internet free-for-all that sets your pleasure sensors on overdrive.
Wavves – “Pony”
The third track we’ve heard from Wavves’ upcoming V is the catchiest of the pack, a lovelorn jam that sneaks soul-searching lyrics into its surging power-pop chords. V is due Oct. 2 on Ghost Ramp/Warner.
James Ferraro – “Skid Row”
As avant-R&B artist James Ferraro may have based his last album, the neo-brutalist NYC HELL 3am, on a bleak view of the NYC landscape, the first song off his new album pulls a similar feat with his adopted second home of L.A. “Skid Row” feels like an art-damaged, half-awake reading of our particular version of urban decay, of 7-Elevens and acid rain and hip-hop beats rumbling in the distance and something beautiful (or sinister) lurking in the hallway. Recorded in L.A., Skid Row is due Nov. 13 on Break World.
The Intelligence – “Whip My Valet”
L.A. garage weirdos have a new one on the way called Vintage Future, due Sept. 25 on In the Red. “Whip My Valet” plays a little like Devo on adderall, hurdling through jagged chords as singer Lars Finberg cries unsettlingly, “I think I’m devoid of pleasure and all pain.” Listen via Noisey.
The Mantles – “Police My Love”
The wonderful jangle-pop band The Mantles are releasing a new album called All Odds End on Oct. 16 via Slumberland, and they’ve just unveiled another new song from it, the sonically saturated “Police My Love.” Some echoes of The Clean here with the scuffed-up energy of the Bay Area’s garage scene as the band charges through “Police My Love” like a kid heading down the slide headfirst. Wheeee!
According to L.A.-based artist Julia Holter, her new song “is about moving away from things that trap you, the scary wonder in discovering freedom.” With a Beach Boys-ish beat and a jaunty whistle, the song can’t help but feel like getting out of a bad relationship or quitting a shitty job and staring out at the ocean, finding excitement and clarity before the anxiety of what’s next hits. It’s a difficult emotion to capture, and Holter does so masterfully, capturing a difficult in-between moment. Have You in My Wilderness is due September 25 on Domino.
The Mantles – “Doorframe”
|Photo by David Armstrong|
Bay Area jangle-pop kids The Mantles are back with a new album called All Odds Ends, due Oct. 16 on Slumberland. The first song is a forlorn little ditty called “Doorframe” that throws some wonderfully gloomy synths over the band’s spirited guitar interplay, feeling like a shady cloud on a summer day. We were big fans of their last album, Long Enough to Leave, so can’t wait to hear what else All Odds has to offer.
Cherry Glazerr – “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”
Here’s a good one for Halloween. L.A.’s Cherry Glazerr turn in an eerie version of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” a traditional pop song made popular in cartoons and by Tiny Tim. The band recorded it for the trailer to Insidious: Chapter 3, as the song reoccurs throughout the films. Hear the band go from quietly creepy to roaring in the track below:
Hear it in the Insidious: Chapter 3 trailer below:
Jack Name – “Running After Ganymede”
L.A. lo-fi pop wunderkind Jack Name released an excellent, underrated album in January called Light Show, and he’s already got a new one planned called Weird Moons, due Jan. 20 on Castle Face. This is another great one for Halloween, an eerie space-groover with faint howls in the background and vocals like a vampire in love. Check it out via Death and Taxes. He’s on tour right now with Thee Oh Sees and comes to S.F. Dec. 4-5 at The Chapel.