Album Picks: Neon Indian, Deerhunter, Beach House, The Mantles, Gun Outfit

Posted by Billy Gil, October 16, 2015 01:08pm | Post a Comment

Neon Indian - Vega Intl. Night School

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. 


Deerhunter - Fading Frontier

Deerhunter’s seventh album continues to refine the band’s once murky and psychedelic sound into taut guitar pop. There’s a warmth to the sound here that rounds out their more brittle tones and dark subject matter. Check out the jaunty opener “All the Same” or gently grooving “Breaker,” with co-vocals by Bradford Cox and Lockett Pundt—Deerhunter have never sounded this comfortable in their own skin. Cox is more engaged than ever, seeking direct emotional connection with his lyrics (“What is it you’re after? Don’t just stand there,” he cajoles in “Take Care”). Like one of his influences, Johnny Marr, guitarist Pundtt comes up with a variety of guitar tones while delivering a consistent style of garage rock chords looping, clean guitar lines. Synthesizers and drum machines play a more active role, laying the floating foundation for a tune like the dreamy “Take Care,” while the scuzz-funk of a tune like “Snakeskin” shows Deerhunter willing to take chances without futzing with their sound too much. However much Deerhunter whittle their sound, eschewing the noise of previous album Monomania and the more ambient aspects of some of their work, save for maybe the gentle synth waves of “Ad Astra,” Deerhunter are still malcontents at heart—over an uplifting organ and acoustic guitar on “Carrion,” Cox sings “What’s wrong with me?” in a slightly off-kilter croon. They’ve just made their exorcisms more listenable than ever.


Beach HouseThank Your Lucky Stars

Beach House's surprise second album of 2015 is another sheer delight. The Baltimore duo's organ drones, chintzy keyboard beats and blossoming guitar noise set the stage for Victoria Legrand's hypnotic vocals on dreamscapes like "Majorette." Like its immediate predecessor, Depression CherryThank Your Lucky Stars dials back on some of the pop drama afforded by the last two releases, Teen Dream and Bloom. While some might decry this move, it seems to have helped Beach House reclaim their space without falling victim to having each album be bigger, brighter and more accessible. Beach House's particular sound world has never really been meant for the big stage; it's too intimate, impressionistic, dream-like and delicate. It's music that's meant for headphones and small spaces, to be cherished and felt deeply, and that's exactly what these two releases accomplish. Thank Your Lucky Stars, though, is more immediate than Depression Cherry, sparer, more tossed-off feeling and more reliant on simple drum machine beats and loping, distorted guitar lines on tracks like the My Bloody Valentine-ish "One Thing" or Cure-inflected "All Your Yeahs." However, for pure atmospheric drama, you can't do much better than "Elegy to the Void," which floats on synthy melodrama for six and a half gorgeous minutes that ranks among the band's best. And closer "Somewhere Tonight" is the closest they've come to '50s homage since Devotion highlight "D.A.R.L.I.N.G.," Victoria Legrand's voice wavering with spine-tingling longing, her organ delivering silent-movie melodrama. With some bands, two albums at once might seem like excess; with Beach House, it's an unexpected and much-appreciated gift. Stream tracks via the band's Single Finder.


The Mantles - All Odds End

Jangle, C86 and surf get chewed up like gum and blown up into brightly colored guitar pop gems on The Mantles' latest. Imagine The Clean transported from New Zealand pubs to Oakland's garages and you're close. Sweet and nicely worn just want to hug this music close to you.


Gun Outfit Dream All Over

If dream-country isn’t already a genre, Gun Outfit invented it. A healthy dose of Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra’s desert haze blends naturally with Galaxie 500-style college rock. Twangy guitars, Dylanesque male vocals and breathy female accompaniment twist into a cohesive, delicious whole. One of the best things to come out of L.A. this year. 

See all of this week's new releases

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Album Picks (146), New Albums (213), New Releases (221), Neon Indian (8), Deerhunter (11), Beach House (30), The Mantles (10), Gun Outfit (7)