Peter Holslin turns to pizza in times of great need.
Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo was so good at mining the fields of nostalgia and escape during the 2009-2010 chillwave boom that it wasn’t long before he had me thinking back to the good old days. His songs “Terminally Chill” and “Should Have Taken Acid With You” were part of the soundtrack to my mid-20s, a time when life wasn’t yet weighed down by responsibility and ambition and I still had plenty of time to stay up all night talking music and eating bean-cheese-and-rice burritos with my friends at a San Diego party pad dubbed the Eagle’s Nest. Of course this was only, like, four years ago. But I still cling to old Facebook updates and photos, using them to assemble and reassemble memories in my head in a similar way that Palomo bent analog synths and ’80s game-show hooks into winsome new shapes on his debut LP, Psychic Chasms.
The album’s broken cassette aesthetics inadvertently made Neon Indian fodder for Hipster Runoff jokes and Wall Street Journal trend pieces. But on his new song “Annie”—his first in two years—Palomo wipes all that away. Naturally, there’s plenty of ’80s kitsch going on, most notably with the worldbeat intro of Peruvian pan-flute and Amazon jungle sounds. But for the most part the 20-something songwriter is all raw sex appeal, dishing out a flirty vocal melody over a juicy bass-line and insistent beat—and adding some dainty, Switched-On Bach-style synthesizer runs in the bridge for good measure.
Palomo always struck me as one of the smarter guys to come out of the short-lived chillwave craze. When I interviewed him in 2010, we talked about how the recent millennial obsession with analog gear and lo-fi production spoke to peoples’ admiration for a pre-digital era when you could actually tell how old your childhood possessions were based on the tape-warp and VHS degradation. “We have high-definition cameras, and we have everything that looks really pristine and clean, so how are we going to create the distinction for nostalgia 40 years from now, when it’s probably going to look the same way?” he said.
“Annie” doesn’t raise such complex questions. It doesn’t capture the zeitgeist like Neon Indian’s early material did. But it is clear, direct, and full of immediate pleasures—and sometimes that’s all a good song needs.