Alan Palomo is a Mexican-born, Denton, TX-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic music artist, producer and film maker, best known for his acclaimed solo recording project Neon Indian. And with the release of four full-length albums and an EP — 2009’s Psychic Chasms, 2013’s Era Extraña, the Errata Anex EP and 2015’s Vega Intl. Night School, Palomo established a reputation for crafting a slickly produced synth pop sound that sounds indebted to Prince, Thriller, Bad and Dangerous-era Michael Jackson and the synth funk/synth R&B sounds of the late 70s and early 80s – in particular think of The Whispers Heatwave Evelyn “Champagne” King’, Cherelle and an even lengthier list of others.
Now, it’s been some time since I’ve written about Palomo and Neon Indian and as it turns out that Palomo had spent the past couple of years working on 86’d, his first narrative short. As Palomo says in press notes, 86’d is “a love letter to New York cinema and in a way, a final recapitulation of the Night School universe. Shot on 16mm over the course of three nights, it was an ambitious undertaking for all parties involved but honestly making it was such a blast that at times felt like just that, a party. I’m eternally grateful to all the wonderful people that came together to realize this kooky project and proud to finally be able to share it with music and movie goers alike.
Directed by Palomo, written by Palomo and Kai Flanders, edited by Pete Ohs and Dustin Reid, the film stars Buddy Duress (Good Time, Heaven Knows What), Lindsay Burdge (Easy, Thirst Street, The Midnight Swim), Seaton Smith (Top Five, Mulaney), Chase Williamson (John Dies at The End), Mitzi Akaha (Lowlives, Dark Side of The Moon) and musician Alex Frankel (Holy Ghost) as well as Palomo. Set in Ed Koch-era NYC, Max takes a mouthful of mescaline and desperately tries to make it home before it kicks in. On his way, he decided to stop at an all-night deli for a quick, late night meal. After numerous order delays and full-on trip stampeding into his psyche, he is made to pay witness to the colorful cast of lower east side weirdos, visualizing their stories through his newly altered lens: A Times Square dominatrix meets up with one of her regulars to reveal an answering message left by his wife. Two punks discuss an ultimatum as one reveals his connection to a pistol found in a drug bust. A recording engineer convinces an aspiring singer to re-record a destroyed vocal take from a canonic 80s group and attempts to pass it off as the original. Visually speaking, the short reminds me quite a bit of Martin Scorcese’s After Hours as it describes a New York and New York characters that are sadly long gone.
Along with the film, Palomo wrote and recorded the short’s theme song “Heaven’s Basement,” a fittingly 80s inspired, dance floor friendly track, centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line, a scorching distortion pedal effect-drenched guitar solo paired with Palomo’s dreamy falsetto. Interestingly, while the new track will further cement Palomo’s reputation for crafting slickly produced, dance floor friendly synth pop, it possesses a lysergic, mind-altering air.
Mark Berg is an Edmonton, Alberta, Canada-based singer/songwriter, electronic music artist and producer, whose solo recording project Tropic Harbour specializes in hazy, dream pop inspired by nostalgic images and dreams of the coast, during the summer — and in many ways, Berg reportedly created the project as a way to mentally escape the harsh Edmonton winters. Along with a backing and that features Kurtis Cockerill
Andrew Brostrom, and Marcus Rayment, Berg began receiving national attention, playing at a number of Canada’s renowned festivals including Pop Montreal, NXNE and Sled Island, as well as opening for the likes of DIIV, Jessy Lanza, Homeshake and Will Butler.
Berg’s latest Tropic Harbour single “Can’t Pretend” will further cement his reputation for crafting, 80s-inspired, nostalgia-inducing and summery synth pop; however, it’s a much more downtempo and atmospheric production featuring a sinuous bass line, gently swirling electronics, shimmering synths and stuttering drum programming, and in some way, the song sonically speaking will remind some listeners of I Love You It’s Cool-era Bear in Heaven, Neon Indian and others — while thematically focusing on its narrator letting go of a past relationship and trying to find himself again in the process.
Comprised of Dana Janssen, a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, best known as a member of renowned indie act Akron/Family, and long-time collaborator Justin Miller, Dana Buoy is a decided change of sonic direction for those familiar with Janssen’s work with Akron Family. In fact, Dana Buoy finds the duo of Janssen and Miller focusing on sweaty, late night, dance floor-friendly, analog synth-based, pop that is frequently equal parts lysergic and sensual, as you’ll hear on the duo’s exuberant yet deeply introspective and shimmering, Neon Indian meets Cut Copy and Painted Palms-like new single “Ice Glitter Gold,” off the duo’s forthcoming album of the same name, slated for a February 23, 2018 through Everloving Records.
Blood Cultures is a rather mysterious New Jersey-based electro pop act that has begun to receive attention for a hazy and summery sound that nods at Washed Out and Neon Indian — and to some degree, the Cascine Records roster as you’ll hear on “Scenes From A Midnight Movie,” the opening track to the act’s soon-to-be released full-length debut Happy Birthday; but Blood Cultures sets themselves apart from a crowded field of contemporary purveyors of hazy, wistful and carefully crafted synth pop confections with an incredibly subtle touch — a regal yet mournful horn arrangement towards the song’s coda that reminds me of Tears For Fears‘ “Break It Down Again.”
Blood Cultures will be making their live debut at Rough Trade on August 9, 2017.
Featuring brothers Alix, Miles and Reece Melendrez and schoolmate Matt Mumician, Decorator is an up-and-coming Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock/indie soul quartet, who publicly claim a rather wide and diverse array of influences that include the music the Melenderez Brothers heard quite a deal of while growing up — Jimi Hendrix, The Isley Brothers, Bob Marley and contemporary acts like Lauryn Hill, Wu-Tang Clan, Gorillaz and others. And interestingly enough, the project which attribute their name from a famous Frank Zappa quote “without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production headlines or dates by which bills must be paid” can trace their origins to when the Melendrez Brothers taught themselves how to play covers of the songs they heard so much growing up. As high schoolers, the Melendrez Brothers began writing their own music — and their folks drove them to school night gigs in which they played in bars they weren’t even be allowed in without their gear.
Wanting to master their instruments and to do their own thing, the Melendrez Brothers enrolled themselves at Silverlake Conservatory of Music, founded by Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ Flea, where they met and befriended fellow student Mumician and started writing music together. However, it took several years before the band took their music out of garage rehearsals and house parties and were able to concentrate on their music full-time, as the band’s youngest member, Reece Melendrez honored his promise to his folks to graduate from high school before making music a full-time effort.
With the release of their 2014 self-released debut EP Transit, the band quickly received a growing local profile and fanbase, including their first headlining set at the renowned Troubadour, thanks in part to a sound that draws equally from classic soul, indie rock, contemporary pop and neo soul — and in a way that manages to be uncompromisingly difficult to pigeonhole. The Los Angeles-based quartet’s latest single sonically speaking seems to owe an equal debt to Tame Impala‘s Currents, the Cascine Records roster, Neon Indian and 80s synth soul as the quartet pairs shimmering and undulating synths with a sinuous groove, an infectious hook and Miles Melendez’s sultry falsetto. Lyrically, the song’s vulnerable narrator admits to be run around in circles by an unrequited and cruel love interest, with whom he feels desperately and inexplicably pulled towards — and as much as he wants to pull away, to move forward with his life, he feels trapped in a vicious and unfulfilling circle. Certainly, what’s remarkable to me about this band is the fact that their material manages to possess a maturity and self-assuredness that belies their youth.
Last night, I learned that JOVM has had readers and viewers from over 117 countries across the world — this year. 117! I’m honored, flattered and incredibly humbled that my childhood obsession with music and my labor of love have become a part of so many people’s lives. With 2015 coming to a close, I want to thank you, dear friends for letting me come into your screen and hopefully bring a little bit of joy, wonder and meaning into your lives. And if I’ve done that, I’ve been wildly successful in ways that I never would have dreamt.
This month’s playlist comes a couple of days early, but don’t let that faze you much. In typical JOVM fashion, the December playlist is wildly eclectic — and touches upon several decades of artists and songs both known and obscure. You’ll come across Eric B. and Rakim, R.E.M., Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Posies, Foo Fighters, The Smiths, JOVM mainstays The Black Angels, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Patsy Cline, Nancy Sinatra, The Fixx, Pearl Jam, INXS, The Verve, New Order, Big Daddy Kane, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Michael Jackson, Los Angeles‘ Line & Circle, shoegaze pioneers RIDE, the club-rocking sounds of Neon Indian, Cameo, Twin Limb, the fantastic Charles Bradley, Black Sabbath, and a tribute to Motorhead‘s Lemmy Kilmister. And that’s just off the top of my head. Enjoy!
Over the five year history of this site, Denton, TX-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and electronic music artist Alan Palomo and his solo recording project Neon Indian has become a JOVM mainstay — especially in the lead-up to the release […]
Over the past couple of months I’ve been experimenting with a monthly Spotify playlist that covers the songs I’ve reviewed over the course of the past month, along with the songs I’ve referenced. And although some songs almost always seem to be missing during the initial compilation, I think it still manages to be a fairly comprehensive look at the past month on JOVM. (Just an early world, December will be pretty interesting as there will be a monthly playlist and I will be doing a Best of List primarily through Spotify as an additional experiment. But we’re jumping ahead here.)
November’s playlist continues the eclectic and tasteful curation that this site has long been known for and includes Aroc!‘s collaborations with Eric Bellinger, the gorgeous sounds of Floating Points, the socially conscious psych rock of Brazilian superstars Boogarins, JOVM mainstays Rene Lopez, Escort, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Pr0files, White Reaper, Beacon, New Order and Freddie Gibbs and others among a lengthy list. You’ll catch new singles from the Houston, TX-born, New York-based indie soul artist Melany Watson, several singles off Coke Weed‘s excellent Mary Weaver, two singles off The Giraffes kick ass, stoner rock album Usury, a new single from Swedish psych rock sensation Caviare Days, anthemic singles from Brandi Carlile‘s powerhouse country album, The Firewatcher’s Daughter and Canadian trio Red Moon Road, a few singles off Neon Indian‘s club-friendly VEGA Intl. Night School and more. There’s quite a bit of funk on this list as I make references to The Whispers, The Gap Band, Kool and the Gang, Chic, Rick James, and others. And there’s quite of synth pop including Tears For Fears, Depeche Mode, The Human League and more. Check it out and tell your friends while you’re at it!