It was the summer of 2009, and it had been a long one. At the time I was working the overnight at McDonalds and suffering from massive panic attacks on a regular nightly basis. The one thing that managed to keep me going was a girlfriend who lived about six-hundred miles away in New Jersey, and the days leading up to when we would see each other in August when we headed back to school. During this time the only other thing that held my sanity together besides the days counting down until I would see her again was music. As July began to come to an end one song in particular began to strike a chord with me that defined this particular summer; that song was Neon Indian’s “Deadbeat Summer” it encapsulated exactly what I was longing for and that was to make-out with my girlfriend again, get away from the sweltering heat, and enter back into the playful amusement park of college life.
While Neon Indian’s debut Psychic Chasms was upbeat and flavorful, Era Extraña comes across as dark, isolated, culminating the last breaths of summer. With Era Extraña the production values are tighter. The broader melodic sound heard on Era Extraña is highly intricate almost as if the never-ending layers of synth build up into one majestic wave only to find themselves crashing into one another creating a digital wall of sound. It’s here that you see the masterful production that defines Alan Palomo in more ways than one. This collection of songs is built upon the foundations set by 80’s synth-pop/new wave artists such as Depeche Mode and Joy Division, while at times acting as an extension of what contemporaries like Ariel Pink have done within the past decade.
What the songs on Era Extraña do is further define Alan Palomo’s songwriting abilities, the overall sense of longing and heartbreak make this an accessible album. It’s these feelings that combined with the digital effects that make it sound like an updated My Bloody Valentine’s Isn’t Anything for the 21st century. Not only within the music itself but even in Palomo’s voice you feel his hurt and his loneliness, it’s cold and isolated like being left waiting on a frozen lake. The albums opener “Heart: Attack” acts almost like a computer booting up, bringing forth the realization that a lover isn’t coming back and then shifts into the dark yet pop heavy synths on “Polish Girl” where Palomo looks back on this relationship even asking “do I still cross your mind”, which is brilliantly haunting and relatable to anyone who has experienced heartbreak. “The Blindside Kiss” mixes both electronic sounds and shoegaze elements which folds out into a powerful dance track filled with raw power to “Halogen (I could Be a Shadow)” which sounds almost exactly like M83’s beautifully enchanting “Kim and Jessie”.
Being that this is only the band’s second release it is a major improvement from the haplessly put together Psychic Chasms in terms of how each song transitioned, Era Extraña is an album that is highly appealing yet at times can be a bit heavy considering it’s subject matter.