Alan Palomo, whose 2009 debut record released as Neon Indian, Psychic Chasms, not only earned the musician a spot on numerous year-end lists, but assisted the forming of a genre that, though known by a few names now (hypnagogic pop, glo-fi, chillwave), summoned a very unique and specific electro-mangled sound.
World of Hassle began as a new album for Neon Indian, the fourth installment of an unhurriedly growing body of work stretching back to 2009’s Psychic Chasms, with an intended swerve into vintage Peruvian cumbia and a political album concept, but was derailed by the ambiguous psychic space of quarantine, where concepts like “deadline” and “career trajectory” started to shed their certainty.
Palomo unlocked a new flow by letting go of the album concept, followed by the Neon Indian name. He bought a piano and learned to play it properly, unlocking a creative current that pulled him in unexpected but fruitful directions. From the intricate fictional details packed into the cover art (co-created by Palomo and designer Robert Beatty), to the lyrical collage of pop culture and political references, to the music’s early-digital sheen, the album evokes the 80s golden age of rock stars like Bryan Ferry and Sting leaving their own breakthrough projects to strike out as jazzy solo musicians.
It’s parody, sure—of rock star ego trips, the mall-ification of America, and our own self-obsession, even on the brink of apocalypse—but it’s also dead serious, the sound of history repeating itself as the Doomsday Clock clicks past its Reagan-era maximum and nuclear anxiety comes back into style along with digital synthesizers and sax solos. The deeper it pulls you into its own uncanny reality, the clearer it becomes how thin the borders are between Alan Palomo’s World of Hassle and our own.