Past perfection

By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  March 5, 2010

For Palomo, the songs that make up his breakout release, Psychic Chasms (Lefse), aren't the product of hours of cerebral cratedigging so much as the result of a newly cultivated freedom in his process. He didn't spend more than two days on a song, he tried not to let imperfections in production slow the creative course, he tried to stay completely transparent and have the songs grow straight from how he was feeling.

"It's odd that the result of being free about things has ended up being what I'm most confined by," he says with a little laugh.

Although he doesn't gaze into VH1 clip shows or jam his Netflix queue with John Hughes films for inspiration, Palomo does have a keen awareness of the emotional tints of his songs, and how those hues owe their glow to pop's past. He just has trouble splitting these things into decades. The "whimsical sentimentality" and "unabashed romance" of Kate Bush or Phil Collins is an '80s thing: "It's a human thing." So, too, the "self-conscious sarcastic narcissism" of the Jesus and Mary Chain and Sonic Youth and the subsequent 10-year surge of slack, abstract indie rock may have characterized the '90s but are by no means consigned to them.

With all its reference points set swirling, Palomo's music does less to revel in those qualities we recall about radio pop from 30 years ago and more to unblock what we've suppressed. An arresting naïveté gives "Terminally Chill" and its lazier cousin, "Deadbeat Summer," their charm — and their throwback sonics are constantly at odds with their forward-seeming flair. "Should Have Taken Acid with You" has the same wry detachment that Palomo admired in Sonic Youth's "Eric's Trip," but even in its woolly cloak of dated synths and cheap echo, it doesn't sound dusty at all. That hiss you hear isn't tape — it's the hole he's punctured between two repressed decades.

If his songs are timeless, they're equally as placeless. Neon Indian are often pegged as an Austin band, but Palomo hails from Denton — and he never even completed a full lease in Austin before upping and moving to Brooklyn a month ago. The songs don't carry any particular accent — and when interviewers ask him why the South is such a hotbed of chillwave, he can only sigh and ask for another question.

Uncomfortable as his spot atop the rising tide of the chillwave phenomenon may be, it's carried him farther afield than he ever went with previous bands, waking up in a dark van in Tennessee and not knowing where he was, or waking up in a dark room in Amsterdam and not knowing where he was. A few months ago, he was selling off his iPods to make the rent. Now, he's appearing on Jimmy Fallon and having his dance moves critiqued by a nation of bloggers racing to name the next big micro-thing.

"None of that even really feels like part of our lives," he tells me. "But look: I don't care what happens, I'm not going to be the Kerouac of chillwave."

NEON INDIAN + MYSTERY ROAR + SOUTHERN BELLE | Great Scott, 1222 Comm Ave, Allston | March 9 @ 7 and at 9 pm | 18+ | 7 pm show costs $12 | 9 pm show is OFFICIALLY SOLD OUT | 617.566.9014 or www.greatscottboston.com

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