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Alan Palomo Steps Into A “World of Hassle” in Rebrand Record

The last we heard from Alan Palomo in any extended fashion was way back in 2015, when VEGA INTL. Night School came out. While the Neon Indian project as a whole had been cited as one of the tentpole acts in chillwave, this was something different entirely. That micro-genre DNA of previous albums like Era Extrana and Psychic Chasms (muddily mixed vocals, sun-bleached synths) was swapped in for far more maximalist instrumentation on VEGA INTL. It was and remains a retro, psychedelic celebration of synth-pop, and easily became Neon Indian’s most critically acclaimed work.

With Palomo himself stating that he prioritizes exploring musical territory he hasn’t already conquered, many wondered exactly how that’d manifest. It’d take years to get the answer—with a brief false start in 2019 with the single “Toyota Man.” It was intended to begin a promo cycle for an upcoming “cumbia-inspired” Neon Indian album, but those plans eventually fell to the wayside. He officially broke his silence earlier this year, proclaiming that his former moniker was retired, and his next full length would come under his birth name.

A photo of Alan Palomo, presumably taken during album cover sessions, given the attire. Retrieved from his Instagram, @alan_palomo

How Palomo Refocused for His Next Chapter

Cue World of Hassle to break that hiatus. On the spoken word opener “The Wailing Mall,” we get some early tonesetting: “There was panic at the Payless. / A little brown boy led astray. / I had no star spangled manner. / I knew no yippee-ki-yay.” This is all delivered with a campy, action movie trailer cadence that speaks to a recurring motif. Palomo takes pop cultural touchstones of his youth and adds them to his arsenal, deployed just as a melody or a chord progression is. Lyrically, that stanza is a perfect mission statement for what you can expect on World of Hassle in its entirety. It’s caged and caked in 1980s aesthetics, just as singular a vision as neon-lit clubs are on Night School.

He also nailed down one final creative focus in the lead-up. Speaking to Remezcla, he said his songwriting would have to be front and center: “You haven’t really heard me sing. I’ve always been buried in reverb, and I’ve never sweated the lyrics in this way.” Sweat the lyrics he certainly does, and each record is steeped in Palomo’s particular sense of humor. It’s reference-heavy, entendre-filled, and constantly riding the border between satire and genuine homage.

The Retro Stylings That Populate Alan Palomo’s World of Hassle

“Stay-At-Home DJ” and “Club People” close out the upbeat, energetic first half of the project. The latter somewhat serves as a transition to the sleek, lowkey world in the back half. “Nobody’s Woman” is an absolute highlight here. It contains probably the most absurd couplet as well, when in the bridge Palomo belts out “If it’s the last song of the night, here’s to the end of love. / And if you’d ask me now, “F*** marry, kill? / I’d say, “All of the above.” Even with it sharing a tracklist with “Is There Nightlife After Dark?” it stands as the most nocturnal material at play here.

While American culture is the dominant one on “The Wailing Mall,” we spend the next few songs on World of Hassle anywhere but. With one of the few guest appearances on the record, “Meurtriere” is assisted by L’Imperatrice vocalist Flore Benguigui. Accordingly, the track is chiefly sung in French. “La Madrilena” is similarly sung entirely in Spanish. That speaks to another directive he laid out—to utilize his mother tongue artistically instead of simply in a “utilitarian way.” It’s built on a sweet backing that sounds as if it’s pulled from a compilation album. Nudista Mundial ’89 continues that theme, enlisting Mac DeMarco for probably the most catchy and accessible record featured here.

Once Again, Palomo Hits On A Big Creative Swing

The “commitment to the bit” that the former Neon Indian frontman shows off here is without question. But the premise of a 1980s-styled album in 2023 isn’t without its possible creative pitfalls. Taking all of its cues from such a specific era runs the risk of being one note. Especially given that pop culture far and wide has already mined that time period extensively. All that said, Palomo remains a creative dynamo. The developments with his storytelling and sense of humor help World of Hassle avoid overstaying its welcome.

Alan Palomo’s World Of Hassle has to be met where it is, but it’s more than worth the trouble. You can find it on streaming platforms everywhere. And, you can catch Palomo on tour this fall—more info is available on his website.

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