Double Black Vinyl, Gatefold Sleeve
It’s been almost eight years since Alan Palomo, the auteur musician/producer behind the long-running avant-pop project Neon Indian, released a full body of music. For years before then, he’d garnered a strong and loyal fanbase and his music, while entrenched in the scenes at the time, sat apart from them, creating a movement of its own. VEGA Intl, ignited further interest in him and broadened the audience's scope, gaining more critical acclaim than previously, well received albums.
World of Hassle is a vivid piece of world-building that takes listeners into a slightly surreal pocket dimension saturated with anxiety and nostalgia, where jazz-funk and wide-shouldered Claude Montana suits never went out of style, and the Cold War chill that suffused Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man never lifted. World of Hassle is a Pynchonesque place, packed with characters and situations rendered in dreamily absurdist strokes—guerilla freedom fighters camped out in a Rainforest Cafe in “The Wailing Mall,” a crumbling ex-pop star in “The Return of Mickey Milan,” the Leisure Suit Larry-does-Ibiza fantasy of “Nudista Mundial ’89” (featuring Mac DeMarco), whose indelible hooks and accompanying absurdist animated video by Johnny Woods immediately propelled the song to critical accolades and broad social sharing upon its release last month.
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.