Private Playlist: Neon Indian shares music for your inner monologue

Alan Palomo (Neon Indian) with one of his playlist selections. Photo credit: Alan Palomo.

Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical figures in their private creative environments. Neon Indian is the stage alias of Alan Palomo, a musician and producer who has released three albums and a handful of EPs since 2008. Palomo has collaborated with the Flaming Lips, Holy Ghost!, and Miami Horror, and has produced remixes for Au Revoir Simone, Grizzly Bear, and The Silent League. Palomo spoke with KCRW about the pleasures of Tropicália, Peru’s answer to the Ramones, and the perfect soundtrack for thinking.

My last month has probably been analogous to what it's been for most of the country, which is exercising social distancing and staying at home. In the beginning, I was feeling pretty unproductive. Bracing for uncertainty requires a little getting used to, but I remind myself that this is a thing that happens. Perhaps our parents and their parents and their parents had these moments in their lives where they had no option but to brace for uncertainty. And now, I could very well be in a position where the new record is shelved for the time being, or it can't come out quite as quickly as I wanted it to. So in the interim, at least, I wanted to share music that I've been listening to at home.


When I was putting together the playbook for my new album, there was a lot of chicha and cumbia stuff that I was listening to. Probably the first band that I really dove into was Los Shapis. The cover of their debut album parodies the Ramones, but in so many ways they were kinda this punk version of chicha in Peruvian music at the time. They have a lot of upbeat tunes, but I really like this slow, eerie, kinda spooky ballad called "Cuánto Te Extraño,” from their album Los Indiscutibles. It has a homespun, low-fi quality to it.


What I like about "Constelación" by Los Destellos is that it still feels like the late '60s, like they're feeling this acid hangover from the tropes of psych-rock and are trying to implement it into more Latin styles of music.


I've been checking out a great Tropicália record from 1972, the self-titled debut from Arthur Verocai. That's been a Desert Island Record as of late. I've really been gravitating towards the opening track, "Caboclo."


The London artist Caliban had a recent reissue on the record label Music From Memory, but they left out his definitive song, "Open Mind." That song and its lyrics have been a wealth of comfort and contemplation for me.


If there's been any way in which what's happening in the world has informed what I listen to at home, I think it's been a while since I really dipped into ambient stuff. And Toshifumi Hinata's Reality In Love is one of my top 10 records that I've been coming back to. 

With some of these DJ sets that I've been doing, you tend to want to listen to more frenetic music. But then there are times when you want to set the stage to get a lot of thinking done. A lot of popular music is made with the intention of drowning out your inner monologue and serving as a distraction. But I like to view ambient music as more of a tool to think. Because, ultimately, mankind is entering this strange intermission where everything is put on hold, and it's a reminder that even the best-laid plans are precarious. So, it's a time to reassess where I would like to be when the smoke settles. And you want to listen to music that's going to aid and engender that.

Check out KCRW’s other Private Playlists:

Inara George shares tips for raising music-literate kids during quarantine
Chris Cohen shares Algerian synth funk, avant jazz, and more far-out sounds
Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy offers an earthy soundtrack for the homebound
Mia Doi Todd recommends space-age sounds and Brazilian tunes