Neon Indian Recounts His Immigration Story on New Single “Toyota Man”

Lead Photo: Photo by Daniel di Domenico. Courtesy of the artist
Photo by Daniel di Domenico. Courtesy of the artist
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In case you haven’t noticed, the world is burning and staying silent is no longer an option for most of us. 2019 has seen a huge spike in political music, much of it urgent and revitalizing, but few releases have been as layered and refreshing as Neon Indian’s highly anticipated comeback single, “Toyota Man.” Premiering on Remezcla today, the track is a triumphant return to the spotlight for psychedelic synth wizard Alan Palomo, embracing the cultural richness of his Mexican roots and his family’s own immigration journey to create an incisive and often hilarious meditation on the absurd hypocrisies of the American dream.

“Toyota Man” opens with fuzzy radio voiceovers recorded by Palomo – a cheeky flair he uses repeatedly throughout – before Neon Indian’s signature wall of synesthetic synth melodies and saturated bass lines fully take over. “Llegamos al apartamento cuatro / de un tío / después que cruzamos el río / en Reynosa,” begins Palomo, unspooling his family’s story – migrating from Monterrey to Texas in 1994 and ‘learning English from HBO.’ As the song continues, we switch from autobiography to smirking satire, with Palomo repeatedly calling out Uncle Sam for the countless hurdles the US government places in the way of immigrant success and stability, bemoaning citizenship trials, labor rights violations and how ‘Aquí tu no cuentas igual.’

“Toyota Man” is Neon Indian’s first Spanish language release, also accompanied by a colorful music video shot on both sides of the US-Mexico border and stylized to look like home movies and cheesy 1980s television commercials. “‘Toyota Man’ was filmed along the road map of what essentially was my path to American citizenship: Monterrey, the Nuevo Laredo border, San Antonio, and finally Austin,” says Palomo.

Video still courtesy of the artist
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The Palomo-directed clip mixes scenes of political puppet shows, a sleazy car salesman and a sentient Donald Trump piñata that antagonizes a family birthday party, which is poignantly defended by an abuelita morphing into a super powered piñata like a candy-stuffed Power Ranger. “Though my music has always been generally apolitical, I realized when recording this song that it was impossible to write biographically (in the rhetorical context of the Trump administration) without being entirely that: political,” Palomo says.

“Toyota Man” is also Neon Indian’s first official release in four years, barring his all-star Prince tribute in 2016, adding to the likelihood of a new album drop next year.

2020 is an election year and immigration will certainly be a key policy point as Donald Trump seeks re-election and further debasement of our society. So any time the headlines and mortifying statements start to get you down, allow “Toyota Man”’s rousing chorus to ring through your ears: “Venimos a estudiar / queremos trabajar / y aunque lo quieran negar / todos somos Americanos.”

Watch “Toyota Man” here: