Artist: Tame Impala
Release Date: July 17, 2015
Label: Modular Recordings
In an age where the Internet has relegated release dates to a mere formality and listening habits are increasingly compulsive, I’m here to offer a voice of patience.
Now that we’ve all had a month to process the new record from psych-rock-turned-pop masterminds Tame Impala, and I’ve gotten a chance to witness their magic in person, I think I’m ready to settle on an opinion. Though it signals a crossroads in 29 year old Kevin Parker’s journey as a songwriter in the public eye (this is a recurring lyrical theme), the roots of the stylistic changes that pervade Currents can be traced back to his earliest demos. After multiple close listens, it became increasingly apparent that regardless of my or anyone else’s attachments to the unified sound and inward perspective that defined Lonerism, Parker has made the record he’s always reached for- one that’s uncompromised in its variety, lyrically moving and, of course, immaculately produced.
First off, “Let It Happen” is a full-blown masterpiece. When one woozy synth note gives way to a groove of cosmic proportions, it’s already over. We are thrown into the world of Currents without much warning. From there, we drift through a sea of looped drums, emotive strings and funky vocals layered to infinity, all the while moving further and further away from the land of expectation. And that’s just the first 8 minutes. Parker’s music has always relied heavily on a stylized drum sound, but his aesthetic has shifted. Synthetic pads play a huge role, and instead of sounding huge and thundering (see “Endors Toi”) here they are precise, slick, and even funky.
Had the record’s four singles been all the music Parker released this year, I for one would have been more than satisfied. “Cause I’m a Man” hides some seriously self-deprecating lyrics beneath a mammoth hook. “Eventually” boasts both a muscular guitar riff and a breathtaking trip-hop style outro that’s one of the album’s strongest moments. Parker has said this is may be the one song that maintained its emotional significance to him through every exhaustive step of the album’s creation and release. “Disciples” is an intriguing piece, not exclusively because it’s the only song I’ve ever heard to use a shift in fidelity to move forward in place of a chord, dynamic or key change. That in itself is incredible. Then focus your attention on the razor sharp vocal line, driving bass, or gloriously crunchy guitars, and you’ve got the makings of an understated gem. Like Hendrix’s “Little Wing” or The White Stripes’ “Fell in Love With a Girl,” it’s here, in all its self-contained glory, and then it’s gone. It seems experience and imagination have led Parker to invent his own song structures, and they all seem to work.
My lone complaints are the goofy, pitched down spoken word verses of “Past Life” that distract from an otherwise cosmic mood, the fact that “Gossip” doesn’t get developed further, and the few aspects of production that are a bit overused (I’m looking at you, claps and snaps). Besides those purely subjective points, Currents is a giant, confident step into uncharted territory for Tame Impala, one that will bode well for their future as pioneers who refuse to be typecast as the modern saviors of a genre they’ve already made their own. Focus on every glorious nugget of hyperactive song craft, or just lie back and let these songs transport you. Just realize the talents who can give you that choice are few and far between.