Album Review: Currents – Tame Impala
It's an undisputed fact that, when their debut album Innerspeaker was released in 2010, Tame Impala quickly became recognized as a force to be reckoned with in the rising genre of neo-psychedelia. With 2012's Lonerism, Tame Impala became one of the most well-known psychedelic rock bands in the world. Their insanely catchy melodies, lush production, fun (and often undecipherable) lyrics, and rock-inspired beats serve as the first proper rejuvenation of the psychedelic music scene since the genre's heyday in the late 1960s. In July of 2014, Tame Impala released their third album, Currents. As is now tradition, Kevin Parker (lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist) continued the band's tradition of instituting radical changes between albums: whereas Innerspeaker was a mostly guitar-driven album featuring sonic tornadoes of guitar licks and rumbling bass, Lonerism shifted to a pop-ier but still guitar-focused album, utilizing even catchier licks than before. Accordingly, Currents marks yet another shift in the band's sound: they seem to have abandoned the guitar almost entirely in favor of replacement by the bass and synth.
I, like most Tame Impala fans, waited very excitedly for their new album to be released on July 17. When it dropped, I immediately went to give it a listen. I felt two things simultaneously: almost a sense of loss at the band changing their sound once again (Lonerism remains my favorite album of theirs), and a new excitement for what I was about to hear.
The first track (released as a single in March) is the epic eight-minute long “Let It Happen”, which uses its incredible length to its advantage by transitioning between several parts – a vocalized section, an instrumental section, DJ-like-scratching coupled with string (synth) accompaniment, a new set of lyrics, and then a simultaneous performance of a guitar solo and a ghostly vocal solo. The song serves as a perfect intro to the album: it introduces the new sound of Tame Impala to the listener, and especially showcases Parker's ability to constantly innovate, change, and introduce new motifs within the narrow framework of just one song. Furthermore, Parker continues his trend of writing songs of great emotion – about breakup, loneliness, and confusion, and succeeds in doing
Another highlight of the album is “Yes I'm Changing”, a considerably slower but similarly introspective and poignant track of a much more standard length. This song also does an excellent job of showcasing Impala's transition from putting the synth to the forefront of their new sound. Similarly, the bass, performed by Parker (he often performs many or even all instruments in many studio recordings), takes a highly prominent role in the song. An infectious melody keeps the song going and doesn't grow old or repetitive; I've gone many times listening to the song on loop for literally hours on end (of course, that could also be because I'm weird).
The next notable track on the album is “The Less I Know the Better”, yet another song about loneliness and failed attempts to start a relationship. After observing the girl he likes with another man, and sadly hanging onto the hope that her promises of being together would never come to fruition, he comes to a conclusion: ignorance is bliss – “the less I know, the better”. Fittingly, the song ends inconclusively – almost as a surprise for the listener.
The second single from the album and the last of the “big tracks” on the record is “'Cause I'm a Man”, a four-minute tongue-in-cheek anthem for men who admit they can be stupid but are unapologetic for it. Evoking influences of chillwave and downtempo R&B, it's probably one of my favorite songs on the album.
Kevin Parker and Tame Impala do not fail in delivering catchy melodies that are just as easily stuck in your head as previous melodies from Lonerism and even Innerspeaker; and he successfully brings Tame Impala's signature sound to a whole new innovative level, making the album sound as one single flowing work without sounding repetitive. Perhaps the only criticism I could level against the album is that it lacks the influence of diversity of Lonerism, which I would still maintain is the magnum opus of the band – the previous album could transition smoothly from the psychedelic pop of “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” to the acid rock of “Keep On Lying” and through the hard blues rock of “Elephant”.
Copyright has taken down nearly all of Tame Impala's earlier songs from YouTube, but you can still enjoy a pretty fantastic live performance of Lonerism's “Elephant” (or you could just go onto Spotify and listen there).
Despite this perceived lack of diversity in genre, one could still definitely derive great enjoyment out of the electronica-influenced psychedelia of Currents. Even if Tame Impala purists criticize their abandonment of traditional psychedelic styles and their subsequent move towards a more electronic-influenced sound, one thing is for certain: Tame Impala is on the way to be one of the biggest new rock acts of today.
Image credit: Wikimedia