Tame Impala’s first two records expertly attempted to mask the feelings of isolation and induced loneliness with modern, skillfully crafted psych-rock in a newer, fresher package. Five years ago, we were gifted with debut Innerspeaker, and two years later came Lonerism, its companion and expansion into the world of cosmic, colorful, lucid daydreams. Of course, these melodic, paranoia and melancholia inspired albums come from the brilliant mind of Kevin Parker, who is just as much a perfectionist as he is a dreamer. There’s no doubt that the vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and overall mastermind places the feelings and emotions that come with loneliness and anxiety into these fantastic works, but on his third album Currents, it sounds less like a pity party and more like a cognizant nod to the effects of change and a celebration of one’s own flaws. Perhaps this is why Currents is flawless in and of itself, and may even be the best Tame Impala record ever released.
What’s worth mentioning about Currents immediately is that it is worlds different from its predecessors. While there still is that hazy, other-worldly effect that appeared all throughout Innerspeaker and Lonerism, it’s a bit more clear and pronounced on Currents. The last two albums resisted pop in a sense, and almost had an irresistible elitist attitude in delivery. Currents, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. It embraces the best parts of pop while also including psych-funk and soul in a flawless, effortless way, even though we know that it wasn’t this way for Parker to express. It’s true that Tame Impala’s music is more for the intellectual – one that has become comfortable in their own introspection and introversion – but now, Parker, being the perfectionist that he is, has created something so emotionally thick that it can now spread evenly across all musical palates. This is perhaps because it’s an album intensely propelled and inspired by change and fluidity, and considering this, it makes sense why the near eight minute track “Let It Happen” opens the album. Thankfully, Parker hasn’t lost his signature croon that still some people say is reminiscent of John Lennon – a person that Parker can’t seem to not sound like – but is now more vivid and vibrant than ever before. The funk inspired instrumentals swirl around it and merge together in such a way that doesn’t smother, but rather enhances the beauty of the lyrics, which narrates the fact that Parker wants to let ideas and inspiration flow instead of watch them perpetually spin. A repeated, constant melodic interlude rages on while intensity builds, and towards the end, the self-titled “gibberish” that appears doesn’t even come as a surprise. From here we see the change into something more structured and clear in its intentions, considering that the last two albums covered them up with complex instrumentals and hazy, smudged vocals. Here, it’s more lucid and lovely, and you’re almost able to hear every emotion individually and therefore soak it in more efficiently.
Even better, Kevin Parker’s technical skill has not diminished in the slightest, heard clearly in the albums’ instrumental tracks. “Nangs” has more finesse and meticulous construction in its synths and effects than some bands do in entire albums, and it’s truly amazing how many individual techniques Parker has managed to include. “Moment” and “Reality In Motion” contain classic Tame Impala bass lines – the same ones that made “Elephant” and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” so amazingly popular and malleable across all platforms. Parker’s intense skill in creating something memorable is impeccable, but his way of expressing his own feelings is even better, especially in Currents. “Yes I’m Changing” and its slow, swirling haze of vocals is the clearest example of Parker’s intense theme of alteration and maturation, and merges beautifully into “Eventually,” the first of the several tracks infatuated with the idea of love and relationships. Each instrumental seems to be commanded by Parker’s own voice, and lock into place accordingly. The lyrics show more of the feelings of isolation and loneliness, but in a more sympathetic way (‘Cause I know that I’ll be happier/ and I know you will too/ Eventually). It’s one of the best on the album for sure, all because it’s honest and vulnerable. “The Less I Know The Better” is a rapid continuation of that idea, but with its funky, groovy bass line and falsetto croon, you would have never known. Again, it highlights those repeated themes of loneliness and desperation, but its execution is absolutely brilliant and evocative. There’s also the gorgeous single “’Cause I’m A Man,” a more tongue in cheek sort of song more than anything else. Parker’s silken voice caresses the idea that men have no sort of explanation for their actions other than their gender, and the fact that this makes them pathetic and incredibly childish in their emotions. The way the instrumentals and effects counteract that idea is contemplative, yet fascinating all the same, which makes the track such a stunner. Closer “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” sums up Parker’s remaining feelings on his change into something more comfortable in its skin, and ends the album on a content, introspective note.
Currents is a meticulously crafted album, and it shows. I like to think of it as a kaleidoscope. Each colorful stone is placed with such focused precision and devotion, but when spun and played with, these stones become one gorgeous image that morphs and changes with the mere flick of a wrist. Often times, it’s hard to enjoy an album when its creator has gone through so many lengths to make it as parallel with his own feelings as possible that he himself often forgets to enjoy it. However, Currents is a masterpiece simply because of this exact struggle. Change is something we all go through as human beings, and it’s refreshing to see an artist so in tune with his own sense of forced adaptation that something truly beautiful grows from it. It’s clear that Tame Impala has found the path towards evolution, and from here, it seems like Kevin Parker can only go forwards.
photo courtesy of artist