Tame Impala’s excellent first two records, Innerspeaker and Lonerism found Kevin Parker portrayed as a reclusive prisoner of his own imagination amongst sounds funnelled from the 60’s and 70’s that sounded like remastered vinyl cuts from long ago. It was a bold and untravelled path, but as the entire music world took notice of Tame Impala’s imaginative lane, music seemed to latch on to this faux-psychedelia sound and emulated and copied the blueprint until “psychedelic” aspects of music seemed to bleed across all genres. With Tame Impala’s latest release, Currents, Kevin finds himself stepping outdoors and exploring the beauties and horrors of human interaction, all while transitioning to a more electronic revamp of their past, established sound—and again, Tame Impala has struck gold.
Currents is vast, immersive, and often times larger-than-life, with airy at atmospheric synths engulfing you immediately and not loosening it’s grip until the end of the record. It’s also a little less depressing than past Tame Impala releases, as the song structures utilized here are little more accessible and the hooks are less Beatles and more 80’s pop. This record has a continuous and definite bounce to it as well. Cuts off Lonerism seemed open-ended and almost endless, but the instrumentals here are constantly morphing and evolving and never homogenous. ‘Eventually’ constantly pivots from being a free-falling, airy ballad into a poppy section with guitars and arcade synths with Kevin projecting a heavy Passion Pit influence—’Let it Happen’, the glitchy and noisy intro is guitar-less, synthesizer heaven, while it spans almost eight minutes long, breaking and starting back up again equipped with lush and detailed beat breaks with a song structure not too far from Frank Ocean’s beloved 2012 single, ‘Pyramids’.
The lack of guitars on this album can definitely be considered as a departure for Tame Impala, but really, it seems like more of a deliberate untying of the noose of nostalgia. Tame Impala were verging on the territory of the dreaded “same-y” term thrown around blindly by fans and critics, and in a situation where you’ve carved out a homely niche for yourself, the moment that same niche becomes monotonous is when you can go from being one of the most celebrated artists to one that is simply dreaded and tolerable at best. The writing here is more focused, too, as Kevin sounds more at peace and meditated as opposed to his past albums where he sounded panicked and borderline schizophrenic. There is a narrative to this album, and it walks along his encounters with a love interest and instead of sounding victimized or troubled with his relationships, he sounds enlightened and realized. ‘Yes I’m Changing’ finds an impeccable balance between philosophical and brashness, as he says “They say people don’t change, but that’s bullshit”.
The album truly lives up to it’s name and moves with fluidity, and the motions and cohesive nature from song to song are a sonic representation at staring at a river-bend. Tame Impala didn’t ditch the psychedelic nature of the music, they just changed how they were doing it. Album standout ‘Cause I’m A Man’ simply responds to a woman he has wronged with the ingenious refrain “Cause i’m a man, woman/Don’t always think before I do”. It’s a moment where Kevin’s newfound sense of clarity is employed best, and it translates into one of the most infectious and enjoyable songs you will hear all year. The album undoubtedly sounds like something of a hallucinogenic trip, with simplistic but powerful lyrics being planted in your head and enough instrumental breaks in between to let them grow. By the end of any given song, you feel like you’ve experienced what Kevin has—the mark of a masterful writer and creative.
It has become evident that music for Kevin Parker through his band is some kind of personalized therapy, as his ability to embrace his issues and demons within himself through lyrics are not only contagious for fans and listeners, but it serves as a powerful act of reflection and self-improvement. Currents sonically is not a continuation of any sounds explored previously, and instead of being one of the pioneers of the sounds of processed and filtered nostalgia, Tame Impala can now pride itself on crafting a masterpiece of an album that is intricate and genre-bending. It’s as electronic as it is classic rock, with a perfect punch of soul on the side to establish Kevin as an incredible singer. Tame Impala’s past albums may have embraced the sounds found in an airy, echoing daydream, but with Currents, Kevin Parker and his band hit the pavement of reality and define just what it means to be human.