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Album Review: Tame Impala's "Currents"

Tame Impala - Currents - 2015

Quick Review: Although a bold departure from Tame Impala's hazy psychedelic beginnings, Currents is an album not afraid to admit that simple pop melodies can be just as endearing. Kevin Parker & Co. trade the spiraling insecurities of their 2012 breakthrough, Lonerism, for an anxious adrenaline ride in Currents, a symbolic step outwards from solitude and into the sun.

Full Review: When I first heard of Tame Impala a little over four years ago, I barely paid them a passing listen, dismissing them as just another trendy hipster band with a silly name and perhaps a catchy song or two. But then in 2012, Lonerism was released, and after one solid listen from start to finish, I realized this band was the real deal: they had the swirling guitar grooves, the slick vocal harmonies, and the kind of explosive melodic contrast that quickly championed them as a prime example of modern psych-pop.

Their first two albums were the kind that embraced music as a form of escapism wholeheartedly. The band’s debut, Innerspeaker, was a landscape of reverb and exploring one’s own perspective – “I boast that it is meant to be / but in all honesty, I don’t have a hope in hell,” sings Parker in the album’s opening track, a tale of a hopeless crush that surrenders to being no more than a candy-coated daydream.

Tame Impala in 2010: "It Is Not Meant To Be"

Whereas Innerspeaker overflowed with warm 60s-vibes and crunchy guitar fuzz, Lonerism wielded big riffs powerful enough to take the band even further. The album itself dealt with themes of desperation and social isolation. The band rode on the success of Lonerism for what seemed like awhile before frontman Kevin Parker – the band’s sole creative force – admitted wanting to explore new dimensions with his songwriting. Thus was the inspiration for Currents, an album that seems both a sequel and opposition to Lonerism; that is, this is the album that urges the listener to forget the past, renew their current self-image, and step out into the world a different person.

The opening track, “Let It Happen,” is a dive headfirst into Currents, speeding the listener along a nerve-ridden track of anticipation. Clocking in at nearly eight minutes long, it’s an ambitious lead single; however, halfway through the pace picks up and releases into a Daft Punk-esque dance track unlike any Tame song we’ve ever heard before. A brief interlude, “Nangs,” follows and then whirls into the next big track, “Moment.” “Yes I’m Changing” is a slower, synth-driven ballad of acceptance and moving on:  “There’s a world out there and it’s calling my name,” sings Parker.

“Eventually” is the album’s radio-ready hit, and proves in itself that this is a band that has changed but it not afraid to embrace it. A short instrumental, “Gossip,” makes for an inbetween space before “The Less I Know the Better” begins. And this is the best song on the album, merging Parker’s love for groove and MJ pop-perfection with the kind of reverb-infused psychedelic ear-candy that his band has more than mastered at this point.

Other highlights include “Disciples,” the album’s retro-sounding throwback, “’Cause I’m A Man,” a poignant and swirling pop anthem-confession, and the defiant album closer, New Person, Same Old Mistakes.”

The sound of Currents is a far step from Tame Impala’s psych-rock roots, but underneath the surface of sparkling pop melodies and glittering reverb, you can still hear a hint of the band’s Beatles-flavored 60s vibes, particularly in Parker’s vocal style.  The album creates an atmosphere for itself, full of sonic riffs and future soundscapes with an undercurrent nod to the past.

In finality - no, Currents is not a rock album. It is not a deep lyrical album, it is not a guitar album, and it is not going to make every fan happy. But it is the kind of album that will make you smile or dance or feel a little bit less alone. Sometimes it’s alright to simply have fun in life and embrace the present moment; if Currents is the soundtrack to doing just that, I am perfectly content to relax, press play, and enjoy the rest of the summer before it can speed past my eyes and fade into bittersweet nostalgia.

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