Tame Impala Embrace Pop and Introspection on “Currents”

Featured Image by Gianluca Ramalho Misiti via Flickr

If the third LP from Australian psychedelia masterminds Tame Impala has anything in common with the band’s last two albums, it’s that Currents still sounds like something out of another era. But, unlike the distortion-heavy, guitar-propelled albums Innerspeaker and LonerismCurrents displays pop and disco influences, drawing upon a more precisely-produced, electronic aesthetic. The album’s thirteen songs sound like the playlist on an 80’s jukebox, interpreting Tame Impala’s signature psychedelia in a new way that’s more digital and slowed-down.

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Album Art courtesy of the Artist

While Tame Impala has been a collaborative effort until this point, Currents was mostly a one-man endeavor, with Kevin Parker recording the album by himself. This gives the album a more introspective feel, reflecting Parker’s thoughts and feelings; specificially, on “Yes, I’m Changing,” he sings, “They say people never change, but that’s bulls***/They do.” On the album’s final song “New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” Parker layers two vocals, one in a falsetto expressing optimistic hopes, and one in a bass-y undertone, bringing him back down to earth: “Feel like a brand new person/(But you make the same old mistakes)/I don’t care I’m in love/(Stop before it’s too late).” Parker intentionally keeps the inspiration behind his music vague, but it’s easy to draw the conclusion that the transitional nature of the album’s lyrics stem in part from Parker’s recent breakup with his long-time, live-in girlfriend.

Regardless, Tame Impala has always produced the kind of music that’s easy to get lost in, as album titles like Lonerism and Innerspeaker suggest, and Currents is no different. Many songs on Currents share a textural and auditory cohesion, but Parker manages to marry his music and lyrics in a way in which they interact together – when a song takes on a brighter, more melodic tone, Parker’s words become more hopeful, for example. The lead single off of Currents‘Cause I’m a Man” is particularly thought-provoking, with its repeated refrain. In the form of an apology, Parker sings, “‘Cause I’m a man, woman,” a lyric that sounds as though it could either address a woman or suggest feelings of gender ambiguity. To make matters more zany, the music video depicts a muppet-version of Tame Impala.

Tame Impala’s growth is pretty normal, following a typical trajectory. Their debut album garnered wide acclaim, they honed and expanded upon those sounds on their second album, and now on the third, they’re covering new, unfamiliar ground. Though this album takes some getting used to for fans who blasted Lonerism‘s “Elephant” through their headphones with the bass turned to the max, Currents is a solid, formidable LP, helping Tame Impala maintain their standing as one of the best psychedelic rock bands out there.

Watch Tame Impala perform the single “Let It Happen” live on Conan. If you like what you see, check out Tame Impala this fall at the Tower Theatre on October, 5.

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