In exchange for their sometimes fickle loyalty, music fans of every background expect an unreasonable level of appeasement from performers. Demands include personal relatablity, a constant flow of tunes, selfless humility, and to be generally well received but not “too popular”. The music community does not necessarily expect longevity.

Even the most obscure and unorthodox genres get their time in the spotlight before receding back into previously held supporting roles; the artists that operate in and dominate these roles must too come and go. At the moment, the genre known as Future is being called to the stage; a delicate balancing act between gaining traction among the majority while keeping its compelling novelty ensues. Overall, Future has encountered relatively nonexistent pushback from the established main characters, who seem content to continue recycling the decades-old blueprints to success in their respective fields.

By redefining what can even be described as instruments, artists are incorporating 8-bit video game tunes, flipping ringtones, adding bizarre ambient noises, and continuing to blur the understanding of what we define as aesthetics. Producers of the modern day get away with this level of provocation because aesthetics as an idea is amorphous. Factors like exposure, maturity, and setting can lead to a harsh sounding guitar solo today being reinterpreted as a masterpiece tomorrow.

Under this fluid theory, every music fan can point back in time to a specific album or artist that gave them a different outlook on music as a whole. Whether it be the immortal first album of Kanye West, the discovery of Grizzly Bear’s folksy Veckatimest, danceable mashups by Girl Talk, Toro y Moi’s funky Anything in Return, Kid Cudi’s hijacking of the hip-hop scene, or the first time Skrillex blasted through the speakers at a party, passing through phases of music is a part of self-discovery that is both identifiable and incomparable. For a year – or perhaps a few years – listeners will continually recalibrate their ever-changing but never dying love of sound until said aficionados revert back to their audial comfort zone. This week, Perth’s pride and joy Tame Impala, the brainchild of Kevin Parker, has brought the majority back home to that comfort zone with its third release, Currents.

Lots of ink – and at this point, many more pixels – have been dedicated to the coverage of Tame Impala in general and Currents in particular. Spanning a period in which the band has collected Album of the Year awards in 2010, 2011, and 2012 to headlining global music festivals and arenas throughout this summer, visionary front man/ guitarist/ jack-of-every-trade Kevin Parker has been able to maintain a profound level of success despite a crowded field. Upon the first listen, many words jump to mind to describe the long awaited, once delayed epic follow up to his sophomore release: danceable, hooky, audacious, progressive. Originally slated for an early May release in time for festival season, Parker postponed Currents in order to perfect this instant classic of an album. In doing so, Parker has not only outlasted the competition, but run circles around them in the time since fans last heard from him. Promotional timelines be damned, this album has been well worth the nearly three-year wait since Lonerism.

For a collection teeming with countless past and present influences, Currents is a remarkably well-blended mix of new wave, funk, indie, and of course future. At its core however, this is an album based firmly in the realm of psychedelic rock. Varied genres aside, it is a collection of lyrically introverted themes: love, loss, pride, apprehension, self-loathing, and personal transformation. In many ways this single cohesive piece of music, broken into 13 pieces for easier navigation, is more of a story, an intricate web spun with Parker’s catchy vocals and weaved with killer bass lines.

The ambitious first single “Let It Happen”, which is also the introductory track, sets forth an hour-long auditory journey of propulsive synth and psychedelic melodies. This tune in particular strikes a chord (pun intended) with multiple members of the Ninja team:

“The sea-change from the deepest throws of the psych-rock displayed on Innerspeaker and Lonerism presents itself immediately on Currents’ opener “Let It Happen”- a tune we’re sure you’re familiar with. Right off the bat, Tame Impala diehards may have noticed an immediate structural change as an analog four-four snare and kickdrum pattern takes center stage with next to nothing in the realm of those scuzzy and heavy guitars we’ve grown accustomed from Kevin Parker’s Australian troupe. That is of course, until six minutes in, you’re clobbered by a loopy and simple four-chord guitar progression which only really enhances this track’s ambient minutiae. But it’s the entire build and movement that seals its listener into Currents from this one single.  There’s more nuanced hi-pass drum filtering put into “Let It Happen” than most bands would dream of utilizing in their entire careers, save for club producers (which after “Elephant” isn’t too surprising really) signaling Tame Impala’s careful and precise attention to not only their lead single, but the album as a whole. “Let It Happen” simultaneously cracks open Currents like a punch in the gut, while giving the long-player the necessary room it needs to breathe and evolve as an entire movement. Quite honestly, it may be this writer’s favorite opening to any album within the last decade.” – Matthew Bloss


Tame Impala
Let It Happen
“Spanning nearly 8 minutes, “Let it Happen” is an airy, psychedelic masterpiece that’s composition makes for a broad range of mental states ranging from progressive ambience to dance-floor grooves. It’s the type of song that would make for an epic live performance” – Ashraf El Gamal

In “Nangs”, audiophiles are seduced by a sub-2 minute dreamy pop intermission drawn from the playbook created by Alan Palomo’s mind-altering debut Psychic Chasms. Landing on the ears like a curveball following the straight-laced anthem of a first track, “Nangs” is a hazy inquiry towards the off kilter character referenced throughout the album (Is there something wrong, man?).

Listeners seeking a return from the Neon Indian-esque second track are greeted with an upbeat finger-snapping ballad in “The Moment”. Picking up harmoniously where the first single tailed off, the track unveils a situation in which the main character is wrought with growing anxiety towards an approaching decision. Parker shows off his ability to adapt and improve upon the styles of his peers in “The Moment” by starkly contrasting the vocals and the melody; in cutting the downtrodden lyrical content against a synth-driven bridge full of cheery guitar riffs and rhythmic hand claps, the single is inextricably linked with the bridge in fellow Australian band Pond’s recent release, “Medicine Hat”.

Following the storyline set forth in Currents, “Yes I’m Changing” tells of the repercussions from the previous track’s impending decision (Yes I’m changing, yes I’m gone, yes I’m older and I’m moving on) and how the protagonist of the journey copes with his choice (There’s a world out there and it’s calling my name // there is another future waiting there for you). While melodically gloomy as the lyrics would suggest, “Yes I’m Changing” is no less impressive and in fact more moving because of them. A shimmery, bell-laden bridge section at the 2:55 mark plays the song into conclusion, although not without notice of an unsettling insertion of traffic noises sprinkled throughout.

Shifting sharply from the slow bass guitar pop of “Yes I’m Changing”, the fourth single “Eventually” takes all of the emotion amassed from the previous four tracks and smashes it together into a raucously beautiful guitar intro. While extracting technical influences from the obscure hard hitting dance-punk band Does It Offend You, Yeah?’s 2008 album You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into, “Eventually” walks the well-traversed path of heartbreak lyrically. With emotive lines like, “I know I always said that I could never hurt you, this is the very, very last time I’m ever going to”, this crooning ballad is somewhat atypical content-wise of the rock jam it becomes in the second chorus. Lending from Mac Demarco influenced elements on Salad Days – guitar synth and pitch fluctuation – “Eventually“ sends listeners around many twists and turns on this fulfilling 5-minute journey.

Following the hugely dense “Eventually” would be a tall order for a full-length song attempting to gain relevance on this hit of an album. Luckily, Parker offers momentary reprieve from the storyline with a minute long, synthesizer-driven intermission.

The funky “The Less I Know the Better” is sure to become a sing-along once Parker begins to incorporate new material in his sets. Serving as the next chapter in the story, Parker harmonizes the possibility of finding an equal love (Oh my love, can’t you see yourself by my side?), the complexities of a failed attempt (She said its not now or never, wait 10 years we’ll be together), and of courting an unavailable admirer (I was doing fine without you, until I saw your face, now I cant erase). Dominated by funky basslines, the track operates in a realm that had previously been constructed by the late Jimi Hendrix and recently revitalized with Thundercat‘s “Them Changes”.

In “Past Life” a heavy vocal modifier continues the story as it delves into the emotions of running into the forgotten lover referenced throughout. The robotic ambient vocals, as unsettling as they are, somehow fit in with the hallucinogenic feel of the chorus and amongst another funky ethereal bass line.

Similar to “Yes I’m Changing”, the next song covers the sinking feeling of disappointment; the journeyman character is forced to concede that his romanticized views of the mystery woman referenced throughout have been flawed (Now its like the world owes you, walking around like everyone should know you). Sung with misleading cheer and vibrancy, “Disciples” is a tale of closure and coming to terms with separation.

The inspiration behind Currents second single “’Cause I’m A Man” was perfectly explained by its creator Kevin Parker in a pre-release interview:

“Lyrically I’m not usually that out there and straight up saying things, but it’s meant to be really tongue-in-cheek at the same time. The song is about how weak men are, basically, and how we make all these excuses but really we’re just these odorous male members of the animal kingdom. We don’t have any self-control and are pathetic, basically… but I guess I’ll let people figure it out for themselves.”

Approaching the end of the album, “Reality in Motion” despite its lovely hi-hats, pounding drum line and catchy bridge, still seems to leave something to be desired. More so than any other track on Currents, it feels the most like a track recycled or produced from their 2012 album, Lonerism. As a standalone track, “Reality in Motion” is epic and impressive. As a piece of Currents however, it falls flat in occupying a space between some of the most impressive tracks on the album.

“Love/Paranoia” hits like an avalanche at the 35-second mark asking the question “does it really fucking matter?” Replicating the synth-keyboard hooks MGMT used in 2007’s Oracular Spectacular, “Love/Paranoia” explores the theme of self-reflection (Suddenly I’m the phony one, the only one with a problem… True love is bringing it out of me, the worst in me, and I know now) over beautifully programmed melodies.

In structuring the album with wave-like qualities, Parker successfully keeps listeners engaged throughout with novelty and without overproduction.

“New Person, Same Old Mistakes” is both the conclusion to and the climax of the journey that is Currents. By far the most impressive among a collection of standout tracks, “New Person” fuses the best quality of each previous track into the DNA of the finale.
Fluidly layered vocals, ingeniously constructed guitar progression, soaring synth melodies, a surprising electronic solo after the bridge, and an aesthetically pleasing dynamic scale all contribute to the ode that is “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”.


(Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana)


By honing the power and strangeness of Lonerism, Parker’s latest album is certainly set to change the music landscape once again. Often bands, coming off of commercial success, wilt under the pressure of sustaining their moment in the spotlight, signaling an end to their reign. In Currents, we have the rare case in which speculation and patience have been met with appraisal as Tame Impala exceed all expectations.

Revisiting the question of what this album most resembles is most dependent on what phases the listener has taken. Are those chords reminiscent of early Pink Floyd? Is “Past Time” more fit as a single from The Flaming LipsEmbryonic? Do those ambient synthesizers come straight from the Daft Punk collection? Or is it a union of Twenty One Pilots, Yeasayer and the Britpop sounds of the Arctic Monkeys? In citing the many influences and feels of this album, it is abundantly clear that, as a whole, it sounds like nothing else. Any of these revelations – or perhaps all of them – are relevant in coming to terms with understanding music genealogy and the influences Kevin Parker shares in Currents.

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