Tame Impala – Currents //
One of the most anticipated albums of the year is officially out, but does Kevin Parker’s latest long player live up to the hype? After reaching the psych-rock summit with Tame Impala’s first two albums Innerspeaker and Lonerism, Parker has changed course on the group’s third LP, trading guitars for synthesizers while continuing to refine his production chops. What results is more pop than rock, more disco than neo-psychedelia, as Parker copes with heartbreak, loneliness (again) and plenty of other emotions.
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BAM TEAM RATING:
We have been hearing about a third Tame Impala album since the fall, when Kevin Parker and company embarked on a mini-tour across the U.S. before turning their attention to new material. With that kind of buildup over the past eight months, it’s hard to expect anything less than greatness from Parker. But the Australian multi-instrumentalist has done it again, and most importantly, he’s done it his way. The 13-track Currents is a step in a completely different direction from the hypnotizing psych-rock that dominated the band’s 2010 debut Innerspeaker and 2012 follow-up Lonerism, and it’s refreshing to see someone as young as Parker (he’s only 29 years old) taking this big of a risk after receiving as much commercial success as he has at this point. Yes, he could have played it safe, boring us to death with the same sonic formula he employed in the past, but instead, he opened himself — and his bandmates — up to a new world, one filled with new sounds and textures and one that fans should ultimately come to appreciate, if not now, then with some more time. -Josh Herwitt
4 BAMS // Top Song: “The Less I Know the Better”
People change, and when they do, there are a couple ways it can happen. Either change happens to you, arriving at your doorstep as a surprise, or you change proactively, grasping onto control before it’s gone. Tame Impala’s creative captain Kevin Parker has chosen the latter, evolving his form and lyrical content to marinate around this idea of personal change. Currents finds Parker dabbling in new song structures (most strikingly with singles “Let It Happen” and “Disciples”), now-famously abandoning his guitar for synthesizers, introducing the finger snap as a motif and opening up to elements of R&B, disco, trance and funk — all genres he admitted he wouldn’t allow to seep into his creative consciousness, until now. Parker’s words directly address his transition toward a new man throughout his LP3, ultra-poignantly in “Yes I’m Changing,” and most effectively in album closer “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”. The chorus is Parker’s internal dialogue battling, one side pushing forward into new life territory as self-doubt creeps in at every corner. But in verse, the call for change wins out, and at the same time, he addresses Tame Impala fans who will be disappointed by his new sound — “Finally taking flight / I know you don’t think it’s right / I know that you think it’s fake / Maybe fake’s what I like / Point is I have the right / I’m thinking in black and white / I’m thinking it’s worth the fight”. Parker is no phony, and his proactive evolution, skating down the road to pop stardom, makes Tame Impala the most essential rock outfit in contemporary music. -Mike Frash
4.5 Bams // Top Song: “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”
If Currents was a family member, it would be your favorite aunt you don’t see often enough, yet during each visit, it feels like no time has passed at all. Tame Impala’s third album delivers the delicious, driving psych-rock riffs they’re so well-known for, along with a few crucial pieces of advice (particularly in “Yes I’m Changing” and “Eventually”). The only thing missing from Currents is a sense of urgency, but its absence isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instead, Kevin Parker keeps the vibe, well, tame, allowing you to ride the waves of the album without worrying about or even wondering where you are within it — as with any true current. -Rochelle Shipman
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Yes I’m Changing”
Kevin Parker is one hell of a producer. Currents, from its first listen, has a level of detail in its mixing that cannot be ignored. There are some fantastic moments throughout, kicking off with “Let It Happen”, which is about as explosive of an opening track as you can get. The groovy bass lines, especially in songs like “The Less I Know The Better”, really drive this entire album. “Past Life” has a great, trippy filter that washes over it in the chorus and perfectly accompanies the low voice narrating a story of a fated run-in. Some parts don’t seem as fully developed as they could have been, for example the intermission-like track “Disciples” or the songwriting in “‘Cause I’m a Man”, while the final track misses a big opportunity to bookend its massive opening introduction with a comparable conclusion. Currents is a ton of fun to listen to, and in preparation for what I expect to be an amazing set at Outside Lands next month, I’ll have this album on repeat for a while. -Brett Ruffenach
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Eventually”
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