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Innerspeaker

Tame Impala

2010

This is a fairly impressive debut album from a promising Austrailian Indie rock band.  They've got a psychadelic rock thing going on, and the lead singer sounds a lot like John Lennon, but they don't sound like a re-hash of the late 60s-era Beatles, but rather their own unique thing.  They've got good distortion-heavy riffs and grooves here and there, with a trancy beats/keyboards sprinkled in which enhances the melodic vibe of the album.  Perhaps more impressive is the overall catchiness of their songs, granted some of the songs have a mildly poppy vibe, but again, the psychadelic overtones kind of cancel out any negatives associated with that.  Although nothing particularly amazing here, Innerspeaker is definitely a pretty good album...will have to keep an Tame Impala.

8.2

Lonerism

Tame Impala

2012

Lonerism kind of sounds like what would happen if John Lennon re-discovered LSD in the 70s and was locked in a recording studio full of synthesizers.  The end result might sound a lot like Lonerism, as lead vocalist Kevin Parker certainly sounds a lot like Lennon vocally, and the textured, melodic psychedelic-pop songs featured on the album somewhat recall Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles.  But overall, Lonerism is not simply a rehash of 60s psychedelia, but rather it's own unique thing.  As the title suggests, there is a certain disconnected yet pervasive mood of isolation and loneliness that characterizes the album.  The psychedelic mood only enhances this feeling, and Tame Impala's use of synthesizers really adds to the otherworldly quality of the album.  And although the mood of the album is quite insular, that doesn't mean it's a downer to listen to.  The album flows incredibly well and keeps the listener engaged.  Some songs are actually quite upbeat in tone "Music to Walk Home By" and "Elephant" (the latter of which actually kind of rocks hard) for example.  And even the more bizarre offerings sound engaging and exciting to listen to, such as the albums opening 3 songs, which really suck the listener into the strange world that is Lonerism.  Perhaps the best song on the album is the yearning yet withdrawn "Mind Mischief" which sports a fantastic melody.  The impressive thing about Lonerism is it's ability to make bizarre, textured psychadelic soundscapes and marry them with catchy hooks and beautiful melodies.  It recalls 60s pschedelica and incorporates 70s-style synthesizers, giving the album a retro feel, yet still sounds fresh and original at the same time.  So far, my favorite album released in the teens, as Tame Impala certainly seem to be a rare new band actually worth getting excited about.

8.7

Currents

Currents artwork (Tame Impala album).jpg

Tame Impala

2015

Kevin Parker is getting laid too much.  At least, that's my theory as to why Tame Impala's hotly anticipated 3rd album, Currents, is such a disappointment in my eyes.

You see, Tame Impala's first 2 albums really struck a cord with me (particularly Lonerism).  They had a certain melancholy depth to them, were fairly sonicly adventurous/edgy (at least by 2010s standards), and were pretty catchy all at the same time.  There were always a couple of "poppy" sounding songs on each of their albums, but those seemed to be exceptions to the psychedelic rule that ultimately made them such engaging listens in the first place.

With 2012's Lonerism, Tame Impala became a certified Indie sensation, and coupled with the surprise success of their single "Elephant", they soon rocketed into the mainstream by the end of the following year.  Tame Impala were suddenly popular, appearing near the top of the bill on most of the summer festival circuits, and understandably, their popularity continued to grow as a result.

So how would they respond to this new-found popularity?  This question was particularly interesting given that Kevin Parker seemed to revel in his "Lonerism" (so to speak) and seemed to celebrate being an outsider, and standing apart from the mainstream ("Solitude is Bliss" anyone?).

In a nutshell, this sudden spike in popularity, money, and the associated rock-star status that goes along with that, has yielded an incredibly polished, and dare I say "tame" (pardon the pun) album in Currents.  Basically we see Parker embracing his most subdued and poppy tendencies here, and although he doesn't completely abandon the psychedelic and sonic experimentation found on Lonerism, he does certainly water it down considerably.  Essentially, he trades in the edginess/depth/experimentation that made Lonerism such a borderline great album for the popular production techniques favored in 2015.  It kind of sounds like Lorde produced this album, with it's pervasive down-tempo, overly processed beats, and that whole, shoe-gazy, too-cool-for-school, 2015 slow-motion vibe that only a millennial would think is cool.  Case in point are songs like "Cause I'm a Man", "Yes I'm Changing", and "Love/Paranoia".  There's too much glossy production here, that really makes the whole album seem unauthentic and somewhat plastic as a result.  That's not to say there are not a few good songs here, because there are.  "The Moment" is the only real standout, who's eerie keyboards provoke the same sense of dread that characterized the best songs on Lonerism.  "Eventually" falls victim to the same dull/draining/boring vibe that characterize most of the songs, but for whatever reason the chorus works there, so it's not bad overall.  The other songs are just too glossy to be taken seriously, or too...just...tedious?  And Parker seems to traded in his love for 70s synths/keyboards for 80s synths/keyboards, no needless to say that is disappointing for your's truly.

Overall, too many of these songs are too unashamedly poppy (in a pretentious 2015 sort of way) and eye-roll inducing.  Most of the lyrics seem to be centered around relationships, but mostly in an affectionate/love-struck sort of way, hence the eye-roll inducing sensation I get on too many songs.  So while I'm happy for Kevin Parker, the outsider/loner who's now achieved rock star status (and is apparently getting laid a lot now), I'm disappointed that it's seemed to kill his motivation to write profound music, or to keep experimenting.  The vast majority of the music here just doesn't have the depth/earnsty/profoundness of his earlier albums.  It seems phoned in, sure to please the 2015 Pitchfork crowd who seems eager to jump on whatever the latest trend is.  In the year 2015, that means overly-produced, down-tempo music with occasional "flourishes" that's, for the most part, about as interesting as a paper envelope.

7.4

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