As Tame Impala's frontman Kevin Parker emphasizes several times in his new album Currents, this album is not more of the same. The band became known for its thicket of fuzzy guitars and Parker's swimming, sometimes indistinct vocals. While the signature wobbliness is maintained, this album glistens with snappy, clean-shaven production and thumping techno beats. Indeed, this album is so different from Tame Impala's past work, it feels fitting that the album's theme is its own evolution.
"Let It Happen," the first track, immediately immerses the listener into a vast and imposing landscape. The song is like a birth; it becomes this nebulous, molten mass, something unformed for the listeners to sink their fingers into. Synth-heavy, it marks a noticeable difference from Tame Impala's earlier sound, and Parker's reported perfectionism is audible. The song enhances its title; it prepares the listeners for the rest of the album, submerging us in sound.
The album comes together most in songs like "The Moment" which is one of those songs where everything just seems to go right. The way Parker's voice floats on the surf of the music instead of getting dragged down into the depths; the mechanical whistling noises in the background; the strategical use of reverb; that mighty chorus of "It's getting closer, oh/It's getting closer;" and, perhaps most importantly, that vital, crackling energy that keeps pushing, pushing, pushing the song to greater heights.
I can't help but note the complementary contrast between the beauty of the album's production and it's equally often present experimental flourishes. The slightly growling synths on "Eventually" are emotive and gorgeous. The mix of nearly symphonic synths and guitar on the interlude "Gossip" create a perfect and unusual tension. "Cause I'm A Man" is slow and sexy, with staticky, sloping guitar chords and a touch of reggae in the beat. "Love/Paranoia," the penultimate track, combines Tame Impala's fuzzy echoes with trappy hi-hats and makes it work. "The Less I Know The Better" is twinkly and bittersweet, while "Yes I'm Changing" has a certain cultivated creepiness, as if it had crawled out of a Tim Burton movie.
On the other hand, some listeners of this album may take issue with its over self-awareness. At least, admittedly, I did. In "New Person, Same Old Mistakes," Parker holds an argument with himself, saying, "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," and I couldn't help but note his defensiveness. He anticipates criticism and lashes back against it. Of course, he was right; plenty of people have been complaining about how Currents sounds like it could be the brainchild of a different band completely. But by bringing this under a spotlight, Parker once again calls attention to the theme of evolution which is evident in songs like "Yes I'm Changing" and as an undertone in most of the album. Because of this, the message of growth feels slightly forced; he seems to have evolved for the sake of evolution, and while this is valid, its overtness feels like overkill.
Still, a qualm like that cannot detract from the mastery of this album or from Parker's obviously enormous talent. Parker is a powerhouse, and with this album, he has pushed Tame Impala firmly out of the bounds of psychedelic indie music, becoming more accessible without losing itself in the process.