When I first fired up Currents on NPR’s First Listen stream, I didn’t know what to expect. Tame Impala’s InnerSpeaker was and is one of my favorite albums, but their second album Lonerism didn’t appeal to my taste as much.
That isn’t to say Lonerism was a poor release, and it’s an understandably popular record. It just didn’t fit my taste. So, with that in mind, I didn’t know if I was getting InnerSpeaker Impala or Lonerism Impala.
As it turns out, I got neither. I got Currents Impala, and this new sound and feel is far different than both of those albums and their Tame Impala EP. It’s astonishingly how different this album feels.
The most obvious of differences is the general sound. While both of their previous albums are mastery of psychedelic-rock, this is more of a psychedelic-pop sound.
For the most part, Kevin Parker and his fellow Aussies have traded in their distinct riffs and almost unusual chord progressions for a proper electronic, synth sound. And it sounds terrific.
It can be classified as a pop record, but the synth and the general vibe of the album is so funky that classifying it as just a pop record seems improper. As Tame Impala has done before, the sounds of this album reach into various genres to collide into something that is essential to their sound.
For some, the lack of the all-important riffs and overall presence of guitar may be a downer, but it’s obvious that the Australian group wasn’t as focused on that sound as in recent memory, although you’ll still catch that sound throughout the album(for example, “Cause I’m a Man”).
While the guitar has taken a backseat, it’s made room for various other vibes and instruments. In some ways, the record sounds straight out of 70s funk, but in other ways, it gives off a vibe that feels like late-80s synth.
It’s hard to really describe, but this album is “feel good” music. It’s overwhelmingly positive, save for the occasional breakdown, such as “Love/Paranoia” in the latter half of the album.
Every song has a distinct sound, but the record is cohesive and transitions very well from song to song throughout the album which makes the breakdowns and rises in tempo and attitude extremely enjoyable and feel appropriate.
And while the varying sounds and transitions of the album are a personal favorite, there is gold in their lyrical writing. While the sound may be poppy and positive for the most part, lines like “In the end, it’s stronger than I know how to be/And I can’t just spend my whole lifetime wondering” in “The Moment” hit hard and let the listener know that the album is multi-layered in sound and in feeling, as well as prompting questions of what situation he’s referring to and how it inspired that song in particular.
Personally, the number one song on the album is single “Cause I’m a Man”. It seems like a proper mix of the pop-based sound of Currents and the psychedelic rock sound they’ve brought to the forefront in their previous releases.
This is not to mention the lyrics of “Cause I’m a Man”. In the second verse, Parker sings, “You wanna know what I always think I’m bind by/You never accept defeat or let it slide/But I have no voice if I don’t speak my mind/My weakness is the source of all my pride, I’ll tell you why”.
That’s four lines of the verse, but it’s almost impossible to give off the full meaning of his self-conflict without larger context. These are the best four lines to show his battle with being a man and appealing to his woman.
And while “Cause I’m a Man” is a personal favorite, the variety of music in this album is so great that almost anyone will find a song or two that they can enjoy.
This album was fantastic, and it’s currently my personal choice for Album of the Year. To put that into context, my previous album of the year considerations were rap releases: A$AP Rocky’s At. Long. Last. A$AP. and Earl Sweatshirt’s I Don’t Like Sh*t, I Don’t Go Outside.
I’ve enjoyed Tame Impala’s music for years, but no moment in the past comes close to how much enjoyment I got from this album.
Overall, this album mixes the vibe and feel of Tame Impala with a new, pop-based sound that has worked out unbelievably well. Currents is ambitious, and sometimes ambitious releases can fall flat, but it does not. They didn’t just try a new sound, they’ve killed it. If you wanted more of the old, I can’t blame you, but this album deserves a proper try, whether you are a Tame Impala fan or not.