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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

An over-reliance on synths mars an otherwise great album from Tame Impala

Illustration for article titled An over-reliance on synths mars an otherwise great album from Tame Impala

When Tame Impala, the recording name of Australian musician Kevin Parker, released Lonerism in 2012, it served notice that 2010’s Innerspeaker was no fluke, and that Parker was one of the more important artists working today. For the past three years, anticipation for the follow-up has been building. Now that Currents has finally arrived, the results are positive, if slightly underwhelming.

Album opener “Let It Happen” is by far the best track here, and possibly the best song Parker has ever written. Throughout its nearly eight-minute run-time, the song effortlessly switches from genre to genre. At one moment, it seems reminiscent of ’80s synthpop, the next, it feels like a symphony. The way it travels from one style to another is a microcosm of Parker’s talent. He’s always been able to try out whatever sound he sees fit, and succeed. Unfortunately, he doesn’t do quite enough of that experimenting on Currents.

The biggest thing working against this album is that it feels a bit too synth-heavy, and a bit too homogenous. The same ’80s synth sound appears on nearly every song here, meaning the album lacks the variety that made Lonerism so intriguing. No individual song could really qualify as “bad,” but after a while, things can’t help but feel a tad predictable.

Still, there’s just too much about this album to like for it to be classified as a disappointment. “Reality In Motion” is one of the catchier songs Parker has composed, and shows a pop sensibility that would have been unthinkable on Innerspeaker, while “Yes, I’m Changing” is the most lyrically telling song here, with the line “They say people never change / But that’s bullshit / They do.” This could be a reference to how Parker has handled his own life since the success of Lonerism, but it also works as his mission statement. Tame Impala is three albums in, and none of them sound too much like the others.

Currents won’t quite get to join the club of all-time great third albums, but it’s still an impressive effort. Once again, Kevin Parker has made an album that has little in common with its predecessor, yet sounds surprisingly sure-footed. It feels inevitable that at some point Tame Impala will launch an undeniable masterpiece on us, because Parker simply has too much talent for it not to happen. Currents isn’t quite that album, but it’s an enthralling listen nonetheless.