WRITTEN BY: Jessica Gambino
Back in 2012, a younger, more naive Kevin Parker once sang, “I’m playing a part of somebody else, while trying so hard to be myself”. Whether it be buried amongst the 60’s-inspired fuzz-tones in Innerspeaker, hidden within the synth layers of Lonerism, or weaved between the disco grooves on Currents, those ideas of self-doubt, insecurity, and alienation have always been a prominent part of Tame Impala’s music.
Fast forward nearly a decade later (now with a gold album under his belt), and it seems as though that same man has finally found the courage to be himself. After five years since the release of Currents, Tame Impala returns with the highly anticipated LP4 entitled, The Slow Rush, an album all about the intoxicating feeling of watching time passing by. In this album, Parker reflects on his past and prepares to turn the page to the next chapter of his life.
It’s certainly been a busy couple of years for KP. The success of his third album, Currents, made Tame Impala a household name, which forced Kevin Parker to break out of his shell and learn to embrace his new role as a psych pop superstar. With his career on the rise, Parker found himself headlining various festivals around the world, and also took to collaborating with artists like Kanye West, Travis Scott, Lady Gaga, and Theophilus London. He also experienced some new changes in his personal life, and married his fiancé, Sophie Lawrence in February 2019. Luckily for the fans, all of these events didn’t stop him from dragging himself in the studio and banging out another work of art.
Considering the progression in Tame Impala’s sound over the years, fans were especially eager to see which direction he would go after Currents. Questions were slowly answered as singles were released throughout 2019 and early 2020 including “Patience” (which didn’t end up making the album), “Borderline,” “It Might Be Time,” “Posthumous Forgiveness,” and “Lost In Yesterday.”
While fans got a taste of the new sound through the singles, hearing the album in its entirety proved that it was truly worth waiting for. The Slow Rush is quite a captivating record – both musically and thematically. The album’s title is an oxymoron which represents the paradox of how time can feel both slow and fast. The theme of time is expressed within the twelve tracks of the album, each one seemingly representing a month in a year of Parker’s life. Stylistically, this may be Tame Impala’s most diverse album yet, as he channels everything from 90’s acid-house music, to Mariah Carey, to Supertramp. There is also a heavy emphasis on rhythm in this album, which is seen in the unique time signatures (“One More Year” is in 14/4) and of course, the clever drum production, which is the forefront of Tame Impala’s sound.
The opening track, “One More Year,” sets the tone for the album with it’s trance-like loop of processed vocals, which Kevin himself likened to a “Gregorian Robot Choir.” Building on top of the vocal loop are layers of luscious synth chords and a driving 90’s house beat. Beyond the hypnotizing soundscape are the thoughts of a man worried that his life has become too mundane, “Cause what we did one day on a whim has slowly become all we do.” While “One More Year” sets the tone for the record, “Instant Destiny” is where the energy is cranked up. The song is an uplifting ode to being young, in love, and fearless, starting off with the classic KP falsetto that just exudes a hopeful, optimistic energy — a new kind of feeling that isn’t as present in his older songs.
But…it wouldn’t be a Tame Impala record without the creeping sense of doubt and fear. The paranoia inevitably sets back in with tracks like “Borderline,” as Kevin questions if he will ever truly be known and loved over a tight arrangement of snappy drums and a buzzing bassline. The emotions intensify with the next track, “Posthumous Forgiveness,” a deeply personal track in which Kevin expresses his feelings towards his deceased father. The track opens with an eerie, old western-inspired riff that also sounds like it could be an alternative version of “Redbone” by Childish Gambino. Despite the main riff looping throughout all the verses, the complex drum pattern makes each second feel fresh and exciting. As Kevin pours his heart out in his Weeknd-style vocals, the track spirals into a point of intense chaos where it feels as though all of the instruments are wailing along … until the track suddenly slows and switches into an uplifting release of forgiveness and acceptance.
The optimism continues with, “Breathe Deeper”, which quite literally feels like a breath of fresh air. If it’s not the upbeat, infectious rhythm that is immediately striking, it is surely the vaporwave inspired intro keys that begin to flood listeners with a comforting sense of nostalgia (probably intentional, given the theme of the album). What starts off as a Mariah Carey/Pharrell Williams-inspired beat ends with a Chemical Brothers-inspired breakdown, with Kevin’s vocals echoing in and out while a gurgling synth swirls around the textured drums.
The last half of the album takes a more reflective turn with tracks like “Tomorrow’s Dust,” “On Track,” and “Lost In Yesterday” all acknowledging the past, but trying to maintain a focus on the present and what is yet to be. “Tomorrow’s Dust” echoes “Patience” with its bouncy bongo rhythms that elevate listeners to a positive state of mind. “On Track” is what Kevin describes as a track for the eternal optimist about “the pain of holding on to your dreams,” featuring emotional melodies among a series of swirling phasers and heartfelt piano. “Lost In Yesterday” is a groovy pop song about the common addiction to nostalgia and the romanticization of the past, which is illustrated perfectly in the music video.
The next couple of tracks are where KP flexes his inner DJ. “Is It True” — which was written in a mere couple of hours before the track was sent for mastering — features the best groove on the record that is sure to propel Tame Impala even further into the mainstream. “It Might Be Time” could be a B-side on Supertramp’s, Breakfast In America, if it weren’t for the witty lyrics and astounding drum production that give the track its modern twist. Parker dives deeper into the house influences with “Glimmer,” which is the end product of various loops building on top of each other. It serves as a perfect transition into the powerful closer, “One More Hour.”
“One More Hour” represents the last hour of the year in this sonic journey, so needless to say, things get pretty intense. It begins with the sound of a drowned out piano that sounds like the main piano riff from “It Might Be Time” was flipped on its head and taken into a more somber dimension. Seven minutes pass in what feels like thirty seconds as Kevin draws listeners into his world over a series of dramatic cymbal swells, blown out drums, and short guitar melodies echoing his vocals, as he looks back at his past and acknowledges all of the moments that got him to where he is now. There is something very Brian Wilson-esque about the track, but not because of the “God Only Knows”-type outro vocals, or the meticulous arrangement and production, or even the dynamic twists and turns…rather, it is the raw vulnerability that Parker brings to this track that is so reminiscent of Brian Wilson – the introverted perfectionist who seems out of place and ahead of their time.
It’s difficult to predict what’s next for Tame Impala. Will Kevin Parker continue to experiment in the studio taking on other genres? Will he seek out more collaborations? Will he take up DJing for a bit instead of making music? Who’s to say. Despite the uncertainty, though, there is one thing for sure: Kevin Parker is no longer afraid to face it.
- One More Year
- Instant Destiny
- Posthumous Forgiveness
- Breathe Deeper
- Tomorrow’s Dust
- On Track
- Lost In Yesterday
- Is It True
- It Might Be Time
- One More Hour
Follow writer Jessica Gambino on Instagram at @jessgambino