Tame Impala’s never been that hard to dance to, but songwriter Kevin Parker’s forays into disco, trap, and R&B on Currents will no doubt be considered stylistic leaps — all the while retaining his talents for composing immediately catchy hooks. It’s an album that liberates a project that was two psychedelic, effects-laden guitar hooks away from becoming a caricature of itself; it now looks to the contemporary as much as it does to the past.
That songwriting gauntlet was dropped months ago, when the album’s first single “Let It Happen” was released, and here, it’s still unstoppable. In one busy, pulsing verse, Parker dreamily (as always) wishes for a storm to take him away, but the music brings something more akin to the eye of one, where subterranean synths offer brief respite from the drama — which comes back twofold in a tense coda, never quite resolving.
From there, Currents slows down, substituting urgency for sensuality. Parker tends to pair his lyrics — no matter how much heartbreak or disappointment is loaded up in them — with optimistic arrangements. But as ever, Tame Impala is more about sound than lyricism for this listener, and gorgeous moments abound. The blissed-out “Yes I’m Changing” finds a middle ground between Daft Punk and Vampire Weekend when a barely audible harpsichord dances over the wall of synths, and then soars over the sounds of a busy city centre.
Song for song, Currents might not be as hook-heavy and tight of an entry as 2012’s Lonerism, and I do wonder what kind of an album it would be if it followed the stylings of “Let it Happen” a little more. But Tame Impala have never been as exciting as they are now, when they’re embracing the now.
Chance the Rapper and Lil B
Free (The Based Freestyle Mixtape)
Chance the Rapper officially became a big deal for the rest of his life upon releasing 2013’s Acid Rap, a record that fused unbridled youth, energetic positivity, introspection, and acrobatic yet casual lines that stay with you long after your last repeat listen. similarly, Lil B is a sick rapper who talks about loving all other rappers and that it’s all about positivity squared, but that he’d still fuck all them other rappers’ bitches. And also that he’s gay, though he isn’t, but he’s totally cool with saying that he is. Both of these guys have the underground by the horns, but apparently neither of them vetoed the others’ interest in colouring so far outside the lines on Free (The Based Freestyle Mixtape) that you might say they were doing it blind. As the name suggests, this release is all improvised, and its raw hunger inspires and enlightens.
Vestiges & Claws
Swedish singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez’s latest record builds upon the calm, gently flowing folk of his past releases. And while there’s not a discernible change in direction — no added instrumentals, no obvious post-production touch-ups — Gonzalez definitely seems to have honed his craft further on Vestiges & Claws. This record is among the most hesitant I’ve heard from Gonzalez: “Idle as a wave / Moving out to sea … / Serene between the trails / Serene with the time and ink of a ghost.”
Gonzalez’ s lyricism is simple — “The cracks under the bridge, the gaps along the road / Why didn’t I see the forest on fire behind the trees?” — yet it’s strikingly balanced when backed up by an ever-present guitar, which, apart from some percussion, is the only instrument present on the record. The record plays as an accompaniment for a particularly overcast and slightly rainy car trip across rolling grassy hills — autumn in the Shire.