Currents is a record knowledgeable music fans are supposed to be excited for, paying attention to and ready to consider the best of the year. For one reason or another, Tame Impala has become the psych-rock equivalent of Arcade Fire or Kanye West. They’re an original voice in an established aesthetic, and that’s bound to get you positive coverage for the demographics reading both Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. In the face of positivity, the more cynical of us tend to doubt. Let me come out of the closet: I’ve never been a huge Tame Impala fan. Regardless, I’m here to suggest Currents is a record you should be excited for, paying attention to and ready to consider the best of the year.
Tame Impala isn’t exactly an underdog band: Kevin Parker has enjoyed the steadily increasing accolades of the music press, “Elephant” was a huge single, they’re a bigger-font festival band, and their name is almost certainly known to anyone who has bought any overpriced flannel from Urban Outfitters. They’re hyped big-time and, to be completely honest, I never really understood why. Would I say their sound was unique and impressive? Definitely. Did I love quite a few of their songs? I’ve put “Mind Mischief” and “Desire Be Desire Go” on many a playlist, and I was as down with “Elephant” as everyone. But did I think Innerspeaker and Lonerism were standard-raising works of psychedelic genius? I wished I did, but they never took with me as they did with so many others.
Currents is where the internal debate about Tame Impala’s hyped-up legitimacy ended for me. This is a near-perfect album. It’s a superb progression from their last efforts, a study in internal consistency and just chock fucking full with nearly an hour of great songs.
Parker seems to think of Innerspeaker as little more than a nice sprint at the start of a marathon if the instrumentation here is any indication. Back when Tame Impala debuted with their EP and the aforementioned LP, the conversations being had about them seemed to all surround the guitar work. Even with Lonerism, Parker was still concerned with being a rock musician in the traditional sense. Even with the record’s forays into more expansive soundscapes, it was still a pretty guitar-obsessed album. Currents may have some of his best riffs, but they’re there to anchor everything else, predominantly what’s going on with his voice interacting with synth sounds only he would choose in an era inundated with the electronic.
From opener “Let It Happen” to closer “New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” Parker manages to never shy away from the spotlight while somehow making you view him as a mere messenger given this incredible album by the muses. There’s a lushness to every instrumental and vocal decision here of a tone smacking of eternality. It’s psychedelic music less as a genre distinction and more as a legitimate description for how much your mind seems to expand when you listen to it. There are rewards aplenty to anyone who’ll give this record many listens, but they’re the kind which will shirk away if they’re sought out. Instead, you’ve just gotta sit back and let them come.
In the past, I worried Parker was too exploratory for his own good. He seemed like a person who couched some great riffs in the midst of somewhat directionless experiments. Blasphemy, I know. With Currents, I’ve repented. Innerspeaker and Lonerism sound a lot better now given that they’re part of an upward trajectory to an eventual masterpiece. He’s been called a visionary for years, but this is the ultimate proof he can see for miles and miles.