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Album review: Tame Impala blends past and future in highly anticipated fourth album

(Courtesy of Interscope)

“The Slow Rush”

Tame Impala

Island Records

Released Friday

By Tara Oldenburg

Feb. 14, 2020 6:14 p.m.

Tame Impala wields the power of time travel in its newest release.

The Australian music project is a part of a specific subset of alternative artists that occupied a “golden age” in the mid-2010s. And while alternative radio stations across America remain fixated on dated music akin to that period, frontman Kevin Parker proves in the band’s latest release that he’s not ready to let his music tarnish just yet.

Tame Impala’s fourth album, “The Slow Rush,” was released on Friday after five years of anticipatory silence. While fans were wondering if the band was ever going to release music again, the new record proves Parker was simply waiting to perfect a reflective and nostalgic album that straddles the line between consistency and modernity.

Tame Impala is a master of trance, trapping listeners in webs of synthesizers and keyboards in lengthy songs. Parker has outgrown the group’s distinctive sound and fortunately left this lulling trait behind in previous albums while also remaining true to its original sound in some ways. Instead, its newest record opens with “One More Year,” an anticipatory and repetitive anthem about the futility of time. The track is built off Parker’s distorted voice reciting “one more year” to warm sounding drums. Then, it hurries into “Instant Destiny,” which sets the tone for the album – pairing unexpected R&B and neo-funk tones with the Tame Impala classics of psychedelic and trance music.

[Related: Music Preview: Upcoming albums draw inspiration from personal experiences and global issues]

Picking up from where the band’s last album left its career, Parker maintains the use of cyclical synthesizers but subverts his typical mind-altering guitar with translucent, glittering house piano. “Breathe Deeper,” which comes midway through the album, is an anthem meant to be sung along to. The track entraps listeners with stripped-down drums and repetitive piano chord progressions that provide a refreshing change to the lengthy tracks that permeate the album.

But Parker voids any attempt to make a singable album with “Is it True” and “Tomorrow’s Dust,” which similarly grapple with the dissonance that can only come from a musician that has seen too much time pass without an album’s release. Parker urges that “there’s no use trying to relate to that old song” in “Tomorrow’s Dust” – the most reflective and stripped-down song on the album – in reference to his previous albums and his past experiences with loss.

“Lost In Yesterday” tackles similar themes to “Tomorrow’s Dust,” specifically the difficulty, yet importance, of letting go of the past. Parker addresses this concept as he encourages listeners not to linger on hurtful memories – especially if those memories “stall you, erase them.”

[Related: Album review: Halsey takes listeners on her emotional, self-reflective journey in ‘Manic’]

The singer also deals with his looming fears of being usurped by his own 2015 shadow in the shortest track of the album, “Glimmer.” Conceived as a result of keyboard smashing instrumental programs into a Chicago house-esque track, the song provides a short reprieve from the lyric-heavy songs and refreshes the listener before the final track, “One More Hour.” The album closer is most like Tame Impala’s original sound, allowing audiences to find solace in its repetitive tune that yearns for “one more hour.”

Remerging into the alternative scene, Tame Impala has finally established itself as a mainstay for alternative lovers with its ability to straddle its past and future simultaneously. Parker’s own obsession with the passage of time in “The Slow Rush” provides the perfect thematic blanket to ensure that his successful past doesn’t swallow him whole, allowing him greater creative freedom in the present. The album on time touches nostalgia, grief, fear and anticipation while subverting his typical roster of sounds.

Tame Impala seems to have had time to reflect on its career and the passage of time in the five-year silence before releasing “The Slow Rush.” Curiously, Parker has decided to break this time of silence with a refreshing ode to time itself.

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Tara Oldenburg
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