Wednesday, October 3, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Tame Impala - Lonerism

Let’s transport ourselves back to 2008. It was nearly a decade since a truly great Australian record was released. Australian music overall has experienced a slump, Nick Cave seemed to have run out of creativity, The Avalanches were in a state of limbo, and Jet and Wolfmother were ruining our reputation overseas. Then a little rock band named Tame Impala dropped their self titled EP. It was different, it was original, a mix of lo fi and early 60’s psychedelic rock, with a tinge of bluesy garage rock. The single “Half Full Glass of Wine” garnered some attention, and then they kind of just fell off about as quietly as they came.
2010 comes and Tame Impala come roaring back with the spectacular Innerspeaker. It was a huge and expansive record, which created a land of swirling guitars, rolling drums, satisfying jams and dreamy melodies which could expand and unfold over 5, 6, even 7 minutes at a time. It paid homage to everything from some of the best music of decades passed, yet also felt modern.

If you can’t tell, I absolutely loved Innerspeaker, so when I heard that Tame Impala would be releasing a new record this year; I was ecstatic, but also somewhat sceptical. Following up Innerspeaker would be no easy task, but I believe writer and (on the record) the only member Kevin Parker, has done it. Putting it out here right now, Lonerism might be one of the best records of the last 10 years for me. But let’s settle down, and actually talk about why it's so good.

First off, there are synths, synths everywhere. Tracks like “Be Above It”, “Apocalypse Dreams” and “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control” contain huge vintage sounding synths and organs, and in the case of “Be Above It”, they even overpower the guitar. The melodies are more emotional, funkier, and, for lack of a better word, more epic sounding than on Innerspeaker. The jams and choruses of these tracks soar into the atmosphere above, think more like “Runway, Houses, Clouds, City” from Innerspeaker on ten, and some tracks have nearly brought tears to my eyes. Yet with poppier, brighter melodies, the lyrics are more morose and depressing. Kevin Parker must be the most unpopular person ever according to songs like “Why Don’t They Talk to Me” and “Apocalypse Dreams”.

The song structures are looser and jammier, with the last half of a lot of songs being devoted to guitar work outs. In particular, “Keep On Lying”, Kevin sings for just shy of a minute and a half, and spends the rest of the near 6 minute track jamming his blues away. The production is also markedly different, where Innerspeaker crisper, cleaner, and more produced, Lonerism takes on a fuzzier, warmer, and, at times, even a lo fi sound.

All of these changes add up to Lonerism’s biggest strength, on paper Lonerism is more accessible than Innerspeaker, yet on record it feels rough and bold, like the younger more immature brother of Innerspeaker. Enough guts to put in a melody that sounds like it was ripped from a cheesy 70’s pop hit, yet slathers it in messy post production effects, and puts in a bridge which extends the track for another 2 minutes. It blends pop and psychedelic rock in a way which has not been done before. Tame Impala is in a league of their own, creating music that’s instantly gratifying yet rewards more listens as the tracks open up with the amount of depth they have the more you listen to them. This is a record which allows us to peek into a world of simultaneous bliss and melancholy. We should be thankful that music like this exists and is still being made.


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