There are few artists who have helped define the possibilities of living just outside of the mainstream like Tame Impala. They have evolved from pysch-rock critic darlings to music behemoths headlining Coachella and selling out arena tours. Their 2015 LP Currents put the band and Kevin Parker, the creative genius behind the record, into another stratosphere. After three albums in six years, Tame Impala went eerily silent just as the world needed more from them. That is in part because of how much touring they were able to do, but also Parker started to work on other projects for other artists, like his collaborations with Mark Ronson as he stepped out into the greater pop world. Rihanna covered their song “Same Old Mistakes” for her 2016 LP Anti. Other members went on to push their own bands, like Pond, which has seen a huge surge in popularity in the later half of the 2010’s. Parker barely escaped the devastating California fires in 2018, losing all of his gear in the process. Even if he is wealthy, losing that much gear is not easy to replace. But there were some wondering what Kevin Parker’s music would evolve into after a long wait between records.
We got our first impression last spring with ““Patience” that was great, modern disco, but it was uncertain if that was the direction this album would or should go in. The track was left off of The Slow Rush as other tracks certainly used funk and disco influences, but did not go all in as “Patience.” When the album tracklist dropped, some were relieved not to see "Patience" on the record and instead a whole new crop of tracks. We have been getting a string of singles since then that do appear on the album and filled in a few of the blanks of what this album will sound like. Now we have the complete picture and it is a beautiful one.
The Slow Rush doesn’t break from precedent as much as Currents did from Lonerism. It certainly evolves into more refined pop that leans on psychadelica, soul, funk, rock and touches of R&B and hip-hop. There are moments that sounds like a direct line from Currents like on “Lost In Yesterday,” but it immediately turns around with “Is It True” with its playful synths, jogging drums and booming electronics that could find their place on a Justice record.
A lot has seemingly happened in Kevin Parker’s life. He has ascended into music superstardom. This is something he has leaned into, as he said to GQ that he was ready to embrace the celebrity lifestyle. We get a taste of what has meant for him on “One More Hour” when cynically accepts “I did it for love. I did it for fun. I did it for fame.”
The album ping-pongs between various influences, while still remaining pretty centered on a new Tame Impala sound. He channels a 2000’s Timbaland-like hip-hop groove and feel on “Instant Destiny” with lyrics that have the same carefree, pre-depression spirit of that time.
“Posthumous Forgiveness” brings a 70’s guitar feel, while “On Track” leans into the more subdued parts of the album and “Borderline” has the funky, piano-led exuberance we were led to believe this album is about, but in a very refined way.
There was one song I just kept on going back to over and over again when listening to the album this week. “Breathe Deeper” is as fun a song as you will hear this year. It immediately feels like sitting in a top-down Cadillac cruising around Los Angeles on a beautiful sunny day. It has that luxurious, West Coast feel that is often imitated, but incredible difficult to authentically replicate. The piano skirts the line of cheesy, but it is all you would expect from funk, 90’s R&B and synth-led psych rock with the Tame Impala touch. This is going to be a crowd pleaser.
As we sometimes saw on Currents with tracks like “New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” songs can evolve with a right turn into very different melodies and tempos. “Breathe Deeper” switches things up during the last minute with some deep acid basslines.
This is much less of a stoner album (though it doesn’t completely run away from that use) and more towards the stages and live shows Tame Impala now play. A life on the road for the past three or four years could have made an indelible impact on Parker who wanted music that would make people dance more and be less hypnotized.
The End of “Tomorrow’s Dust” sounds like standing in a bathroom at a music venue with the echoing sound of “Breathe Deeper” in the background, a sign that he wants his music to be played in different venues and clubs
This plays into a larger trend we have seen from Parker recently. He collaborated with ZHU in 2018 and much of the album embraces modern electronic music with swirling synths, acid and booming bass lines.
One thing fans will notice quickly are the sonics. The Slow Rush is well produced, mixed and put together. His first two albums were crunchy, distorted and a little messy on purpose. This has the sheen of a modern album designed for the widest impact. This album just sounds good.
One remarkable thing about this album is that it fit more motifs, elements and sounds like flutes, squelching acid, guitars and Wurlitzers into each song than most bands do. One man (Kevin Parker produces, writes, plays and engineers all of the songs) seems to have more ideas than full bands.
Parker has done it again with this album. It is an evolution into a new era for the band without completely ditching the past. It is luxurious, fun and relentlessly creative.
Stream the album now and pick up your copy here.