Ever since the release of Kevin Parker’s first eponymous EP, Tame Impala have seemingly climbed the ranks as the biggest rock band on the planet with fans anticipating future releases and questioning how far it will push the boundaries of whatever genre Parker chooses to take on. At the front end of the Tame Impala discography is the rock era of a band with the breakthrough albums Innerspeaker and Lonerism. These albums undoubtedly put neo-psychedelia on the map upon release. In 2015 Tame Impala threw us for a bit of a loop with the more synthetic 80’s pop sounding Currents and taking Parker to the top seat of artist producers. Now nearly half a decade later, Kevin Parker is further developing his psych-pop sound with elements of hip-hop, house, and a more direct R&B influence. Titled The Slow Rush this album is a beautiful and groove heavy, melancholic road trip worthy ride through the heart of its genius composer.
A defining characteristic of the Tame Impala sound throughout the years have been their distinctly punchy and compressed live and electronic drum sound. As Parker mentioned in his Recent interview with Zane Lowe “all the rhythms going together, to me that’s like the cornerstone of Tame Impala.” On The Slow Rush, the drums are given such masterful production, they are the most dialled of any of the bands previous work. From the infectious house style beats on tracks like “Is It True” and “Glimmer”, to the explosiveness of “It Might Be Time” and “Instant Destiny”, their warmth give the album’s varied styles a sense of cohesion.
The main thing that gives The Slow Rush its emotional potency is the implementation of Parker’s vocals. Improved greatly since last effort Currents and perhaps most notably on the song “Tomorrow’s Dust”. His echoing, reverberating voice spreads itself over each song giving the album a real sense of spacial vastness. And though this effect continues to give the record its noted sense of unity, it can take away from individual listenability between numbers. This is why it’s recommended to listen to the whole twelve songs straight through to get the most out of each track.
The most exciting development that was made from the release was the sounds of hip-hop, funk, and R&B being added to the mix. Parker admits that time spent with his new high profile urban cast of friends like Kanye, SZA, and Travis Scott the latter of which Parker attributes an inebriated shopping spree as the spiritual event that informed The Slow Rush gave the album a newly minted sense of groove. The intro to “Breath Deeper” feels like it could have fit right at home on The Notorious B.I.G’s Ready to Die, while bass lines on “Is It True” seem to come straight from a modern discotheque. These sounds make the The Slow Rush feel smooth and act as a creative link between the straight forward dance beats and Tame’s signature stratospheric synthesizer sound.
To me, the three most powerful tracks of The Slow Rush are “One More Year”, “It Might Be Time”, and “One More Hour”, all of which carry the albums theme of fleeting time in their own ways. The opening track “One More Year” has a midlife vibe, as if Parker is asking for just one more year of his youth as if it were one long dream. A pitched down vocal chanting of the song’s title drives this desire into the listeners subconscious and sets up the tone for the rest of the album. This premise carries over to the chorus of “It Might Be Time”, but now with a more intense, abrasive tone. One can hear the sense of struggle when Kevin Parker’s layered voice repeats “face it” and “embrace it” over sirens and crashes that hit as hard as the unfortunate truth as Parker realizes that “nothing lasts forever.” Ultimately the closer “One More Hour” delivers the emotion of Parker’s acceptance and appreciation of his past. Rising and falling in epic operatic fashion, the song brings us to what is assumed to be the final hour of a life chapter, starting with the strong layered guitars and ending on soft glistening keyboards and Parks voice fading away.
The Slow Rush will be looked back on as another step forward made by Tame Impala. Once again, Parker creates something nostalgic to draw accessibility to its themes and identify with its influences. At points it can be a bit meandering but the wait times are paid off by moments of true sonic genius and introspection, continuing the band’s mission statement. A brilliant look into the future, like usual we are already excited to see where Tame Impala will take us next.