Album Review: “Currents” by Tame Impala

Currents
Released: July 17th, 2015
Reviewed by Thomas Johnstone
Rating: 4/5

“I heard about a whirlwind that’s coming ’round / It’s gonna carry off all that isn’t bound,” Kevin Parker announces on “Let It Happen,” opening track of Australian act Tame Impala‘s new record Currents. The lyric forecasts the album’s theme of personal change, from its distant rumblings to its disaffecting aftermath, and given the apocalyptic imagery, we’d hardly expect the changes to be slight.

Fittingly Currents delivers by departing from the act’s previous work in big, surprising ways, given the expectations we might have following two acclaimed albums which comfortably wear the label “psychedelic rock.” Despite possessing a keen sense of melody and lyrical maturity, Kevin Parker—the sole recording and producing musician of Tame Impala (he mixes this time around, as well)—has always seemed less of a songwriter than a clever studio craftsman. A typical track obscured his Lennon-like vocals behind snaking bass lines and 70’s guitar riffs, forming mantra-like jams awash in bombastic drums and reverb. The closing track of 2012’s Lonerism, “Sun’s Coming Up,” seemed to lay the Tame Impala formula bare. A sad carnival waltz for voice and piano, shockingly bare and traditional given everything it follows, eventually turns to full-blown noise collage à la “Revolution 9.” With this self-deconstruction Parker seemed to be both copping to his Beatles influence in the most blatant way, and acknowledging his art’s competing elements: the traditional song, and the abstract, chaotic sound world of an expanded mind.

With Currents, the song finally gets its day in the sun. This is largely an album of pop songs, and Tame Impala’s familiar elliptical jams are kept to a minimum. The main exception is “Let It Happen,” which tries several styles on for size over the course of its nearly eight minute fantasia: dance pop with vocoder, gnarly guitar riffs and even a diversion into synth-orchestra territory that recalls Mercury Rev. It’s like Parker preempted the DJs by remixing the track himself.

As the album progresses it’s clear such meandering is the exception rather than the rule, perhaps by design, as this opening track eases the transition to more traditional territory. Traditional, at least, in the abundance of well-structured songs like “The Moment.” It’s a testament to Parker’s songwriting chops (a few clunky rhymes aside, it feels like he’s been doing this all along) that a listener is more likely to fixate on the newly electronic texture. Keyboards dominate, with guitars mostly relegated to short, funky riffs as on “The Less I Know the Better,” a smirking love song which could easily fit on Daft Punk‘s Random Access Memories. Drums are more danceable and reigned-in (you won’t even hear a crash cymbal until track 5) and vocals no longer feel like an afterthought; Parker’s sweet tenor sits front and center, his double-tracked Lennon pretensions of the past nowhere in sight. Not that he’s entirely abandoned psychedelia, evidenced by a dramatic vocal delay in “Reality In Motion” or the blurry pads of studio scrap “Nangs,” but the effects enhance as much as they obscure. Parker balances the rhythms and textures of his electronic soundscape with surprising ease, resembling Caribou much more than the Beatles. In fact, he slips so comfortably into his new skin it feels like splitting hairs to complain that the album feels merely expert, rather than groundbreaking.

Assured as Parker’s technical skills may be, the heart of the album is a narrative arc shining a light on individual growth. “The Moment” confronts a now-or-never fork in the road, while “Yes I’m Changing” reconciles the choice to move ahead with the pain of what’s left behind. Closing track “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” contemplates change as illusory and temporary, skeptically suggesting Currents‘ arc is not a timeline, but a closed loop: skip back to “Let It Happen” and repeat, ad infinitum.

Currents answers Tame Impala’s rising profile with a daring change of direction, and that move has already earned comparisons to Kid A and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Excellent as the record is, the comparison is a bit generous—Currents doesn’t reach the heights of those seminal albums, and Parker’s boldness is of a safer variety. Whereas Radiohead and Wilco showed a willingness to lean into abstraction that bordered on perverse, Tame Impala does the opposite by embracing pop songwriting, and comes out all the more listenable for it.

“They say people never change, but that’s bullshit,” Parker confides on “Yes I’m Changing,” and Currents gives every reason to agree. Parker embraces change so successfully, we might assume he isn’t finished—Currents may be a mere pit stop on the way to Tame Impala‘s yet-to-come masterpiece, but it’s a trip well worth enjoying on its own.

Best of the Best: The Beatles

Making a Top 5 list of Beatles albums is a daunting task. There are so many obsessive, argumentative, die-hard Beatles fans and hecklers out there.

I’ve known about The Beatles my whole life—from hearing their hits played on the radio, to seeing documentaries, reading articles, and even obtaining some choice albums and compilations. I also used to be on a radio show called Here, There and Everywhere on KZSC-Santa Cruz, spinning tunes by The Beatles, the four solo members, and anyone related to them. I’ve enjoyed most of their music, and I’m aware of the band’s sonic and personal development over time.

The Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr) not just changed with the times—they SET the times. They discovered new places, people, and ways of thinking, and were incredibly public with sharing their journeys with the rest of the world. Their albums give a snapshot of their changing mindsets and priorities, and over time, a few have stood out to me as the best. What do you think of this list?


 5 . With the Beatles (1963)

With the Beatles

1963’s With The Beatles, the band’s second studio album, will start the low end of this list. My personal preferences (since we all have them) lean towards the latter part of The Beatles’ career, but this oldie stands out to me for a few reasons. First off, it gives a good look at the origins of the band: bowl cuts, songs about love, one foot stuck in the 50’s. Top that off with covers of classic Motown hits like Barrett Strong‘s “Money (That’s What I Want)” and the Marvelettes‘ famous “Please Mister Postman,” and you’ve got a recipe for commercial success that people in the early sixties will obsess over.

Album highlights: “It Won’t Be Long,” “Please Mister Postman,” “Hold Me Tight,” “Money (That’s What I Want)”

4 . Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Here we go—you’ll notice things have changed a bit with this album. By 1967, The Beatles had begun to experiment with new things—musically and more. Sgt. Pepper can be considered an early form of a concept album, where the band performs as a different group called Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It’s an important set of recordings because it helped solidify the “album” concept as a whole (i.e. releasing a special curated group of songs, vs. just singles on a record). It also helped introduce elements of psychedelia into British rock. The Beatles started to be open with their use of substances like marijuana and LSD, by vague and not-so-vague references (“I get by with a little help from my friends / oh I get high with a little help from my friends”). Even though John Lennon explained the pure coincidence between the song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and the abbreviation L.S.D., the song is heavily surreal all the same. “Within You Without You” is an excellent song written by George Harrison and performed by a group of Indian musicians, which holds true to elements of classic Indian musical style. With phrases of Vedantic philosophy, Indian beats, and sitar galore, you’ve got a real example of how the Beatles’ sound had literally traveled thousands of miles and beyond. Sgt. Pepper, to this day, is one of the best-selling albums in music history.

Album highlights: “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Fixing a Hole,” “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” “Within You Without You”

Also awesome: The mashup of “Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows” on The Beatles LOVE.

3 . Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

Magical Mystery Tour

Here’s one that came out soon after Sgt. Pepper, later in 1967. The Beatles kept the surreal/fantasy trip going with Magical Mystery Tour. I mean, just look at the cover art. The idea for this album started when Paul McCartney wanted to create a film about the band. Descriptions of the plot are weird, to say the very least, and the film was poorly received. But it left us with a few hits that are widely enjoyed and remade, including the nonsensical “I Am the Walrus” (remember when Bono sang it in Across the Universe?), and “Hello Goodbye.” After releasing two psychedelic albums in 1967, it became clear the fab four had departed from tame songs about heartache and relationships to themes of universal love and endless imagination.

Album highlights: “I Am the Walrus,” “Hello Goodbye,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Baby You’re a Rich Man,” “All You Need is Love”

2 . The Beatles (The White Album) (1968)

The Beatles - The White Album

Yes. Yes! With two whole discs making up The Beatles’ White Album, it’s hard not to find a few that you really like on here. This album goes all over the place—for better or worse—but it’s still high up on the list. The White Album brings a lot of great, solid rock n’ roll to the table: “Back in the USSR,” “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?,” and the widely-used b-day jam, “Birthday.” The song “Happiness is a Warm Gun” is one of my all-time Beatles favorites, and it’s great to sing along to (especially when the singing breaks to a bluesy dialogue spoken by John Lennon: “When I hold you in my arms / And I feel my finger on yoooour trigger…”). The song was banned by the BBC for its references to sex and drug addiction (“I need a fix ’cause I’m going down”). Those references are clear, but it’s an honest and raw tune. The album goes to softer places with the famous and beautiful song “Blackbird.” Overall, the social and political references are prominent throughout discs 1 and 2, and The White Album does an incredible job at showing us what it was like in 1968 (for those of us who don’t know).

Album highlights: “Back in the USSR,” “Dear Prudence,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” “Blackbird,” “Rocky Raccoon,” “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?”,  “Birthday,” “Revolution 1,” “Honey Pie”

1 . Abbey Road (1969)

Abbey Road

Ah yes, Abbey Road makes #1 on my list. Let’s start from the top. The album name is a tribute to Abbey Road Studios in London, where The Beatles recorded the majority of their work, and the iconic cover art is constantly being re-enacted by fans (watch a live stream here!). This is The Beatles’ 11th studio album, and reportedly their best-selling. The first track, “Come Together,” is insanely good because of the way it makes you move and groove. I won’t go through every track, but I encourage you to get a copy for your collection and listen through it. The best song on here, in my honest opinion, is “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” The emotion and desire in that song is so very real. It’s a long song, almost stretching eight minutes, and it changes rhythmically and stylistically at different points. You’re taken on a roller coaster, going everywhere from cool, calm observation, to the fiery depths of despair and defeat. Just when you think you caught a break, you’re hit in the heart with a burst of heavy guitar riffs after the words “She’s so—.” At that point, the song transcends the auditory realm into something you can physically feel, and it’s heavy as hell. The lyrics are sparse, letting the music do the talking. This is The Beatles at their very best, and at their last. They disbanded before the record was even released. Ending on a lighter note, George Harrison’s song “Here Comes the Sun” is fundamentally positive and optimistic, and a favorite of many Beatles fans. In a way, it’s looking towards a future where music by the entire band and its individual members will continue to be played and enjoyed by all kinds of people, even those who came after their time.

Album highlights: “Come Together,” “Oh! Darling,” “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Mean Mr. Mustard/Poythene Pam/She Came in through the Bathroom Window”


If you agree or disagree with my Top 5 albums, let me know in the comments! And, of course, check out The Beatles discography on Murfie.


Kayla Liederbach
@djkaylakush

Kayla manages social media and customer support at Murfie. You can hear her on the radio hosting U DUB, the reggae show, Wednesdays on WSUM. She enjoys hosting the Murfie podcast, cooking, traveling, going to concerts, and snuggling with kittycats.


Musical Memories of Dad

Kayla: Father’s Day weekend is here, and many of us are taking time to say “thank you” to the guy who showed us so much about life. If your dad is anything like mine, he’s a huge music lover. I remember sitting on the couch with Dad, watching Pop Up Video on VH1 for hours, singing along to “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt, and “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey.

RHCPMy dad tells a funny story about the first time I ever spoke a “complete sentence” in front of him. He said we were in our usual couch spot, watching Pop Up Video, when I turned to him and said, “Maybe the Wed Hot Chiwi Peppews will come on!”. (I’m from Wisconsin, but for some reason I spoke with a weird New-York-sounding accent when I was little.) My Dad said that he was so surprised and amazed to hear my first real phrase be about RHCP.

A lot of us have musical memories like these, whether your dad likes classic rock, funk, or classical composers. I asked the Murfie staff to share some musical memories they have of their dads, along with particular albums that come to mind. I hope you enjoy!

Beach BoysJohn: “Any album by The Beach Boys reminds me of my pops. I remember the ride home from daycare when I was little always seemed to include a Beach Boys tape. A lot of those songs are on Endless Summer.”

Blood, Sweat & TearsJeff:Blood, Sweat & Tears is one of my dad’s favorite bands and he plays them all the time. I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone else who likes this band.”

Prime PrineAndrew: “This CD [Prime Prine] never left my Dad’s ’94 Plymouth Voyager. It was a staple on all of our family vacations.”

Jagged Little PillSteve: “My dad use to listen to Jagged Little Pill in the car when we lived in Oregon in ~96′. He would turn down the music when she drops F-bombs to protect my young and impressionable ears”

Kingston TrioMarc: “There was very little music in my house growing up. Radio was almost always talk stations with NPR classical in the car on Sunday mornings. However, I do remember many car rides back from Sunday church with The Kingston Trio in the tape deck, and, with the amazing technology of bi-directional tape decks, on infinite repeat.”

Car and DriverJason: “My parents almost always had music on in the car, and on Sundays they would play ‘oldies’ on 101.5 FM in Madison for a few hours in the morning (this was before the 24/7 Oldies stations). My dad was in a band in the 60’s and was into a wide-range of music from that era, but this album [Car & Driver] has a lot of his favorites.”

Richard ThompsonMatt W: “My father was very particular about the music we had playing in the car when we went to see relatives. Depending on the relative we were visiting it would either be Richard Thompson or Wagner.”

James: “It was Pop’s duty to clean the house every Saturday while Mom worked; he needed to look after us kids as well, but he never really considered that a chore. Two things would usually accompany his cleaning: records and a cocktail. The drink was usually either a 7&7 or a CC&7, and while the records would rotate through whatever Colombia House had sent that month, he would always find his way back to AbraxasAbraxas or Steppenwolf Live. Whenever I hear ‘Oye Como Va’ or ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ it brings me right back to those golden Saturdays – and I am reminded of MY first drink, as a 5 or 6 year old. I had just come in from playing outside, parched, and saw his cocktail on the kitchen table. I mistook it for an inexplicably unattended, but probably refreshing, lemon-lime soda; the condensation glistening in the soft Steppenwolf Liveafternoon light, taunting my thirst, begging me gulp some down. Now, Pop was watching from around the corner as all this was happening, and as witness he loved to tell this story. At that point in the tale he would pantomime my reaction (sometimes with an added spit take for the extra funny) and double over in uproarious laughter – he said he could never forget the look of disgust and shock on my face after I lowered the glass from my lips, but unfortunately he could never remember whether it was a 7&7 or a CC&7.”

LegendPete: “My Dad loved music, and Frank Sinatra was without doubt his favorite artist of all time. I remember as a kid sitting for hours with my older brother flicking through his vinyl record collection—he had a lot of Beatles 45 EP’s too. One album I remember him asking us to buy him for his birthday during the mid 80’s was Legend. Whenever I hear the song ‘One Love’ or see this album sleeve, it always reminds me of my Dad.”

Chet BakerLena: “My dad consistently listened to show High Standards with Jonathan Schwartz and the Real Jazz channel on Sirius. Just hearing the name Wynton Marsalis reminds me of him. I think my dad has a soft spot for Chet Baker, and so do I—it’s hard not to once you start listening.”

Smash MouthLeah: “My dad has always been a blast to drive around with, since he loves to play all sorts of music at full volume in his car. During my childhood, his picks centered on rockers like ZZ Top, Spin Doctors, and Nirvana, but as I aged, his tastes progressed to everything from Rage Against the Machine, to The Used (yes, really), to The Shins, to a fantastic Argentine accordian player named Chango Spasiuk. However, the fact that my dad will to this day still randomly chant that main distorted guitar riff from Smash Mouth‘s ‘Walkin’ on the Sun’ (‘ehh-EH-eh-EH-EH’) made this an easy choice amongst all of his favorites for jammin’ out.”

Happy Father’s Day from the Murfie crew! :-)

This Week in Music History (January 8th-14th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

1/8- On this day in 196, The Rolling Stones‘ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were barred from the Hotel Crillen in Lima, Peru. The rockers were asked to leave the exclusive hotel after hotel staff spotted them wearing op art pants and noting else. When they refused to change, the two were kicked out.

1/9- On this day in 1976, Queen shot to the top of the UK singles chart with “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The single, which enjoyed a nine-week run on the British chart and sold more than a million copies in a month, would go on to become the UK’s third best selling single of all time.

1/10- On this day in 1964, the first US Beatles album, Introducing…the Beatleswas released on Vee-Jay records.The album, featuring a photo of the Fab Four with their famous “mop top” haircuts, sold over 1.3 million copies that year.

1/11- On this day in 1964, Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire became the first country album to hit No. 1 on the US album chart. Although Cash released dozens of albums during his career, the album remains among his most famous of all time.

1/12– On this day in 1969, Led Zeppelin‘s self-titled debut album was released in the United Kingdom. The album, which was recorded in London, took only about 36 hours of studio time to complete. It spent a total of 71 weeks on the UK chart.

1/13- On this day in 1969, Elvis Presley began the first day of a 10-day recording session that would result in his final US No. 1 record, Suspicious Minds. The session took place at American Sound Studios in Memphis, Tennessee–the first time Presley had recorded in his hometown since 1956.

1/14- On this day in 1967, over 25,000 people attended the Human Be-In event at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The concert was a forerunner of many of today’s major outdoor concerts, and featured artists like The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.

You can own any of these or other music history gems—just head to our music marketplace and pick them out! All albums purchases include: CD, streaming, and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and Apple Lossless.

This Week in Music History (December 19th-25th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

12/19- On this day in 1957, Elvis Presley was served his draft notice for the United States Army. Presley would go on to join the 32nd Tank Battalion Third Armor Corps, based in Germany.

12/20- On this day in 1967, folk singer Joan Baez was sentenced to 45 days in prison. The singer had been arrested during an anti-war demonstration protesting the Vietnam War.

12/21- On this day in 1985, Bruce Springsteen’s famous Born in the USA passed Michael Jackson’s Thriller, becoming the second longest-lasting LP on the US Billboard Top 10. The Boss’s LP stayed atop the charts for 79 weeks.

12/22- On this day in 1981, at a rock and roll memorabilia auction in London, Beatles memorabilia was auctioned off to fans. A suit John Lennon wore onstage sold for £2,300, a letter from Paul McCartney sold for £2,200 and a sculpture of John and Yoko Ono sold for £4200.

12/23- On this day in 1977, English singer and songwriter Cat Stevens formally changed his name to Yusef Islam. Islam will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.

12/24- On this day in 1965, The Beatles had the number one album in the US for the third Christmas season in a row. The Fab Four’s Rubber Soul topped the LP charts in 1965, after Beatles for Sale and With the Beatles the two previous years.

12/25- On this day in 1954, Bing Crosby’s White Christmas” was on the Billboard Pop Chart for the eleventh time. The song has sold over 100 million copies around the world.

Pick yourself up some pieces of music history in our CD marketplace, for as little as $1! Every album in your collection comes with free downloads (FLAC, ALAC, mp3, aac) and unlimited streaming. ;-)

This Week in Music History (October 30th-November 5th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

10/30- On this day in 1971, John Lennon went to No. 1 on the UK charts with his album Imagine. The album contained two songs—”How Do You Sleep” and “Crippled Inside”—attacking Lennon’s former Beatles bandmate Paul McCartney.

10/31- On this day in 1970, Led Zeppelin began a four-week stint at No. 1 on the US album charts. The hit album, Led Zeppelin III, was the band’s second US smash and remains one of its most critically acclaimed albums to this day.

11/01- On this day in 1980, Bruce Springsteen’s first No. 1 US album, The River, reached the top of the charts. The album was just one example of The Boss’s massive success, and is still critically acclaimed to this day. Rolling Stone ranked it #253 on its list of the greatest albums of all time.

11/02- On this day in 2002, police arrested an international gang that was planning to kidnap Victoria Beckham, formerly Posh Spice of the Spice Girls, and her young child. The group had planned to ransom Posh for £5 million, so they were taken in to custody and Beckham and her family were kept safe.

11/03- On this day in 1957, Jerry Lee Lewis released Great Balls of Fire with Sun Records. The single went on to become a massive hit, taking the No. 1 spot in the UK and No. 2 in the US.

11/04- On this day in 1980, reggae legend Bob Marley was baptized at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Kingston, Jamaica. Marley officially became a Christian Rastafarian and took the new name Berhane Selassie.

11/05- On this day in 1956, The Nat King Cole Show premiered on NBC-TV in the United States. Cole’s program became one of the first of its kind on national television to be hosted by an African-American.

Are you looking to own a piece of music history, or download it in lossless formats? Check these albums out in our marketplace!

Shopkeep of the Week

2013_0505About a year and a half ago, Tony decided to ship his CDs from Chicago to Murfieland. He’s ordered fifteen kits during this time, adding roughly 1000 discs to our warehouse. He’s a top seller, that’s for sure, and we asked him a few questions to learn more about what fules his music fire!

Murfie: How did you originally learn about Murfie?
Tony: I heard about Murfie in a Wall Street Journal article (I think)—or, could have been in the New York Times.

M: When did you purchase your first CD? What was it?
T: I purchased my first CD about a year ago—I’ve purchased so many, I can’t begin to remember the first one I purchased.

M: How many CDs do you own (or did you own at your peak)?
T: About 1,100.

M: How tall are you?
T: Odd question—I’m 6’2″ and a major badass.

M: Tell us about your musical tastes.
T: Body music (that gets you moving) and Mind music (that gets you thinking and admiring long after the first listening…).

M: If you could meet any musician or band in person, who would it be and why?
T: The original Little Feat—just to hear them play…

M: What is your favorite album at the moment?
T: Deathfix by Deathfix (not what you’d think from the band/album title—some creative stuff here, some of which sounds a bit like XTC).

M: What do you plan to do with the millions of dollars you’re making from your Murfie shop?
T: Buy more music—I’m a junkie—really, there’s too many of us. I’m surprised your clientele is still alive…

M: Which Beatle was your favorite?
T: I’d have to say Paul, right now—I appreciate his involvement in the gun control issue. He’s out front on that, which is nice to see.

Check out Tony’s shop on Murfie!

Shopkeep of the Week is a weekly feature that focuses on our most interesting Murfie shopkeepers. These are music lovers like you who have sold hundreds of pre-loved CDs on Murfie and have hundreds more at the ready to please your ears! If you’d like your Murfie Shop to be featured, or if you’d like to nominate a shop to be featured, please e-mail us at info@murfie.com and let us know.