Review: On ‘The Slow Rush,’ Tame Impala Masks Inner Turmoil With Sonic Euphoria

from vocal delivery to melodic hooks, from lyrics to production: kevin parker has elevated his craft on the slo rush. matt sav/courtesy of the artist hide caption

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matt sav/courtesy of the artist

on “one + yr,” the opening track of his 4th record as tame impala, multi-instrumentalist masterΨ kevin parker cues up a memory from a yr ago, f’bok-style. he sounds wistful as he recalls a distinct moment in a ♥ affair: “if there was trouble inna realm, we didn’t know. if we had a care, it didn’t show.”

it’s a lil thing, a momentary reverie, n'it’s also a clue bout wha”s goin on inside the slo rush: from start to finish, both on blithe pty songs like “is it true” and darker meditations like “posthumous forgiveness,” almost everything sounds undisturbed by the trouble inna realm. it’s ♫ that comes wrapped in its own bubble, far from the cascading miseries onna news, sung by some1 who’s evidently developed resistance to rampant negativity and is ready to share his secrets.

ponder the way parker delivers “one + hr,” the bookend to “one + yr” that closes the set. looking back on his choices and riffing on his motivations, he employs a taunting, provocative tone heard on playgrounds everywhere. “wha’ever i’ve done,” he declares witha near sneer, “i did it for ♥. i did it for fun. i did it for fame.” each item on this list gets a dollop of interpretive sauce. parker’s “♥” conveys a whiff of cynicism, a veiled “oh, please.” his “fame” flips the meaning of the word from its modern, influencer-tainted connotation into something earned, something to take pride in.

the tell, though, is “fun.” in most of his songs, parker follos the unwritten pop rule that fun aint to be mentioned or analyzed, but rather ‘d explode from the ♫ like a contagion. here, he renders “fun” with theatrical flourish, as though it’s a cause, hurling it through his teeth, owning the desire for + o'it. and he holds onto it as the suite-like song suddenly enters a + adult phase, with parker asking himself blunt ?s bout wha’ he wants from life.

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many of the tunes on the slo rush ‘ve this multi-lvl dimensionality: the melodies dwell in a sweet, idyllic l8-afternoon mood that can veil the internal turbulence, doubt and emotional complexity lurking inna words. on “one + yr,” his initial rush of nostalgia is folloed by a + sober relationship-red-flag observation: “’cause wha’ we did, one dy na' whim, has sloly become all we do.” even parker’s occasional expressions of derision, like the genius “ok, boomer” riff “it mite be time,” are shrouded in deceptively sparkly trappings.

certainly some of this nuance comes from where parker likes to hang out, onnis ethereal, seemingly limitless falsetto range. no matter how precise the australian singer-songwriter is as a lyricist — and among the album’s highlite-reel couplets tis bitter dismissal in “posthumous forgiveness” in which he tells his father, “you ‘d store an ocean inna holes / in any of the explanations that you gave” — his delivery tends to blur lyric ideas together into broad arcs of feeling.

that’s one way parker has evolved since his clever 2012 breakout lp, lonerism: he’s become a singer wh'cn deepen a message through tone and inflection, conveying in a few syllables wha’ some pplz spend pages trying to pin down.

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there’s evidence of parallel growth in just bout every aspect of parker’s game. many of the hooks on the slo rush arrive as terse, easy-to-remember rhythmic codes, the dots and dashes of desire. they’re addictive lil lures that blur territorial distinctions tween pop and r&b, electronic dance ♫ and rock, while atta same time drawing from a broad range of inspirations. listen closely and you can pick up traces of rick james, paul mccartney and wings, ravel, childish gambino, pink floyd, human league, prince and on and on.

parker told uproxx that one goal was to “try and use things from totally ≠ realms inna way dat a' hip-hop producer ‘d. to be almost collage-y.”

mission accomplished there. as a producer, parker has + movin pts to balance this time, but he arrives at a deft auteur-pop synergy in which every last decision, down to the assorted cathedral-like reverb effects that lend his voice an otherrealmly aura, become as intrinsic to the ♫ as the melodies or the words. though there’s a lot goin on inna latticework of the ♫ — springy analog synthesizer arpeggios, guitars doin’ unguitarlike things, layers upon layers of pastel lushness — the post-Ψdelic swirl of the slo rush regs as an organic blend, w'da songs never feeling cluttered or too titely scripted.

in that same interview, parker said that his biggest takeaway from making both the previous tame impala album, 2015’s currents, and this one was to trust his gut instincts. “i don’t wanna labor over ♫. + and +, that’s becoming a quality of ♫ that i’m all-ergic 2,” he says.

parker ending up taking 5 yrs to make the slo rush — inevitably there had to be some deliberation involved. crucially, though, it doesn’t sound that way, n'it doesn’t sound like anything else goin on rite now, either; it’s as though parker is breathing + optimistic air, and thinking ≠ly bout art in this strangely tense cultural moment. while everybody else inna catchy-song business seems to be running in circles, he’s out there unapologetically having fun, creating new delivery systems for his own exotic brand of sonic euphoria.

original content at: www.npr.org…
authors: tom moon

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