Tame Impala | Currents
I read the best review on Tame Impala’s latest album, Currents, so I’m going to open with an excerpt (because I can’t say it any better): “Nearly every proper song on Currents is a revelatory statement of [Kevin] Parker’s range and increasing expertise as a producer, arranger, songwriter, and vocalist while maintaining the essence of Tame Impala.”
I’ve listened to Currents on repeat ever since its July 17th release, so I have a fairly comprehensive understanding of the album as a whole at this point. There’s an undeniable undertone of heartbreak that permeates the songs on this record. As Ian Cohen of Pitchfork so eloquently says, “This is a breakup record on a number of levels—the most obvious one being the dissolution of a romantic relationship, but also a split with the guitar as a primary instrument of expression.” This album is certainly a departure from Tame Impala’s first two (InnerSpeaker and Lonerism), being primarily driven by the bass rather than guitar. The cutting and honest lyrics highlight the personal transformation Parker underwent during its production, for better or worse. Like most albums, some songs stand out more than others. I’m no expert reviewer, but the melodic, synth infused sounds that embody Parker’s best tracks on this album also undermine them occasionally, causing the songs to blend into each other too much to differentiate. Nonetheless, Currents is a success overall, comprised of buttery “psych-disco hybrid” tunes that take you back in time.
Listen to: The Moment, Eventually, Let It Happen
Other Lives | Rituals
I can’t get enough of this album, released on May 4th, though the reviews I’ve read haven’t been particularly extensive or insightful. Harriet Gibsone of the Guardian says, “There’s certainly beauty within these lush, lofty, cinematic creations; but ultimately Rituals is the sound of a lot of lamenting, much melodic looping and no surprises.”
Personally, I think that’s bull shit. In this same review, Gibsone says that “their songs include Yorkesque backing vocals—like a ghost haunting a public toilet.” So…I would take that with a grain of salt.
I’ve been a fan of Other Lives since the release of Tamer Animals in 2011, but Rituals has genuinely blown me away. This is an album to listen to with headphones so you can grasp the full effect. While the Oklahoma quintet has been influenced by Radiohead (whom they toured with), their music stands alone, and is so much more than just “lush.” This album is highlighted by the use of of strings and percussion; the group’s clear attention to detail creating drama and impact in almost every song. The tracks are layered and complex, and I’ve found myself loving them more each time I listen.
Listen to: Fair Weather, 2 Pyramids, For The Last
Jamie xx | In Colour
In Colour is Jamie xx’s full-length solo debut, released June 2nd, and I have mixed feelings. While the album is certainly worth a listen, half of the songs fall flat. In Colour does express Jamie xx’s growth as an artist, with tracks that cover a wide emotional range. Mark Richardson of Pitchfork writes, “That clash of feeling, of being overwhelmed by everything at once while also wanting to zoom in on and live inside the tiniest detail, is the animating force of In Colour.” The album incorporates a broad spectrum of emotion, opening with the cantankerous and brooding Gosh (one of the best tracks), while including lighter, uplifting tracks like SeeSaw. Still, some of the tracks come off as corny—especially I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times), featuring Young Thug and Popcaan. Contrary to the raving reviews, I don’t feel that there’s anything truly binding this album together as one cohesive unit.
Nevertheless, I was compelled enough to buy a ticket to see him play live at the Wonder Ballroom in Portland tonight. All in all, In Colour is emotive and interesting; the result of six years of work from Jamie xx. Have a listen and decide for yourself.
Listen to: Gosh, SeeSaw, Sleep Sound
Unknown Mortal Orchestra | Multi-Love
I’m so excited to talk about this album! I saw Unknown Mortal Orchestra perform at the Aladdin Theater last week and they blew me away. This Portland based low-fi psychedelic rock band is even better live, which is rare to find. Singer, guitarist and songwriter Ruban Neilson shreds so skillfully on the guitar live that I imagine it’ll be hard to retreat to listening to recorded versions from here on out. Every member of the band carries their weight through the experimental and multifaceted tracks, though Neilson is the clear soul of the quartet.
This intimate album, released on May 22nd, is a distinct reflection of Neilson’s chaotic polyamorous romantic life. He’s outspoken about his experience being deeply involved with two women simultaneously, and his transparency lends the album a depth and authenticity that’s impossible to ignore. The two most exceptional tracks from this record are arguably Multi-Love and Can’t Keep Checking My Phone, both of which speak directly to his romantic conundrum with a surprisingly lighthearted (and dance-able) undercurrent. Multi-Love is heavy to absorb in just one sitting, but piece by piece, it’s such a joy to listen to.
Listen to: Multi-Love, Can’t Keep Checking My Phone, Like Acid Rain