By: Caden Kipfmueller
On July 17th, 2015, an Australian musician going by the stage name Tame Impala released his third studio album, ‘Currents’. Tame Impala, or Kevin Parker, had been rising steadily in popularity since the release of his last album nearly three years prior, but ‘Currents’ was undoubtedly his big break.
Two years after its release, I would listen to this album for the first time, while sitting in my middle school English class during silent work time, browsing YouTube and idly looking for something to help me focus while I studied in the thirty minutes I had left in class. I remember the day well, I think because of how important it would be to me one day.
The album cover caught my eye, with its wavy lines that looked like optical illusions and an overwhelming amount of purple. A friend of mine once told me it looked like a physics textbook from the nineties, and I’m inclined to agree. Something about it was so…enticing to me. I knew what I was doing for the next thirty minutes.
From my very first listen I was hooked. ‘Currents’ was nothing like I’d ever heard before, a unique blend of 80s inspired synths with a modern twist. It was catchy. Intoxicating, even.
Tame Impala has this innate ability to masterfully craft dense soundscapes in this album, with a variety of trippy synths as well as a handful of percussion instruments, guitars, smooth bass and smoother vocals all coming together to make the most utterly jaw dropping music I’ve ever heard to this day. Parker’s voice, an airy falsetto, is the cherry-on-top in every song, somehow grounding tracks despite its ethereal nature.
Listening to this album makes me feel like I am floating in a sensory deprivation tank. I was shocked to learn that the entire album was mixed, written, and recorded by him and him alone because it seems otherworldly, and far more complex than could be imagined by one creative artist. In my mind, it’s so far beyond what anyone is capable of creating, much less one man who describes himself as “Just some guy”.
The album’s opening track, “Let it Happen”, was a seven minute masterpiece that left me so floored the first time I heard it that I had to play it again. And again. And again. Before I knew it, English was over and I hadn’t even gotten past the first song. The rest of the album was similar, filled with moments that made me do a double take and play over and over again. I think it took me three days to listen to the whole thing start to finish when all was said and done simply because I couldn’t stop going back and listening to my favorite moments one more time.
Lyrically, ‘Currents’ is surprisingly nuanced. It may be hard to notice because his vocals are so frequently distorted and hard to pinpoint exactly, but Kevin Parker weaves intricate stories into his songs. You may not pick them up on the first listen but they are always there. Stories about loneliness and loss and growth, and the agonizing process of slowly losing contact with loved ones. Some songs you can relate to. Some songs you can’t. I find his songs especially poignant as a teenager growing up in the twenty-first century, but I feel like the overall themes would have held up over any time period.
“Yes I’m Changing” holds specific emotional significance to me as I prepare myself for college and the next stages of my life. Sometimes I look back on the person I used to be with deep longing. I frequently wish I could go back to before I was stressed out about grades and friends and, well…growing up. Listening to “Yes I’m Changing” is always a deeply personal experience for me, as it grounds me and reassures me that growing up is going to be ok.
I never really listened to music much when I was younger. Some homes are occupied by music-philes, where music is constantly on in the background, others not so much. Mine? Not so much. Sure, my mom would turn on the radio in the car, or my dad would play songs on his iPod for me, but the music I was hearing regularly never really resonated with me. I didn’t hate it, per-se, but I never really connected with it. I just didn’t know how powerful music could be. When I listened to ‘Currents’, I discovered that power. Finally, I understood what it was that made music so important to so many people. For the first time in my life, I understood the emotional potential of music.
This album has sparked a long lasting passion for music inside of me. I don’t know if that passion was always there and just waiting to emerge or if it came out of nowhere, but frankly I don’t care. It doesn’t really matter to me. What matters to me is that music is now an integral part of who I am. It makes me a more well-rounded person, and it’s given me the chance to connect with those that share my love for this album, forging deep connections over our common love for this music. This album’s role in my willingness to branch out and seek out new types of music across all genres will never be understated. It is only now that I am coming to realize that music can be a vehicle of relaxation, protest, awareness, diversity, escape, or sympathy beyond simply serving as background noise on a long car trip.
‘Currents’ marked the start of a lifelong love for music. Without it, I don’t think I’d look at music, or even art more generally, the same way. The album has fundamentally changed my perspective on life more broadly, setting a standard for myself when I create things of my own.