Tame Impala – Lonerism

Rating: ★★★★☆

When Tame Impala burst onto the scene, they were pretty much atop everyone’s list for their creative first effort, Innerspeaker, but while the adoration has remained, the music seems to have shifted.  Lonerism is almost absent of guitars, choosing to craft songs out of layer upon layer of electronic samples and drumming, rather than fill your speakers with shifting guitar noises.  If you can discern the beauty herein, you’ll find a record worthy of repeated listens.

Statements are made almost immediately, with “Be Above It,” opening to a propulsive drum beat and repetitive vocal sample.  Musically, that’s about all you get from the track, though the drum begins to echo a bit more and the vocal is replaced with a more sincere pop lyric.  It’s a pretty empty track when you look at it musically, yet somehow the vocal grew on me as I listened time and time again.  Similarly, “Endors Toi” takes an approach filled with beeps and bloops and break-beat drumming.  It’s as if you’re listening to early DJ Shadow run through a mixing board by the kids in Black Moth Super Rainbow.  But, at the heart of the track is this glorious chorus, showing that while the Tame Impala has altered their sound, they’re still nearing perfection.

Personally, I still find myself gravitating towards the tracks that feature a more prominent guitar line, such as “Mind Mischielf.”  It’s got a crunchy bit of guitar that doesn’t seem to carry too much musical construction, almost as if it was placed atop the music in post-production.  For me, the vocal’s tone closely resembles the pop explosion that I set out looking for in Lonerism, even as it seems to fade out far too often.  “Elephant” is another such song, using a chugging guitar line that plugs away in your ears rhythmically throughout.  The darker tones of the guitar are perfectly juxtaposed with the flow of the lyrics, making the song neither grim nor overly happy, although that keyboard mid-track definitely brings up the spirit quotient.

Even with an absence of guitars for the most part, or minimized guitar work, there are still songs that evoke traditional songwriting, in both structure and melodic approach.  My favorite is perhaps “Keep On Lying,” which opens with a fade in that rather appears like a fade out.  Somehow Tame Impala have managed to organize the structure of the track where the beats almost resonate as guitar stabs or downstrokes, applying the traditional formula, albeit in their own way.  And, as the song unfolds, a guitar does come noodling its way into the track, providing yet another layer of sound to push the jam further, even when the lyrics disappear.

Honestly, Lonerism is a far more adventurous effort than what I originally expected.  I almost hoped that it was a re-hash of the first album, knowing that would more than satisfy me, but as I’ve spent more time with Tame Impala, I can see that this might be more rewarding in the long-run. It’s not something you’ll immediately “get” or fall in love with, yet the nuances of construction make it pretty brilliant.  Only time will tell the story of this record’s longevity, but for now, I don’t really want to listen to anything else.


Download:Tame Impala – Apocalypse Dreams [MP3]

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