Like a weeded out Peter Pan, Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker shows up at the beginning of their sophomore LP Lonerism and whisks you away into a strange and colorful world that you can’t help but be enchanted by. With it’s dreamy melodies and squishy textures, Lonerism really does feel like flying down a not-so-lazy river of sound, trying not to spill your beer, shooting down flumes and past whirlpools. It’s an incredibly pleasurable listening experience, and it doesn’t do it by simply aping psychedelia cliches from decades long past. If anything Lonerism is restless in its commitment to sounding fresh, packing as many nice things to look at into each track. Opener “Gotta Be Above It” is a knotty little song, with digital rattle and whispered chanting there, Parker amping himself up for “Enders Toi”, which shoots things up right into the stratosphere. And not so much in an expand-your-mind flower child way as a literal, vertigo inducing way. It’s also got an excellent, “Creep” indebted cha-chunk moment that reminds you this album will keep you on your toes.
Seemingly every song can be pictured as a slightly worse version of itself had Parker been comfortable with setting on the easy route, but you can easily see how often he pushed himself and the band (though I believe he is the chief architect), cramming another little hook in here, posting up a gurgling whoosh of sound here, butting in with a choral bridge here, and also knowing when to stand back and just let his very strong songwriting and vocal melodies take over. His voice, a boyish mixture of John Lennon and Mew’s Jonas Bjerre handles dreamy just fine, but works almost better when he’s just wailing away like he’s got a hopelandic dictionary flopped open on his lap.
The first half of this album is one of the strongest I’ve heard so far this year, so it’s a little bit of a bummer that the back stretch flags a little. There’s certainly nothing as thrilling as the epic “Apocalypse Dreams.” But as I’ve said, it’s damn hard to get mad at this thing. Psych rock catches flack for being stagnant, but Lonerism feels fresh as can be.