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Tame Impala Takes On Time In ‘The Slow Rush’

Time is of the essence in Tame Impala's fourth studio album, “The Slow Rush." (Photo by Neil Krug/Courtesy of the artist)
Time is of the essence in Tame Impala's fourth studio album, “The Slow Rush." (Photo by Neil Krug/Courtesy of the artist)

Aficionados of Tame Impala, the genre-defying brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker, held their breath for half a decade waiting for his newest album, “The Slow Rush.”

Fans can rest assured that they won’t have to stand by for that long again. Parker, the 34-year-old Australian who records and produces all of Tame Impala’s vocals and instruments, says the next record drop won’t take nearly as long because he already has a “flourish of ideas” waiting to be recorded.

Time is of the essence in “The Slow Rush,” an album he says embodies how time is constantly in motion, yet also “seemingly standing still.” Most of the album’s song titles — “Tomorrow’s Dust” and “Lost in Yesterday,” for instance — are connected to the concept of time, but that wasn’t deliberately designed, he says.

“I saw that the album’s theme was taking that kind of shape,” he says. “But I wasn’t like, ‘OK, I’m gonna have a song with yesterday and a song with tomorrow. I titled the songs the way I wanted to title them.”

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Time moves quickly at any age, he says, but becomes particularly rapid during moments that are “in-between chapters of your life.”

Life is like a piece of string, he says, with a definitive start and end. “And we never really know where we are on that piece of string,” he says.

Parker’s life string is filled with what most musicians would consider massive milestones — selling out Madison Square Garden in New York City, headlining Coachella and performing as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live — but he says those events aren’t his highlights.

“To be honest, none of that stuff compares to just making the music and people listening to it,” he says.

He doesn’t consider those achievements as signs of his success, but rather as scenarios that naturally metamorphosed into his life as an acclaimed artist. What matters most to him, he says, is reaching people through music.

And the album’s reach is wide: “The Slow Rush” debuted No. 1 in Australia, making it Tame Impala’s second consecutive No. 1 album on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Albums Chart. The record was also Tame Impala’s highest-charting album ever on the Billboard 200.

He says hitting those charts was “touching,” because it means people are “actually listening” to the creation he spent years perfecting.

While some would describe Parker’s sound as psychedelic rock or pop, Tame Impala can’t be put into a box. He says he has “no idea” what category his musical creation falls into, and he’d be happy if “The Slow Rush” proves to listeners that “genres don’t really exist anymore.”

Instead, Parker concocts music that removes listeners from the weight of the world and allows people to “dream about their life,” he says.

Yet his best escapist sounds come to him when his mind is preoccupied with reality, he says. Take “Breathe Deeper,” for example, which he first hummed while grocery shopping.

“Posthumous Forgiveness” — a brutally honest song that alludes to a troubled relationship with his father, who died of cancer — wasn’t a labor-intensive track, he says, despite never publicly opening up about the relationship. The emotions he was experiencing were “ripe,” he says, which made it one of the easiest songs for him to write on “The Slow Rush.”

“It’s just something that I’ve never really put it in music before or talked about it even,” he says. “That’s what the best lyrics come from: sentiments and feelings and thoughts that you’ve not been able to previously talk about or share or put into words. So that’s why music is good because it’s a way of turning it into something that you can express.”

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Tame Impala’s sound has evolved over the years, as have his admirers. Parker says the “important parts” of his music — the rhythms and syncopation — have lured high-profile hip-hop artists to work with him, such as Travis Scott and Kanye West.

West gave him some advice: “Be the maximum version of yourself,” Parker says. In the past, Parker used to think that believing one’s own hype led to a great demise. Now he credits West with giving him perspective on believing a “little bit of your own myth.”

As he hits stages across the globe this summer on tour, Parker says he’s already dreaming about Tame Impala’s next album — which he swears will come “way sooner” this time around.

Jeremy Hobson produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Serena McMahon adapted it for the web. 

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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