Vinyl ‘n Beer – Slow Rush by Tame Impala

I think it’s safe to say that Tame Impala has been on a roll this last decade. It’s been an interesting journey watching how Kevin Parker’s signature style has changed over the years. It seems like with every album, he has tried out something new while refining what he already knows.

Speaking of change and refinement, this latest album was a lot for me to take in. Sometimes albums sound better from beginning to end, and other times when you listen to the tracks randomly. For the first three weeks, I would have put Slow Rush solidly in the latter category. It was impossible for me to get a feel for the album. Little by little though, I started to come around and now I find myself loving every moment of it.

So what happened?

Closeup of the Rega Apheta needle
RP10 with the Apheta MC cartridge

I’m a firm believer in having to be in the right state of mind when listening to certain types of music. For example, when I’m working, you’ll most likely find me listening to electronic music that excites the mind and gets you focused. When I’m off work though, I tend to prefer music of the indie variety.

Tame Impala falls in-between for me. I can listen to them while working, relaxing, working out. I think in this sense, they’ve uniquely placed themselves into a genre of their own, which is hard to do when there’s a plethora of music available today (that is equally easy to find and listen to).

I think what changed is that I needed to get out of the “Currents” mindset. I was so ready for Tame Impala to release something that was an extension of their previous album. It was after all, in my opinion, their greatest to date. Once I came to realize that it was indeed a new sound, I found myself embracing the album for what it stood for.

A quick note about the system

For this review, I’m using my trusty Rega RP10 turntable with Aria phonostage. This has been the cornerstone of my analog system for over five years now and I can easily see it retaining this spot for a long time to come.

For the phonostage, I have the partnering Aria. Being a Rega product, it is specifically tailored to the Apheta MC cartridge. You will be hard-pressed to find one that is better matched to Rega’s unique approach to MC cartridges.

On the other side of the chain is my venerable Rega Osiris driving Q Acoustic 3050i loudspeakers. While they don’t necessarily stand up to my reference speakers, they are in this case the most child-proof.

Let’s Talk Music

Top-down view of a record from Tame Impala's Slow Rush
Each of the two vinyls are multi-colored

The first time I heard the opening track, “One More Year”, I thought I was listening to the wrong album. I thought to myself that this wasn’t the Tame Impala that I knew. But as soon as the bass line hit (and again with the vocals), I knew that I would be right at home in this track. The background fluttering vocals bounce effortlessly between the left and right speakers with the singer planted squarely in the center. Unusual for this type of music, you get a sense of space when listening to the opener.

When “Borderline” came up, I was immediately reminded of their previous album. It seems Kevin wanted to leave a little bit of something for everyone and I definitely found that in this track. The melody and vocals set the stage for a sound that just draws you in. Were this the digital version of the album, I would have played this track a few times on repeat. It’s that addicting.

Now more than halfway through the album, we arrive at one of the other singles, “Lost in Yesterday”. Before the vocals start, you’re greeted with a melody and bass-line that screams “sit down and listen”. It reminds me of the same sound that got me addicted to the previous album, but with something added. Joining the foray is a seemingly “spacey” vibe that draws you in closer to the music. It’s easy to see why this was released as a single – it embodies everything great about Tame Impala and their new album. It rings of their house sound, but sounds refined and bold in the process.

A little later, and we’re onto the final single from the album, “It Might Be Time”. The thing that stands out for me in this album is the drums. A lot of attention was paid to the beat and how it is panned across the stereo speakers. When the bass kicks in, it serves to reinforce the drum-line, and together, the server as the melody in my eyes. Yes, I know that’s not really the case, but it’s always the first thing that pops into my mind.

Family portrait of Tame Impala's Slow Rush and Firestone Walker's Bravo
Fine music demands fine beer

Circling back to the actual vocals, we’re yet again treated with singing that is part “Currents” and part something new. There’s no mistaking the roots, but it leaves you wondering where will Kevin take the sound next. And I mean that in the best of ways. This new direction for Tame Impala will open a lot of doors to new listeners while still appeasing the original fan-base that loves and follows the band to this day.

I know I consider myself part of that group – loving every minute of the newest album, but also waiting for what’s next. As I think about the album on a whole, I continuously come back to the idea that this album is the something-for-everyone part of the family. For original fans and new ones alike, there’s a lot to love.

The Album In Review

Overall, where do I place this album? It’s a tough question since it is obviously in a different space than any of the previous works. It’s cleaner, but offers a side we’ve never seen. It satisfies, yet leaves you hungry for what’s next. In that sense, it is classic Tame Impala.

In the end though, I have to say that I don’t place it higher or lower than the previous album, Currents. It’s not better, but different. On some days I find myself preferring the previous album, but on other days I’m rocking out to the latest and greatest. I don’t think anyone will be left wanting, instead finding themselves falling even more in love with the band and the direction they’re taking their music.

What about the Beer?

Firestone Walker's Bravo poured in a snifter
It’s not everyday you get to enjoy something so smooth yet filled with such depth of flavor

In order to enjoy a tremendous album, one needs an equally tremendous beer. This evening I am joined by a Firestone Walker Bravo from 2017. Although described as a brown ale, it pours heavy with bourbon – you’d be mistaken for thinking it’s a stout. I’ve always enjoyed the packaging of Firestone Walker beers, especially the vintage. The box, albeit simple, gives a sense of something “extra”.

Upon first taste, there’s hints of caramel, toffee, and brown sugar. The mouthfeel is thick and shows that beers of this style are definitely capable of tasting better after aging. Despite its high 13.2% ABV, it’s well covered by the abundance of flavor.

The only thing disappointing about it is that, just like the album, there isn’t more.

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