In the years after the release of Currents, Tame Impala's mastermind Kevin Parker dedicated himself to the art of the collaboration, working his magic on tracks by artists like SZA, Travis Scott, and Lady Gaga and even co-writing with Kanye. All the while, Tame Impala's fan base kept growing to the point where they were able to headline big festivals and fill stadiums. One might assume that Parker would latch on to the mainstream-friendly elements that seeped into Currents, double down on them, and join his friends in the modern pop machine. Amazingly, that doesn't happen on The Slow Rush. Instead, Parker made an intensely personal album that deals with romantic disappointment, the death of his father, and questions about his place in the world, all set to a soundtrack of shimmering disco, trippy Madchester beats, gleaming synth pop, and epic neo-prog balladry. The album's first song, "One More Year," sets the template for the rest of the record with its vocoder harmonies, bubbling house pianos, echoing atmosphere, rubbery beats, and Parker's heart-felt falsetto. It's a mix of the Stone Roses, Daft Punk, Pharrell, and Washed Out made magical thanks to Parker's melodic gifts and production mastery. The bulk of the album treads similar ground, sometimes building the songs out to feel epically windswept ("Instant Destiny"), sometimes turning them inward like on "Tomorrow's Dust," one of the few tracks to feature prominent guitar.
That same song showcases Parker's wizardry on various keyboards. Whether he's pounding out cheesy classical-meets-disco chords -- Silvetti's "Spring Rain" seems to be a major influence here -- or dialing up fat sounds from a vintage synth, he shows the same skill level here that he did on guitar in the band's early days. Guitar also shows up on "One More Hour," a powerful song that delves deep into Parker's fears and hopes while serving up majestic chords, soaring leads, and Zeppelin-sized wallop; it's one of the emotional pillars of the record. Another is "Posthumous Forgiveness," a heartbreaking ode to Parker's dad that sees him pouring out his soul and lamenting all the things his dad isn't around to experience, like a phone call with Mick Jagger for one. It's not all big emotions, though, as there are quite a few songs that either dip into a kind of languorous twilight groove ("Breathe Deeper"), bop hard as steel like the tightly wound "Is It True," which sees Parker at his most Pharrell-like, or lope along peacefully ("Borderline"). The Slow Rush is the final nail in the coffin as far as Tame Impala being a guitar rock band goes; the psychedelia is more diffuse now, softer and more likely to bring a tear with a lyrical turn or a synth wash instead of raising goose bumps with wild guitars. The change began on Currents, where it was handled inelegantly. Here it's brought about smoothly and with great skill, and the album's a comeback that once again makes Tame Impala an artistic force equal to their commercial appeal.