“Patience” and Tame Impala’s Forward Momentum

Thursday night at 9 o’clock in California, I, along with so many others across the world, frantically refreshed Spotify, eagerly awaiting the new Tame Impala track Kevin Parker promised us an hour before on Instagram. I couldn’t help but chuckle when I saw “Tame Impala- Patience” pop up in my friends’ feeds. I played the song on my speakers and sunk into a couch to take in the beautiful new sounds Kevin Parker offered us.

As floored as Tame’s synths might leave you, the grooves in “Patience” are too powerful to stay couch locked and I found myself up and gigging around my living room. Parker begins the song by asking “Has it really been that long/ did I count the days wrong?” And as the song progresses the lyrics that follow reflect on how the 33 year old, recently married, musician is not the 24 year old he was when he released Innerspeaker. He sings, “I’m growin’ up in stages/ living life in phases,” and indeed his music has changed greatly since the psychedelic guitar driven days of Innerspeaker and Lonerism. While KP may be reckoning with his own increasing age, he certainly has not stopped having fun, and this song is definitely made for dancing– more so than any Tame Impala song that has preceded it.

InnerSpeaker (2010)

Lonerism (2012)

The piano riff and congas evoke the feeling of taking a disco trek, which is truly sublime alongside Parker’s lyrics about the journey that is life as seasons change and time passes. While featuring his characteristic melancholy yet euphoric undertones, the song does not lament the passing of time, but accepts it and resolves to move forward, which is appropriate as Tame Impala sonically reorients itself, moving forward with time.
“Patience” feels like the spiritual successor of “Let it Happen,” the opening track off Currents, released as the first single to that album back in March of 2015. Parker once said he was inspired to change his sound for Currents while listening to the Bee Gees coked out and on mushrooms in the backseat of a car in LA; “Patience,” with its housy piano riff and prominent congas, seems to represent a further step in that direction. The song still features Parker’s trademark synth and vocals, but is light on the hallucinogenic guitar that was once Tame Impala’s mainstay.

Let It Happen (2015)

If “Patience,” a song that is begging to be played on dance floors, is any indication, we have more pop ballads and songs focused on making people move to look forward to on Tame’s upcoming album. The release of “Patience” signals that Kevin Parker’s obsession with pop music will not be confined to non-Tame Impala LP releases, but will occupy center stage in his musical output. This obsession with pop music first expressed itself in 2015, the year of the release of the synth-heavy pop structured album Currents as well as Mark Ronson’s pure pop album, Uptown Special, on which Parker received three credits.

Since Currents Parker has mostly worked with pop artists, spreading his signature sounds across the music world. Rihanna covered “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” and Currents sounding synth and guitar have found their way into music by Travis Scott and Kanye West, Kali Uchis, and Lady Gaga, with Rihanna covering It will be interesting to see what new artists crop up in the wake of this upcoming, presumably disco-heavy LP. Patience, however, seems most closely related to his collaborations with Mark Ronson and London rapper Theophilius London. London and Parker’s remake of Nigerian disco-funk legend Steve Monite’s “Only You,” added the massive depth of Tame Impala’s sound to the funky beat and grooves of the original. In the same way, “Patience” seems to take the bones of disco and fill it in with the 21st century richness of Tame Impala’s sound, leaving the listener floored.

alt="Geometric artwork of long haired musician playing guitar"

Artwork by Makarxart

In taking risks in shifting genres and sounds, Parker is solidifying his position as an era defining musician. Kevin’s brave exploration of his unusual inspirations (e.g. favoring a synthesizer-driven sound over of his early swirling fuzz guitar output), has not been met with much resistance by fans of his who were turned on to him because of his fuzz guitar, largely because everything he puts out is just so fucking good.

With Tame Impala’s tour fast approaching, Tame fans eagerly await the release of more music. Using the release calendar of Currents’ singles for reference (“Let it Happen” on March 11, “Cause I’m a Man” on April 7th, “Disciples” on April 29th, and “Eventually” on May 8th, all before the July 17, 2015 release of the album), we should be getting a few more songs in the coming months. Those of us with Coachella wristbands should be somewhat nervous in our anticipation of any upcoming singles, as Parker has said that he will not play songs for the first time live because he likes “that the first time people hear it is the kind of recorded glory, like the premeditated thing that I’ve spent two years on, rather than being half drunk bashing it out on stage, hitting clanger notes.”  No matter how many new songs Tame play at the Polo Fields this summer, their headlining of Coachella, along with Lollapalooza and undoubtedly countless other shows to be announced, signifies their position atop popular music.  

alt="Psychedelic musician plays guitar at light show concert"

Tame Impala’s ascension to headliner status, especially as a psych rock band, will only increase their already profound impact on musicians across the world. Although we’ve seen bands like MGMT & The Flaming Lips take prominence in the mainstream none have had the reach or draw Kevin & co. have achieved. Psychedelic music’s position in the music industry hasn’t been this burgeoning since the days Floyd and Hendrix roamed, where risk and musical exploration were at the forefront. As the leader of this resurgence, Kevin has importantly not been a derivative artist, regurgitating the psychedelic rock of our parents. While countless legions of kids have likely picked up guitars and bought effects pedals because of Tame Impala, Kevin has just proven that he can fuck your mind without a guitar.

When I last saw Tame Impala in October in Oakland at Treasure Island Music Festival, Kevin Parker promised the crowd that he would return soon. I can only hope that he does so soon but waits until the album is out so that I can see this complete project live. Kevin has given us a beautiful glimpse of his upcoming LP and I will have it on repeat until he reveals the next piece, but I, like so many others truly cannot wait for the release of the entire album.