Track Review: “Patience”

Tame Impala Returns, Growing Sonically and Emotionally


Jason Fehrnstrom, Opinions Editor

Tame Impala, the stage name of Western-Australia’s one-man psychedelic-rock virtuoso, Kevin Parker, recently ended a four year hiatus with the new song “Patience.” The single, which runs approximately five minutes, reflects a sincere and welcome evolution in his body of work.

Usually, the sonic landscape of a song takes considerably less time to digest than the lyrical content. Certainly, the groovy, yacht-rock-inspired musical material of this single is what first strikes the listener. Parker has demonstrated once again that he has a unique capacity to draw upon disparate musical influences and weave them seamlessly into his songs, creating something entirely new in the process.

“Patience” is primarily carried by striking major-seventh piano chords underpinned by a variety of percussive elements, including conga drums, which also make an appearance in the single’s cover art. Midway through the song and thereafter, Parker makes excellent use of a kaleidoscopic synthesized arpeggiator.

What is most striking about this single, however, is how the lyrical content reflects a culmination in the emotional journey of Parker. Indeed, “Patience” indicates that Parker has reached the metaphorical summit on the journey of young adulthood.

Themes of uncertainty, self-doubt, loneliness, and unrequited love are conspicuous in Parker’s discography. Longtime Tame Impala fans, who have listened to Parker’s songs enough to decipher his high-pitched vocals, will tell you that this is a man who does not spare one detail when describing his difficulties in weathering the vicissitudes of young adulthood.

The first Tame Impala album, Innerspeaker, which was released in 2010, is perhaps less emotionally forthcoming than his next two. However, the thematic antecedents to his later work are equally unmistakable.

On “Expectation” Parker laments that “fluctuations” and “expectations” are “aching his soul.” He asserts that “in all of the universe” there is nobody for him.

Tame Impala’s sophomore album, Lonerism, which arrived two years later, features Parker expounding on these themes in greater detail. On the song “Music To Walk Home By,” which he has since called the “unsung hero” of this album, Parker reflects that he is “playing a part as somebody else. ” He would give anything to “be under the spell” of one of his contemporaries who appear to be at ease with themselves and the world at large.

The third Tame Impala album, Currents, which catapulted Parker’s music from obscure, esoteric circles of psychedelic-rock fans to the mainstream, is a poignant portrait of love lost from multiple angles. The songs “The Less I Know The Better” and “Love/Paranoia” reveal a man whose sense of self-worth is inextricably bound to the approval of his romantic partner.

Conflicts and disputes that seem “like nothing” to his lover “make him feel like dying inside.” Parker also reflects heavily upon unrequited love and romantic rejection. He pleads with the object of his affection, who appears to be in a relationship with someone else, to not make him “wait forever.”

Evidently, the first three installments in Tame Impala discography feature a Parker who is struggling to find his footing in a world filled with confusion and doubt. In some ways, “Patience” preserves this thematic material. However, it is certain that Parker is approaching these issues from a new angle entirely.

Parker essentially designed this single as an emotional audit of sorts. Indeed, it feels like an long awaited update on his personal growth. Accordingly, Parker organizes the song around a question; “so what you doin’ with your life?” This question precedes each chorus-to-bridge section, where Parker details how he is responding differently to life’s uncertainties.

On the one hand, Parker cannot shake the feeling that his “ways” and “days” are “aimless” and “shapeless.” He dutifully reminds himself, as if it is the thousandth time he has done so, that he “should be flying straight, with no delay.”

Interestingly, these brooding, typical Tame Impala lyrics are coupled and contrasted with affirmations of self-growth and self-acceptance. Parker comfortably assures himself that he is just “growing up in stages” and “living life in phases.”

Parker is quick to concede that his life is still influenced by the same ambiguities and uncertainties that were elaborated upon in his early body of work. However, the lyrical content of “Patience” assures listeners that he is responding to these challenges with grace, gratitude, and optimism.