Aussie psych-rocker outfit Tame Impala’s sophomore effort opens not with a bang, but a whisper – a literal whisper, breathy and insistent, that lazily warps into something else. Fractals of reverb and pedal effect peel off into a glass-eyed haze. Frontman Kevin Parker sings like a latter-day John Lennon, Instagrammed and amplified and fed through subpar speakers. The whole thing builds to a psych-rock anthem so shimmery, so positively prismatic, that it’s easy to forget that Parker prefers downers to stimulants. There lies the weird, cognitive dissonance at the heart of Lonerism: It’s an album about sadness that sounds anything but sad.
In the U.S., at least, that’s a pretty novel concept; we demonize loners and introverts to the point that PhDs give TED talks on the subject. But Lonerism, like Innerspeaker before it, plays more like a celebration of isolation than a confession or defense. Songs like “Elephant” and “Why Won’t They Talk to Me?” are trippy Rorschach blots – full of sun and slow burn if you don’t listen to lyrics, and subsumed by self-pity if you do. “Elephant” seems particularly destined for edgy car commercials or dancey dive bars, with its obstinate one-two baseline and weird organ whorls. It’s too bad Tame Impala draw so much inspiration from loneliness – Lonerism will make them plenty of friends.