Tame Impala Dances To Heartbreak on "Borderline"

The Australian psychedelic-rock outfit's second single this year is a foray into heartbreak, buoyed by a new sonic confidence.


For Kevin Parker on "Borderline," heartbreak is no longer just a possible future: it's arrived in the present.

Tame Impala, Parker's beloved psychedelic-rock project, has returned with "Borderline," the second of two singles from an as-yet-untitled upcoming album, was released on Friday after premiering on Saturday Night Live the week before. The track indicates an exciting new depth in Tame's signature atmospheric rock and maybe even hints at a newfound musical maturity.

Which isn't to say Tame's sound has been reined in or stunted with time: the Australian band's hallucinatory sensibility remains intact, headed up as always by Parker's lilting vocals and obsessively tight production. But "Borderline" is still a notable step away from both the stoner rock of their first two albums and the shimmering synth-pop of 2015's massive super hit, Currents. It's the sound of recalibration, as Parker carefully centers the track on the uncoiling of a groove. Crisper drums and bass and a de-emphasized fuzz, bubble under a sound somewhere between chamber-pop and funk, as Parker infuses a sonic clarity into a song ambiguously about ending a relationship. "We're on the borderline / Dangerously far and all forgiven," Parker floats over the music, a sadness buoyed by Tame's renewed sense of curation.

Thematically, Tame Impala has always danced with ambiguity, the paralyzing uncertainty of what's to come in life and love. "Patience," the first of Tame's new releases, grasped for some understanding of the passage of time, seeking a balance with this uncertainty, but "Borderline" pushes this fear even further, into the bitterness of love lost. The song is willfully trapped in a moment, doubt and anxiety juxtaposed with a confident growth in Tame Impala's sound. It's a bracing change, and only makes the prospect of their new album all the more enticing.


Matthew Apadula is a writer and music critic from New York. His work has previously appeared on GIGsoup Music and in Drunk in a Midnight Choir. Find him on Twitter @imdoingmybest.

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