Image from ChuffMedia, press agency for Tame Impala's label: Modular Recordings
Tame Impala’s latest single, “Posthumous Forgiveness,” follows the niche sound of his earlier work while exploring a theme relevant to all of us: the journey to forgiveness.
Kevin Parker (the man behind the writing, recording, performing and producing all of Tame Impala’s songs) has returned with the sonic characteristics that every Tame Impala fan knows and loves: wandering synth melodies, lush pads, hard-hitting drums, and Phil Collins-esque drum fills. It is obvious that “Posthumous Forgiveness” is not exempt from Parker’s strive for musical perfection. Every melody line from the funk-like bass to the synthesizer leads interact with each other perfectly, exploring sounds uncommon in pop music today. Themes of darkness, unknowingness, and pain are carried through the emotional lyrics and spacey instrumentals.
The deep pad synth in the intro is reminiscent of a church organ, giving the song a feeling of seriousness before settling into a slow groove that, while certainly danceable, maintains the burdensome feeling one might expect of a sad, pained ballad. The psychedelic blend of melodies in the first half of the song is reminiscent of Parker’s latest album from 2015, Currents. One of Kevin Parker’s notable strengths as an artist is his willingness to blend together completely different sounds, spreading different musical feelings, into one song. Posthumous Forgiveness is a testament to this. About halfway through the song, a aesthetically pleasing synth intro leads into a musical switch from the rather depressing first half to a lighter sound, while still including many of the same sounds.
Through washy, delayed vocals, Parker sings about forgiveness. Specifically, he explores forgiving his late father for leaving him and his brother. The first half of the song is filled with resentment. Parker starts off nostalgic, singing “Ever since I was a small boy / No one else compared to you, no way / I always thought heroes stay close / Whenever troubled times arose.” Then he moves towards anger, belting out “But now I know you only saved yourself,” in reference to his father telling him that leaving Parker and his brother would save the whole family. In the chorus, Parker moves on to addressing his father’s deceiving words. He asks, in song, “Did you think I’d never know? /Never wise up as I grow / Never wonder, work it out.”
As the music lightens up for the second half of the song, Parker begins to move towards forgiveness for his father. Recognizing that “You didn’t know that I’d suffer,” and “You’re just a man after all.” Parker expresses his sadness that his father is now dead. He sings about how he wishes for more time with his deceased father. In a heart-wrenching verse, he sings, “I wanna tell you ’bout the time / I wanna tell you ’bout my life / Wanna play you all my songs.”
This message is a testament to the importance of forgiving each other when it matters most. These lyrics serve as a warning to all of us: the inevitability of death should serve as a motivation to try and make things right with the ones that we love. Throughout the course of “Posthumous Forgiveness,” Parker moves from anger and resentment to forgiveness as he grieves the loss of his father and struggles with forgiving a man who abandoned him. The song ends abruptly (perhaps a nod to the abruptness of death), leaving us hanging on the last line of the song and perhaps the most telling line of Parker’s confusion: “Wanna play you all my songs / And hear your voice sing along.”