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Australian-born Kevin Parker, better known as the voice and mind behind Tame Impala, has skyrocketed to success since the band’s inception in 2007. Starting off as a small project using synths, the group grew to include band members Cam Avery, Julien Barbagallo, Jay Watson, and Dominic Simper, covering sounds ranging from psychedelic rock to dream pop as the years have gone by. Their greatest claim is the originality behind every note and visual; Parker weaves in great technical skill with heavy electronic and analog sounds and has recorded most all of the instruments and vocals for the entire discography. From 2008’s Tame Impala EP to their most recent LP, Currents, the near-perfect composition of each song makes it hard to choose only 10.
By 2008, Tame Impala had an international record deal with Modular Recordings and their first self-titled EP out. ‘Half Full Glass of Wine’ was one of the three songs on the EP to get the band chart-topping success and was accompanied by a very trippy music video befitting any psych band. Starting off with a simple cymbal and guitar riff, it immediately throws you for a curve as the dynamics change and the bass and heavier percussion drops in. The song is overflowing with reverb and explosive drums skills by Parker to usher out the end of the song, which made it a great inclusion with the rest of the first EP on the Collector’s Edition of InnerSpeaker (2010) and a live album simply titled Live Versions in 2014.
In 2010, Innerspeaker had been met with critical acclaim on a global scale, named ‘Album of the Year’ by Rolling Stone in 2010 and ranking in Pitchfork’s ‘100 Best Albums of The Decade So Far’ in 2014. ‘Alter Ego’ enters in with a distorted, almost horn-sounding guitar, which paves the way for Parker’s echoed vocals from another world. The detailed percussion holds the pacing together and just barely keeps the listener from floating away into space.
Without any vocals, ‘Jeremy’s Storm’ makes for great driving music, as the clean guitar plucks away a simple melody that transports you forward. As the music folds onto itself over and over, you can hear Parker’s talent seep through, diving into reverb and pedal distortion by the end. Innerspeaker was recorded with no outside distractions at Wave House – a beach shack in Parker’s native Western Australia.
In 2012, Tame Impala released their second studio album, Lonerism, to both critical and mass appeal. It was an evolution of the band led with addictive hooks, a cleaner rock sound, and a more electronic focus that was still undeniably Parker’s handiwork. ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ was the titular single and one of the band’s most popular songs to date, with a catchy chorus that you’ll want to sing along to. Its lyrics are universally relatable with an upbeat bass line and organ-synths that give the whole song a bright and sunny feel, even in contrast to the title.
As the name implies, this Tame Impala selection off of Lonerism is both hazy and heavy, with an NSFW music video featuring taboo visuals like student-teacher relations in the school parking lot as the car floats away towards an animated space voyage, complete with third gear psychedelic visuals. The riff is sexy and weighty, as every instrument manages to flow like water, one on top of the other with abandon, culminating in a return to earth after what feels like a very long trip.
While on Lonerism, this song feels more like a reach back into Innerspeaker with the usual Parker echoes that blend into a prolonged synth section, accompanied solely by percussion. Just hitting the six-minute mark, the song is a long call to dream with Tame Impala, as they carry you back to Parker’s voice in one of the album’s more underrated pieces.
In July of 2015, Currents was released as a solely Kevin Parker production; the third album was both recorded and mixed without any collaboration, in his own home, while still having a live band performance when on tour. In what many call a stark contrast to his earlier work, there is still Parker’s technical skill as he plays with pop themes and electronic drum lines like putty in his hands. The two come charging in with the album’s first single, ‘Let It Happen’, and a frantic video that ties the whole song to still fit into Parker’s experimental and otherworldly ways.
With that classic, catchy groove line that Parker is so well known for, ‘Same Old Mistakes’ moves this into a more electronic space to close out the album. Parker sings out, ‘Feel like a brand new person, to make the same old mistakes,’ coming out of the album having grown from his journey. Garnering critical attention and a cover from pop artists like Rihanna with ‘Same Ol’ Mistakes’ on her newest album, this song is definitely not one to forget about as Currents is Tame Impala’s highest-charting release yet. All high praise for an album that has been a great transition for both Parker and Tame Impala as a whole.
Visuals have always been a large part of the Tame Impala experience, and with Currents, Parker took it to a more realistic (also NSFW) place again with the video for this song. Featuring banana pom-poms and unrequited teenage love, the song and the album as a whole reflects the personal struggles that humans face when dealing with romance. To Parker, and for the album’s benefit, dealing with that involves a lot of danceable beats.
The fourth single off of Innerspeaker was released almost a year after the album and is one of the most popular songs for the band still to this day. The simple fuzzy guitar melody, often confused for synth, leads in Parker to plead, ‘Why won’t you make up your mind, give me a sign,’ as the song continues the longing effect in which Parker plays around. One of the shorter additions for the album, the melody and lyrics get stuck under your skin for a while after he stops singing, and the instruments fade into silence. In this Camp Nowhere live recording, you see Tame Impala in their natural habitat, playing outside in the middle of the woods drenched in sun and sound, with Parker sounding even more like a dream than ever.