There are moments when a certain collection of music comes into your life and mixes itsinspiration with the nature of your soul. For me, this is true of the second album by Tame Impala,”Lonerism.” It’s has this perfect spectrum to it. For that reason we’re going to be discussing the valuable and timeless album of my life, “Lonerism” by Kevin Parker, aka Tame Impala.
One essential component that never changes in the world of Tame Impala is the process of making the actual music. Entirely done by Parker, it offers thoughtful observations into his psyche. Does he prefer doing everything himself, or does he just feel like he can better get the ideas out in his own time and journey? It’s hard to say and while both arguments could possibly be valid, I think the end results justify the means. This guy doesn’t make bad music, and on “Lonerism” you can see a more clear picture of a musical genius emerging from the background.
It all starts with the whirling, hazy yet fluttering opening of “Be Above It.” Being the first song on any record is important, as it sets the tone and stage for what’s to come. I imagine this track being made from an amalgamation of the other ideas, after they’ve been put into a blender to make something that’s colorful and full of energy. The best never changes or diverges from its early beginnings, but rather expands in density and thickness as all the beats are explored and brought into one harmonious rhythm section.
The whirlwind, psychedelic elements only start on “Above It,” but when you hear Parker’s voice creep in over the musical section of “Enders Toi,” you know the first track was only the musical representation of going up a roller coaster, waiting for the actual adventure to begin. Parker lets the music do the talking more than the scattered vocals, but it allows the music to breathe properly, which in turn makes the song better. By the time the thumping drum beat of “Apocalypse Dreams” come in, the listener is submerged in deep sounds that fill up a room like a light being shown in a dark field to help illuminate on your path to view the stars above your head. The drumming is crucial here because while it sets the pace, it also gives pointed motives for the rest of the music to become as good as it can be. It’s hard to imagine Parker doing all this himself, but that’s the reality, and none of us will ever be this good at doing something ourselves. It’s ok, I’m come to live with the knowledge that Parker is just not human. The breakdown towards the conclusion of the track is euphoric and beautiful, even if you can sense the remorse in Parker’s lyrics. It’s one of the early moments on the album that strike me as utterly beautiful. It just works and the full, lushly produced music flows effortlessly through the speakers and captures your body and soul as you surrender to the beats and arrangements.
This happens over and over again during the duration, but it never gets old. Each and every song has this kind of deep texture running through it, and the lo-fi production quality only helps to make a record that is as entrenched in heart and soul as it is in imaginative pysche rock. On tracks like “Mind Mischief” is extremely obvious, but it’s also obviously brilliant and thoughtful, which makes it all the more enjoyable to get lost in. I got this record a few years ago for my birthday, to this day it’s remained one of the best gifts I’ve received in terms of cool music.
Throughout “Mischief” Parker reminisces on a nameless women he was captivated by. It’s only at the chorus and conclusion that it becomes known that in fact “she remembered my name,” which for any guy who’s thinking about a lady all while being unsure if she even knows you exist, it’s a huge moment of positivity and gratefulness. It’s timing and moments like this that make the album feel like an extension of yourself, and makes you feel even closer to the spirit under which the album was created.
Just to throw this out there, but this album is full of almost nothing that doesn’t pull you in. Every track is a banger, but the middle section is where the road meanders into a truly trippy section of the record. “Music to Walk Home By,” is a thinly vailed attempt at making the drums and synth the focus of the track, but again because it works so well you don’t really care that the vocals are mixed low and muddy in the arrangement. For me it always goes back to how you want to service the song. You don’t always need the vocals to be forefront, but Parker manages to write lyrics that are easy to follow along with, should you choose that path. If you don’t that’s fine too because the instrumentation is pulling at you like nature pulls a helpless victim into a beautiful lush garden you might end up being a part of. To me, that doesn’t sound all that bad, as long as I have this album to accompany me.
It’s a pushy album in how it embraces the next gorgeous moment and that push helps to keep it fresh and ever growing. Middle tracks like “Music” and “Why Won’t they Talk to Me,” both work well as intermissions between the more solid sounds surrounding it on either side. These tracks are great, but to me it’s more about where we’re going and not where we’ve briefly found ourselves as listeners. Not to downplay the significance of this song and the former, but it feels like the bridge that crossed over two seperate sections. In that regard it works great.
After that though, the record spirals out in a wave of euphoria, starting with the band’s first taste of mass appeal. “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” is a monumental track that harnesses the power and emotion of a doomed relationship. Parker’s vocals are clear and the pain expelled fills the mostly upbeat instrumentation with a certain murky, unsure quality that really brings out the humanity that Parker was going for. I could listen to this song over and over (and I have), but it never loses its luster. It’s bright in arrangement and the heartache is palpable. There’s a reason it’s a massive hit, this wasn’t coincidental. From there the album continues with what has been proven to work, which is more drums, easy going guitar parts intermingled with a low but gorgeously inspired Beatles vocal style. Parker got a bit of heat for “ripping off Lennon” in these early days again, and well, he does sound like Lennon, but to me the difference is Lennon had three other members to lean on, and Parker is doing this all on his own. At this point pretty much no music can be claimed at “totally original,” but Parker has this knack for taking everything he’s ever heard, laying his own twist on it and coming out the other end with something that is as original as anything being played on radio right now.
One great example of this is the track “Elephant,” found as we get closer to the albums conclusion. It’s a thumping, heavy track that starts easily enough with a crunchy beat and a roaring appetite. The simplicity in the song is one of its strong victories, in that while it diverges to become part of a fuller sound, the drum beat never changes. Like it’s namesake, it’s driving, forceful, and determined. It never loses sight of that as a song, and that’s why it works so brilliantly. The lyrics are also fantastic. It’s somewhat nonsensical in that it isn’t a song about some deep loss or vulnerability. However, it does have the always timeless wordplay of “He pulled the mirrors off his Cadillac (yeah) ‘cause he doesn’t like it looking like he looks back,” which to me is cheeky, adversarial and too cool for school. The high energy featured during the track is a perfect detour from some of the other more slow, thoughtfully full sections of music we get during the rest of the record.
As the album finds its conclusion, we’re treated to a song that’s literally perfect for the ending. I picture the album being a journey through the darkness of the soul, but with “Sun's Coming Up,” it feels like the awakening of a new day. At this juncture, the pain felt throughout “Lonerism” can be happily discarded as you embark on an entire new day as you shed the difficulties of the past. The music also helps obviously. It’s slow at first just featuring a piano and Parker’s voice. For all intents and purposes, it works and the embrace you feel during the track is like an old friend hugging you after a stressful time. It’s easily the slowest song on the record, and it’s placement is crucial because it doesn’t get lost in the same way it might have been placed somewhere else. It’s still a sad track that makes you think, but it’s a pretty, and ultimately fitting end to what really is a remarkable album that I’m able to share my soul with. Thanks for reading.
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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