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.
These days, the art of modern rock takes resilience, the right amount of swagger and musicianship. It’s also rare when bands can get more than five albums worth of catchy, popular hits that still get people excited. Led by brothers Matt Shultz, rhythm guitarist Brad Shultz, lead guitarist Nick Bockrath, guitarist/ keyboardist Matthan Minster, bassist Daniel Tichenor, and drummer Jared Champion.
Hailing from Kentucky, the band has managed to release only great albums. We won’t go going in depth on these too much, but rather talking about their growth and the ability to make a song that has something for everyone. I mean seriously, their first album has what’s likely the band’s biggest hit. The track “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” features a loose country twang running of the vocals, and the vocals are delivered with almost a hip hop type of flow. The tale is morbid, sad and the reality of some of our lesser fortunate. Basically based on the strength of this track, the band got recognized.
The band would evolve on that with their next album “Thank You Happy Birthday.” Even from the second track “Aberdeen,” you can tell how much the band embraced the idea of being the next big thing in indie music. To fill a vast amount of space you need the right type of artist, whose sound can elevate themselves and bring in the big crowds and paydays. “Aberdeen” proved that it was possible for them. It’s a strong anthemic song and all the parts work effortlessly together. There’s just so much to enjoy with this band it’s hard to decide which aspect is the best. Even the sneakiness and sarcastic nature of a song like “Indy Kidz” works better than it should. I mean they’re literally talking shit at a demographic that could have made or broken them. In that regard they get points for bluster and bravado, and it oozes out of them. Then you have a sweet lovely song like “Shake Me Down.” It’s reminiscent of pain but also salvation. When Schultz talks about keeping his eye “fixed on the sun” I see it at as a metaphor for the band’s pursuit of acknowledgment. Then the instrumentation opens up and your mood goes up in happy remembrance. The “even on a cloudy day” section is simply gorgeous, and for me at least, it’s impossible not to smile.
The band can also get heavier and more frenzied. The next album, titled “Melophobia” opens up with the scorcher known as “Spiderhead.” It’s one of my favorite songs they’ve ever composed, and it invokes images of a gorgeous strong woman dancing in a field with her arms in the air. It’s just a fun booty shaking track. It’s easy to lose yourself in the song; when I belt this song out in my car after a long day, all the stresses of life fade away. Having said that, the band’s other two best known and popular songs are the ones that eventually the album became known for. “Come a Little Closer” and final track “Cigarette Daydream” are heartfelt moments, but “Daydream” is the emotional conclusion of the album, and the heart of everything that came before. The soft guitar works wonderfully amidst a vocal section dealing with reluctance and pain at the thought of being lost in the passage of time.
Finally, three years ago, the first record on the big scale was released, and naturally, the band got bigger and better at their craft. The songs on this album didn’t end up being their best of all time, but there’s plenty to love about the entire duration. “Mess Around” is a 60’s era psych rock song arranged in the spirit of their Kentucky garage roots. It’s masterful and dance-able, both things the brand excels at by now. “Cold Cold Cold” is a dangerous darkly thematic track, but the real show stopper to me is “Punching Bag.” The story of a woman fed up with her abusers bullshit, it has a revenge plot running through it, but honestly, those fuckers deserve to be dealt with. It has an intentional type of danger to it that I enjoy. Rock n Roll needs to be more dirty and unsafe than it’s been in recent years, and this track proves that this band is capable of that, even if they only brush on the area.
All in all, this band is going to get bigger and (hopefully) better as the delve into new and exciting parts of the musical spectrum. The new album will be out soon, so we’ll all find out shortly I guess. Thanks for reading.
During the early aughts, a groundswell of garage based, mostly indie rock came bubbling up after the death of new metal. Bands like the Hives, White Stripes, and maybe most notably, the Strokes helped to usher in a new age of rock n roll. Hailing from NYC, the capital of American attitude, the five piece consisting of Julian Casablancas, Albert Hammond Jr., Nick Valensi, Nikolai Fraiture, and Fabrizio Moretti on drums released an album that was defined by its devil may care logic in quick, punctuated music that touched on issue of being reasonable, lost in thought, and more notably, fun times spent laughing about the memories, good and bad. I haven’t done one of these “Albums of My Life” in awhile so I thought it would be great to discuss one of the overall best albums of the last 20 years, without a doubt. Here are my thoughts on the Seminal album by the Strokes, “Is This It?”
I hope you enjoy.
At 35 minutes, this album is quite short, but what it lacks in duration is quickly forgotten because nearly every song is a classic anthem and perfectly exemplified everything that was amazing about the early indie movement. The opening title track starts with a mild electronic beat before becoming a very evenly paced instrumentation section. It’s only made better by the slow murmurings of singer Casablancas. Much has been made of the bands seemingly lax relationship with how normal bands do things, but from the start they made that known, and have basically stuck to their guns in the following 18 years.
Musically, the opening is a nice teaser for a more immediate next track “Modern Age.” It’s easily one of my favorite songs the band has ever recorded, the guitar part is contagious, and the song takes off like a coaster on Coney Island. It’s one of the more fun energetic tracks on the album, and overall is a masterpiece. It’s powerful, defensive and ready for attack. I think that’s what I like about it most.
Many of the songs on this album stay with you for way longer than they maybe should. Much of what was released during those years of the garage rock revival has been forgotten, like any fading genre, but this record always seems to get classier with age. As the album progress, we get a solid round or so of songs that would end up helping the band become such a well known act. “Someday” is filled with this sense of longing and regret, which I think is still relevant of the times. The lyrical content is used from points of frustration and apathy, but also of redemption and finding the strength to be the best person you can.
Following that we get the massive hit “Last Nite,” the song that was the first big break the band got on radio and (even then) music videos on MTV. I think the song is good but not the best in their arsenal. Having said that, it’s hard to be as great as you can be when the next track “Hard to Explain” blows everything out of the water. It’s a fast paced but beautiful song of remembrance. I have a friend who was going through a difficult time, with a lady, and he described to me the freedom of flying down the interstate on New Year’s Eve, blasting this song and being freed of all the burdens of the last year and the Strokes played it, seemingly just for him in that moment. It’s stuff like that that always stays with me. It’s the power of music, and while this album has many high points, “Hard to Explain” is not only the best track on the album, but more than likely the band’s best overall song. I hope you enjoyed this. Thanks for reading.
When At the Drive In broke up, leading members Omar Rodríguez-López and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala made a left turn so surprising that many were uncertain. However, it worked, in spades actually and The Mars Volta became one of the great post rock, almost demented jam bands of the early 2000’s. Today we discuss the bands ten best songs, and try to make sense of it all. Enjoy, and wish me luck!
10. ABERINKULA, THE BEDLAM IN GOLIATH
One of the best mechanisms the band has is the ability to whirlwind this retro avant-garde prog rock with a type of trippy Spanish influences. Over and over again they mix the two to become a band that is as creative as they are free wielding shape shifters. This track is a perfect example of that artistry. It’s King Crimson meets Santana, and that mythological influence captivates everything in the song.
9. VISCERA EYES, AMPUTECHRE
Drawing an audience has never been a problem for this band, but I doubt they care immensely. This gives the band cause to do whatever they want. “Viscera Eyes” is a perfect example of that. Mixing Spanish and English lyrics captures both sides of the band while still expanding their sound. At over nine minutes in length, it’s another in a long line of adventurous tracks that make you feel like a fever dream setting out for your prize.
8. CICATRIZ ESP, DELOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM
Quite a few of these selections come off the seminal full length record, and all these years later the album is still mesmerizing, along with this song which finds us at number eight. It’s got quite the drum beat, but the real show is the guitar work, which I think was done by Frusciante of the RHCP. It has this middle section that welcomes the calm before the storm, then welcomes the storm itself while Baxter screams “defender.” It’s a powerful moment for sure, and a great song to boot.
7. TETRAGRAMMATON, AMPUTECHRE
Easily the longest track to make this list, this sixteen minute journey exemplifies how the band delves into otherworldly grooves and hooks and never looks back. It meanders between weird Latin infused arrangements while embracing the prog rock nature of the band itself. At this point in the band’s career they were basically operating freely and away from normal operating procedures for most successful bands. Trusting their instincts and making something that is wide ranging yet thought provoking is what got them to where they ended up, so why not keep trusting it?
6. TEFLON, OCTAHEDRON
I remember hearing this song when they album released, and quite frankly it had me spellbound. It’s hypnotic and captivating in leaps and bounds. The swerving mechanics bringing forth the twilight zone-sequel instrumental section, while again the vocals roam like a once caged but now free animal. It’s curious and darkly mesmerizing and it’s one of their best, weirdly mid tempo classic. It’s even better to experience live, as I did finally at Bonnaroo 2009.
5. INERTIATIC ESP, DELOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM
Maybe their best known song, but also their mass welcome to the music world at large. It starts with a bang and doesn’t let up for the entirety of nearly four minutes and thirty seconds. The drumming, coupled with the madness of the screeching guitar make it a truly dynamic song. Much of the vocals and words are non sensibility, but that finds its way into this band pretty often. It honestly works though. Sometimes, for certain songs I feel like the lyrical content isn’t as important as the overall quality of the song. But, this is part of where they thrive. We don’t have to understand everything.
4. METATRON, THE BEDLAM IN GOLIATH
I’ve used this before to describe this band, but the wild , free wielding nature is one of the best attributes of the Mars Volta. Strange unorthodox soundscapes lay the groundwork for a song that’s as heavy and verbose as anything the band has ever done. Much of the lyrical content is jumbled into an abstract context, but the real winner here is the drum work, I believe by Jon Theodore( they change members quite often) is electric and pummeling all at the same time. It’s one of the best aspects of the song, and it helps “Metatron” land at number four in the countdown.
3. ROULETTE DARES(THE HAUNT OF), DELOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM
Many songs on “Deloused” are navigations into uncertain waters, but “Roulette Dares” actually ends up being one of the more straightforward, albeit jammy tracks on the record. The gradual opening begins with drums and off the wall guitar renderings, but with an explosion of other instruments joining the fold, the song becomes more epic than any other song found in this countdown. Cedric's vocals are strong and soaring, but he’s also able to bring it down a notch when needed. Honestly the contrast between the two vocal stylings show how powerful and capable he is as a vocalist, and the song is better because of it.
2. THE WIDOW, FRANCES THE MUTE
After a huge debut like the band had, it was somewhat expected for most fans to be underwhelmed by what they cooked up next. It’s not because of the end product is bad, but rather I think it had to do with the length of the album and how many of the songs seemed to be one big long piece that had to be played as one. Thankfully, the second track on the album,”The Widow,” is a song that hides hardly any mystery and has few drastic changes throughout. This juxtaposition helps the album to find some common ground in its arrangement. It’s more of a straight ahead track than what the band is known for, but it also ends up being one of the best the band has ever recorded. The agony in Cedrics voice is obvious, and with all the other parts working together the song is able to become profound and ultimately engaging and rich.
1. TELEVATORS, DELOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM
I’m not sure when this ended up being my favorite song by this band, but during the years I ended up falling in love with this band “TELEVATORS” always stood out to me as an imperfect masterpiece. It’s weirdly arranged but still maintains a more linear songwriting approach than many of their other contributions. The slowly building background sections are gorgeously layered, and when Baxter suggests that “the chalk outline will circle this city,” you get the feeling he’s weapons for a divisive culture on the edge of collapse. It’s a sobering song in a heap of exploratory songs that shows that the band isn’t all weird and alien like. In the end it ends up being the band’s best overall song, which is why it ends our countdown at number one. Thanks for reading, I hoped you enjoyed!
THE MAGIC OF MITSKI
Artists by nature are allowed to be chameleons to a certain extent. The album or songs you write as a 20 year old might draw from very different places than it will when you’re gaining in years. It’s all part of the growth and maturity that comes with being a performer and an adult, as a matter of fact. That’s where we find the inspiration for today’s post, about up and coming, potential superstar in the making, Mitski.
Since arriving modestly in 2012 with her album “Lush,” her music has been about personally engaging emotions that overwhelm while also waking you up to how these deterrents can be fought and ultimately conquered. The record, along with her next self released album “Retired from Sad, New Career in Business,” are both engaging and worth a listen. On “Retired,” we get a more orchestral movements along with her silky yet sullen voice whispering from the darkness, trying to lull the listener into a dark, albeit engaging emotional place. One of the best tracks on the album, “Shame” features violin chords that cut deep with tension and a foreboding that is often not heard outside of film scores or during haunting symphonies. It’s an early testament to her pushing herself musically, and even without a huge budget and no name recognition, it stands proudly as an early sign of excellence that portents to what future Mitski works will showcase.
In 2016 though, at the age of 26, right as most adults are still trying to gain traction and make a name for themselves (in whatever field they happen to be in) Mitski took that dive and released a record that was not only hailed by indie music types, but also caused people to take notice to this soft spoken but direct Japanese American songwriter named Mitski Miyawaki. That record, “Puberty 2,” explores the dense and intimidating nature of things like growing up racially obscured in terms of how to balance the concepts of cultures that often wildly misalign in how events are felt, showcased and ultimately handled. Her experience in this is likely normal for others like her who grew up walking the line between having a profound culture from one point of view while still trying to fit in in whatever culture you spent more time. It’s a struggle that bleeds through the whole record, but it doesn’t ever get black and white in terms of what’s right and wrong. I’ve found in dealing with culture clashes there often isn’t a “this is right or this is wrong” standpoint. Certain people just do things differently from how my family might do it, but it’s not wrong or right. It’s just how it is.
Songs like the powerful opener “Happy,” are engaging in their sexuality but also frank about the turbulence of any potential romantic relationship. Her lyrics are dirty in message but they way she manipulates the words ends up being more romantically cathartic than perhaps it’s meant to be. It’s another example of her word play when she talks about “happy came into me,” as she’s describing the bliss of love making with the person of her choosing. Other songs like “Dan the Dancer” brim with immediacy courtesy of the rhythmic guitar sections. It’s moments like this that capture the listener while also making departures that an unknowing fan might not expect. It’s this variance of sound that’s makes difficult to anticipate what might come next. At least it’s exciting thought provoking music though.
One of the best, standout tracks on “Puberty,” “Your Best American Girl” finds its entrance about fifteen minutes in, but it’s musicality, vocals, and lyrical content stand as the best on the record. The trepidation composed throughout the track is palpable and agony driven. At the root of the track is the regret and uncertainty of being in love but of also feeling like the way you were brought up isn’t in line with what others perceive as being the best way. Again this speaks to the culture clash of being a Japanese born American and having to navigate the difficult task of being from two juxtaposing worlds and ways of life. “Puberty 2” ended up getting accolades from various indie music blogs, justifiably so, but Mitski’s next trick would be more eye opening and raw than anything else she has released thus far.
Released last year to widespread acclaim, “Be the Cowboy” has everything her fans have grown to love, but it’s pouring with dark pop tendencies. Take the first track “Geyser,” it’s a blustering harmonization of dinky lit synth, with Mitski’s voice calling from the darkness for us to join her. From there the album delves into what the artist Mitski has described as her “saddest record” to date. And boy let me tell you she wasn’t joking. Over the 38 minute run time, you feel her pain and desperation. Tracks like “Washing Machine Heart” might seem more upbeat than others but the lyrical content still makes you want to weep with her and tell her it will be ok.
Albums like this can be difficult to get through. Mostly what it boils down to for me is how closely do I want to be engaged to these forbidding, often deceptive thoughts. Many of the songs here simply work, like “Remember My Name” with its pure vocals and walloping drum section, it’s vaguely heartbreaking in scope, with the listener hoping for recognition in a world that pretty much lets everyone ignore everyone else at will. It’s small moments and observations like this that gave the album growing room and high praise. It’s also why among many publications and websites this record, this “Be the Cowboy”, came bursting through and landed atop most of the year end albums lists of the year just completed. Hell even this very website named it the top album of 2018.
For some that classification speaks to what was perceived as a lukewarm music year, but to me it means the album was incredible and moving. To get to a point where your album is named “the best” means that you’re taking risks in your creation. That point brings me to the track “Lonesome Love.” It’s a bittersweet piece about attempts to convey your happiness through your outward beauty but then being let down. Included during the vocals is a line regarding how well she can take care of herself sexually. Twenty years ago a female musician likely would’ve been chastised for being “too graphic” or any of the other things bullshit men who don’t want women being too overly sexual to be. The point I’m trying to make is that to stay strong and independent and well, human, we have to be able to convey our feelings and to do so without being frightened of perception. The album is seething with these types of abandoned or pushed aside emotions, but in its final minutes Mitski takes a leap and manages to pull all the other messages during the album into one last, gorgeously layered track.
This track, “Two Slow Dancers,” is the type of song that breaks into your heart, making you remember all the times you were wrong, ill informed, or downright fucked over. I can feel the pain of being part of something that ends tragically or miserably- and in that moment we’re transported to a time where lovers held each other under soft lights. The picture she paints here is regrettable, not because we don’t want to deal with it, but because we all already have, and the weight of the pain in going back is just too much for our souls to handle. When Mitski harmonizes “To think that we could stay the same,” it brings moments fluttering into your subconscious. Moments that you’ll never forget, even if you want to, and also the joys and free wielding nature of being in love during the early highs of our 20’s, without a care into the world. That can’t last of course, and even though we hear the beautiful vocals of Mitski as she exclaims that “we get a few years and then it wants us back,” we know that life is filled not with ultimate second chances, but of regret and sadness. Like I said, the record is incredibly sad and vulnerable, but the best music was never made from a confident, happily reassured place. But rather from a place deep within us as we try to move past our own hang ups and mistakes. Thank you for reading.
Landon Murray is a music connooisseur who craves sounds of all shapes and textures. He's seen over 2000 bands and looks forward to welcoming you into his world of sound,
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