Some bands you listen to and enjoy but they never seem to latch on to you in a personal way. Tame Impala is not one those bands. Since arriving on the scene in 2009 with “Innerspeaker,” the band, which is to say Parker himself, have gradually changed our perceptions of psyche rock and lovelorn melodies that can be at times infectious and daunting in terms of musical I.Q. Today we deliver the ten best tracks from the first three impeccable Tame Impala albums.
10. YES I’M CHANGING, CURRENTS
This track here is the dozy of the whole album. It’s so emotionally open and vulnerable it’s hard not to relate to it merit and depth. For someone going through a devastating end of a relationship (like I was at the time), “Yes I’m Changing” meant the world to me, and was a source of deep comfort, hoping that it would be alright in the end. The story of the song is a familiar one, which helps with relatability. It’s brutally cold and sober, depicting various frames of mind, encompassing the myriad of feelings you go through during a difficult emotional time. The best song off the new album, and the fourth spot on our Best Tame Impala Songs,”Yes I’m Changing.”
9. CAUSE I’M A MAN, CURRENTS
On “Currents” Parker is able to make what’s essentially a psych R&B record, and this is no more obvious than on “Cause I’m a Man.” It’s a slow, tense song about shortcomings, but it’s also one of the more pretty sounding tracks on the entire album. Parker’s voice is raspy yet open and clear, and his production skills on the instrumentation side are at peak conditioning here. It’s a song where his troubles are laid out in clear and concise patterns, and while he mostly takes his actions and consequences seriously, he also has the ability to not let himself take anymore of the blame than he feels responsible for.
8. IT IS NOT MEANT TO BE, INNERSPEAKER
Many songs depict the beach, but few do so in the way Tame Impala manages to convey it in the mind blowing spectrum of noises Parker is able to conjure. Chosen as the first song on the first album, “It’s Not Meant to Be,” feels like you’re on a beach, but not a beautiful beach with the one you love. Rather, this is a song about disagreements. Such disagreements about the pros and cons of sand on your feet, or smoking pot all day. The song, clocking in at nearly five and a half minutes, wilds through lush guitar work, and the drumming is elegant and low key, never willing to overtake the song, but rather nudging the song slightly to perfection.
7. APOCALYPSE DREAMS, LONERISM
Like a sun suddenly appearing in the sky at full strength, “Apocalypse Dreams,” roars into ears and explores the mind of Kevin Parker, and what he’s capable of. The track has this frollicking aspect to it that also renders the song in the best way possible. The lyrics, as well as the vocal harmony Kevin engages evoke some of the best moments of the record, but the real prize doesn’t hit until second half of the song. After the slow strung guitars comes and goes, the track is propelled by the drums, all leading to a bright explosion of energy as the song heads quickly into a sundrenched, mind altering field of sound.
6. ALTER EGO, INNERSPEAKER On early records Parker had to do more with less in terms of production quality, however, that doesn’t stop him from executing a song that can still draw you in. The song itself relies more on the vast musical labyrinth of styles and less of the lyrical aspects, but this is still something Tame can do very well. The lyrics are important, but by the time Parker’s voice comes in you’re already hooked in by the majestic nature of the dense, all surrounding instrumentation. It’s an early sign of what he’s capable of, and thankfully for us he hasn’t lost a single step on subsequent releases.
5. LET IT HAPPEN, CURRENTS
When I first heard this song, honestly, I was not a fan. The music didn’t remind of what had come before, and more dancey, electronic vibe turned me off. Not that it was bad, but it wasn't the Tame I had fallen in love with on the previous two albums. But, after multiple listens, and hearing the album presented in full, it suddenly made sense. This album, and this track especially was Tame Impala opening themselves up and rising in the world of thought provoking music. The success of the albums rides on the popularity of the first track, and “Let it Happen,” with all of its meandering and chasing of holes, comes through in a big way, and shows the band is capable of so much more.
4. MIND MISCHIEF, LONERISM
One of the most polarizing moments for my upon the first listens of this landmark creatively full record was this song, found in the early moments of the album. The music is winding and carefree, but it’s very obvious how much thought went into the process. The lyrics are also cognisant of past loves and the trials of feeling attached to a person who might not even know you exist. It’s my suspicion that Parker is a deep romantic who has struggled with this before and since. It’s a wonderful mid tempo song, and for that reason, it’s included on this countdown.
3. ELEPHANT, LONERISM
There’s so so so much amazing happening in this song it’s hard to figure out a starting point. Obviously, a big part of the song is the fact that it very much lives up to its title. As a track,”Elephant” hurdles through the wild, violently and strongly pushing limits, with full sets of lumbering giants pummeling through whatever gets in its way. The live version also has a wicked cool instrumental section that only elevates the energy of the song. The drum roll through the verses is also brilliantly laid out, while Kevin’s vocals sound as pure and fun as they ever get. The best lines though come toward the end of the bridge, making its way to the song conclusion. The word pay during the segment about pulling off the mirrors of his Cadillac (YEAH!), are some of the best lines in any song I’ve ever heard.
2. FEELS LIKE WE ONLY GO BACKWARDS, LONERISM
For many people, this was the song where they suddenly became aware of the majestic mode of storytelling that Impala lays out. The dinging opening, the lush overlaid guitars and bass, and the minimal but effectiveness of the drumming all make the song one of the best by the band. When Parker bellows the chorus, and various other sections you can grasp and understand the weariness permanent in the song structure. So many of their songs go hand in hand with raw emotion, of guilt, second thoughts, and other feelings that it eventually becomes your song too. It’s amazing, and it’s a song that still gets all the love it deserves.
1. THE LESS I KNOW THE BETTER, CURRENTS
The argument could be made that without this song this record wouldn’t have been nearly the juggernaut it was, and while that may be slightly true, “Current is full to the brim with incredible songs.” However, this song has so much working for it that it’s nearly impossible to ignore. Let’s start with the 70’s stylings on guitar as the depth of the song opens up into a strange disco vibe, but it’s the lyrics that pull you in and embrace you. It’s a sad song that we all can relate to, the moment when your brain syncs in with your heart and you’re aware that the end of whatever you had with a person is over. It’s important to stress that anxiety but also to embrace it in hopes of getting better. Parker’s voice is top notch 100% here, and with this gorgeous balance among his word play and juxtaposition between trying to be free of the pain but also to learn from it, the song is able to transcend all modern music and make a song that you can feel as part of your soul. Thanks for reading!
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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