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To die-hard music fans, Tame Impala should need no introduction. The solo project of Australian crooner Kevin Parker, Tame Impala has spent the last decade or so delivering some of the best psychedelic rock this side of The Doors, Pink Floyd, and The Flaming Lips. With his newest record in almost five years arriving this past Valentine’s Day, I decided to take a critical look at Kevin Parker’s entire discography, ranking each entry according to what I feel is the best in terms of hooks, lyrical storytelling, and song progression. So without further ado, here is my list for Tame Impala, ranked from worst to best!
5. Tame Impala EP (2008)
The first piece from Tame Impala is notable for being a semi-decent starting point for the fledgling project. Scuzzy guitars and a generally lo-fi aesthetic give the EP a lot of personality, but there is not much in the way of memorable songwriting or sticky hooks. The EP borrows a lot from 60’s psychedelia, but does little to differentiate itself from these acts. There are certainly some bangers (“Half Glass Full of Wine” sticks out in particular), but the EP is simply an introduction into the sound that Tame Impala would incorporate on their later releases.
4. The Slow Rush (2020)
The newest release from Kevin Parker, “The Slow Rush”, is an interesting beast. On one hand, individual tracks like “It Might Be Time,” “Posthumous Forgiveness” and the instantly earworm-inducing “Borderline” rank among Tame Impala’s greatest songs to date. On the other hand though, the deeper, non-single cuts are some of the most forgettable in the entire Tame Impala discography. The songwriting is at times quite personal, with Parker reflecting on his past mistakes and relationships, but some of the instrumentals strike me as quite dry when compared to some of Tame Impala’s earlier work. Not a bad record by any stretch of the imagination, but in comparison to the high bar Parker has set for his music, “The Slow Rush” falls a bit short.
3. InnerSpeaker (2010)
Now we get into the really good stuff. “InnerSpeaker” was Parker’s first attempt at a full-length album, and it paid out in spades. Improving upon the sound forged on the EP, “InnerSpeaker” has catchier hooks, stickier guitar passages, and trippier digressions, making for a sound that simultaneously pays homage to and builds upon the foundations of classic 60’s psych-rock. This was the first time Parker sounded like a fully developed artist in his own right, and it makes for a more than enjoyable listening experience.
2. Currents (2015)
On his 2015 album, Parker tries something completely different. Instead of drawing from classic psychedelia, Tame Impala experiments with the sounds of 80’s synth-pop, and the resulting album is simply magnificent. This was the first time that Tame Impala’s music made it into the mainstream consciousness, with singles like “The Less I Know The Better” getting regular radio play on channels outside of alt and indie stations. “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” was even covered by pop megastar Rihanna on her 2016 album, “ANTI.” Tame Impala’s penchant for introspective balladry met with his ability to create danceable hooks to make for an album that is equal parts accessible and surprisingly multi-faceted.
1. Lonerism (2012)
But as good as “Currents” was, nothing was ever going to top “Lonerism.” “Lonerism” simply packs an emotional punch unlike anything else that Tame Impala has released before or since, with lyrics about feeling lost in the world resonating with me on a deeply personal level.
The songwriting on “Lonerism” is such a huge step above anything else in its genre that it can often feel unfair to compare it with other, similar albums. Songs like “Why Won’t They Talk To Me?” and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” pull on the heartstrings unlike any other psych-rock experience this past decade. However, it’s in the multi-stage head-trips where the album truly separates itself. “Mind Mischief” and “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control” are brilliant pieces of music because they do so much in such a short period of time, showcasing just how talented Parker is. “Lonerism” may in fact be the best rock record of the 2010s, but be sure to bring a trip-sitter before you put it on.