When you think of modern psychedelic music, Tame Impala may be the first band to pop into your mind. The group is the creative project of Australian multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker. In the recording studio, Parker writes, records, performs, and produces all of the music. As a touring act, Tame Impala consists of Parker (vocals, guitar, synthesizer), Dominic Simper (guitar, synthesizer), Jay Watson (synthesizer, vocals, guitar), Cam Avery (bass guitar, vocals, synthesizer), and Julien Barbagallo (drums, vocals).
Tame Impala has been around since 2007, back when they were performing in Perth and releasing singles and EPs that sounded far-off from the trippy alternative rock they’re releasing today. Once they started dropping studio albums (Innerspeaker, Lonerism, Currents, and The Slow Rush), their power in the music world grew. Now it feels like they’re everywhere: making original songs for movies, playing at music festivals, and collaborating with artists such as Gorillaz and Diana Ross.
Tame Impala’s influence is only growing stronger. Therefore, we feel the time is right to create a Top 10 list of their greatest hits. See which tracks from their four studio albums made the cut below!
10. "Apocalypse Dreams"
We didn’t feel right making this list without adding in this Lonerism favorite. The line "This could be the day that we push through" immediately hooks you into a story about keeping hope in the middle of uncertainty. We’ll admit: we listened to this one a lot during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With buttery music production – that combination of classic piano keys and trippy reverb is gorgeous – "Apocalypse Dreams" is a great starter song for someone trying to get into Tame Impala’s music. We also believe it’s one of the most underrated tracks on Lonerism, let alone the band’s entire discography.
9. "Yes I’m Changing"
You’re going to see a lot of songs from Currents on this list. "Yes I’m Changing" is the first we’re bringing up. This slow tune is synthy and serene. Despite this being a heartbreak song, it sounds like what it would feel to find inner peace.
On “Yes I’m Changing,” Kevin Parker sings with his heart on his sleeve while drawing from his very public break-up with Melody Prochet. The lyrics are perhaps so stream-of-consciousness that Parker doesn’t even remember writing them. According to NME, he said the songwriting process was "…a weird experience, because it was like it was someone else made the song. I had no memory of imagining it."
On this track, it starts to become clearer that Currents is specifically about the loss of a lover and the end of an era, but also the beginning of something mysterious and new. We love the ending with all of the atmospheric car sounds. Sort of reminds us of the ending of Phoebe Bridgers’ "Scott Street," which has a similar theme.
8. "Solitude Is Bliss"
"Solitude Is Bliss" is from Tame Impala’s first studio album, Innerspeaker. The song is told from the perspective of an outsider observing his peers. Rather than socializing like them, he prefers solitude and relishes how his thoughts are unique to himself, never to be known by the “you” addressed in the chorus. That’s right: this tune is basically a theme song for introverts.
The song makes heavy use of effects associated with 60s and 70s psychedelic, with Britpop-like instrumentation. Heavy panning effects contribute to the psych vibes, also reinforced visually through the album artwork by frequent Tame Impala collaborator Leif Podjhasky. And that reverb when Parker sings "you will never come close to how I feel"? Astounding, glorious, and powerful. This song will make you want to spend more time alone, ’cause as Tame Impala suggest…it rocks!
7. "New Person, Same Old Mistakes"
Another Currents song on our list that acts as the finale to the album. In "New Person, Same Old Mistakes," the narrator admits his personal metamorphosis should be read with caution – its biggest skeptic is the side of him he left behind. The impulse to change and the fear of changing too much are at odds until the bridge, which suggests some synthesis: “This story ain’t so different from the rest.”
The music production also embodies the narrator’s transformation, as the sound of the song completely changes around the 3-minute mark, then eventually returns back to its natural chord progression. "New Person, Same Old Mistakes" is actually one of Tame Impala’s most commercially successful tunes. This song was covered by Rihanna on her praised album, ANTI, under the title “Same Ol’ Mistakes.” Additionally, "New Person, Same Old Mistakes" was used in teasers for FX’s show created by Donald Glover (Childish Gambino), Atlanta.
6. "Mind Mischief"
"Mind Mischief" is the fourth track from Lonerism and tells the relatable story of a heartbroken lover. At first, the narrator rejoices in the glee of a new relationship, but as the song progresses, it’s revealed his partner is losing interest. By trying to make the relationship better, he just ends up breaking things off faster, and once it’s all over, he resigns himself to being cold and not being open about his emotions.
Ultimately, the song describes the disconnect between how the narrator thinks he is being treated and how he actually is being treated. This is the “mind mischief” the title refers to. Production-wise, this track has a wonderful mix of layered vocals, drum riffs, and guitar fusion. The scandalous music video, which depicts a student’s affair with a teacher, works well with the song’s themes.
On “Borderline,” the lead single from Tame Impala’s The Slow Rush, Kevin Parker deals with themes of a relationship on its last legs. He also questions the nature of love and manages to throw in a reference to the Lonerism track "Sun’s Coming Up" with the lyric, "R.I.P., here comes the sun / Here comes the sun."
The track was introduced to fans on Saturday Night Live during the March 30, 2019 show. It included slightly different lyrics. The full song leaked on April 11, 2019, the day before the official release. While immigration and borders continue to be prominent topics on a global scale, here Parker uses “borderline” as a personal metaphor for the rocky in-between spaces of a turbulent relationship.
And let’s not forget "borderline" is also an adjective. People can be described, for example, as “borderline alcoholics,” a theme that’s teased in the refrain, “Starting to sober up.” There is also “borderline personality disorder” (BPD), which the National Institute of Mental Health says often causes problems in relationships – the main theme of this song. "Borderline" may be a depressing song, but it’s one you can dance to.
4. "Let It Happen"
For an opening track, "Let It Happen" isn’t afraid to cast a bittersweet shadow. In this Currents song, Kevin Parker introduces the album’s theme of “letting go” and allowing nature to take its course. However, the tune is in minor key: thus highlighting the resistance one might feel when loosening their grip on something.
This powerful theme is where the album Currents derives its title, as Parker stated the currents he refers to are “unstoppable forces” that lead to personal transformation. On the sound of the track, he told Konbini, "I wrote some of the song on the Paris RER, just thought some of the melodies. It reminds me of being on a train, going through one landscape and then into another. The rhythm rolls on. Sometimes you’re in a tunnel, sometimes you’re out in the mountains, the landscape changes as it goes on."
In "Let It Happen," the band manages to merge their signature psychedelic rock sound with an extended electronic breakdown. We adore the monstrous bass solo during the bridge – it gives us hardcore post-punk vibes. (It also works so well with the visuals in the action-packed music video!) This is just one of those songs that keeps getting better the longer it goes on.
One of Tame Impala’s earliest hits still holds up! This bass-heavy song – which you’ve undoubtedly heard play in car and BlackBerry commercials – was inspired by arrogant bands and artists Kevin Parker encountered in the Perth rock scene. "Elephant" is essentially a metaphor about how those bands were so focused on their future successes, they forgot to remember where they came from.
In August 2012, Parker told Stereogum, "’Elephant’ is actually one of the oldest songs that I have, it’s just been in the vaults this whole time. I’m not sure why we never recorded it before, but we were just playing it at a sound check one night and everyone in the band was like, ‘We should just put this on the album,’ and so we did."
Parker eventually grew tired of playing the song, but he hasn’t undersold its overall significance. He said in a 2015 interview, "It’s a little bittersweet because, like, that song paid for half my house." Maybe Parker has disassociated with the hit, but we won’t stop shaking our big grey trunks along to it.
2. "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards"
“Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” is the second single from Tame Impala’s Lonerism. It was released on October 1, 2012: four days ahead of the full-length release. The song is more about an emotion rather than a narrative; it’s about wanting to move forward in life but feeling pulled back to something or someone in a relationship. It could even signify the ending stage of a relationship. According to an April 2020 interview with Rick Rubin, Kevin Parker was inspired by Beach House’s track “Walk in the Park” when creating this psychedelic trip of a hit.
Parker told Konbini, "To me, at the time, ["Feels Like We Only Go Backwards"] was like the most pop song I’ve ever written. I’ve never written a song that was just: chorus. I was really proud of that one. There was never time when I’ve doubted that song. It feels like it’s the most effortless."
While the creation of the song came natural to Parker, the production of the accompanying music video was a lot more painstaking. The colorful animated film is made up of over 1000 plasticine collages. It’s the creative brainchild of duo Becky and Joe, who are known for their horror webseries Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared.
1. "The Less I Know the Better"
Contrary to the title…the more we listen to this song, the better it gets.
The bassline? Immaculate. The overall production? Catchy. The vocals? Chilling. The lyrics? Brutally relatable. And the music video? Well, it’s probably one of the greatest in history. It’s hard to say something about "The Less I Know the Better" that hasn’t been said before. The only thing we really can say is that if you’ve ever been in a love triangle or have experienced unrequited love, you’ll completely understand the whole thing. It’s also a sly commentary about "alpha" and "beta" men. Every groovy bass hook and sensual Rhode piano chord feels like the band reaching out and saying, "we feel your pain."
Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker has said that the song doesn’t belong on Currents “because it has this dorky, white disco funk.” However, it is by far the most popular track on the album, thanks in no small part to its earwormy sound and breakout music video full of high school angst, psychedelia, and a man in a gorilla costume jumping through a flaming hoop for a slam dunk. Following its success on Currents, “The Less I Know The Better” was released as a radio single on November 29, 2015. The song went on to be voted #1 in Triple J’s Hottest 100 of the decade.
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Article Image: Kevin Parker of Tame Impala singing at an Amsterdam 2022 show with a colorful projection on the screen behind him. (benhoudijk via DepositPhotos.)