Genius of the Month: Tame Impala

I will be starting a new monthly piece: Genius of the Month. For each GOTM piece, I strive to write eloquent justice to someone who has been uniquely important to music. I also hope to shed light on many of the slept-on masterminds out there.


With that being said, I don’t think there’s anyone more fitting for the first ever Genius of the Month than Tame Impala.


More specifically, Kevin Parker.


Kevin Parker is a musical genius. I know that term shouldn’t be used lightly; Parker fully embodies what it means to be a musical genius in the 21st century. Anyone who knows even a little bit about Tame Impala would have a hard time denying that Kevin Parker is a genius, especially by today’s standards. Saying shit like “today’s standards” in a critical way makes me cringe, but Kevin Parker is honestly more talented than like 95% of the current music industry. For those of you who don’t know much about Tame, I’ll give you the crash course.


Let’s get the confusing part out of the way - Tame Impala isn’t really a “band”.


Except, they are. Tame Impala performs live as a band- Kevin Parker on guitar and vocals, Jay Watson and Dominic Simper on synths, Julien Barbagallo on drums and Cam Avery on bass. When the five of these guys are on stage together, that’s the only time that Tame Impala is a band.


Virtually all of Tame Impala’s discography has been recorded and produced by multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker alone. Any studio recorded Tame Impala song you’ve ever heard has essentially just been a Kevin Parker song. “Tame Impala” isn’t just a pseudonym for Parker or just a band name; Tame Impala is really just an ever-evolving music experiment and artistic expression.


Kevin Parker has never really been too into fame. I applaud it, but it is definitely why so few people (even people who listen to Tame Impala) know who Kevin Parker even is, let alone how extraordinarily talented he is. Aside from having a stellar career of his own, he has also silently assisted some of your favorite artists - Kanye West, Travis Scott, Rihanna, A$AP Rocky.


Tame Impala has 3 studio albums: Innerspeaker (2010), Lonerism (2012) and Currents (2015). A currently unnamed album is expected to release this year, at long last.


All 3 Tame albums are in leagues of their own. In a way, they’re each separate genres. They can all be defined as “alternative”, but that’s about it. Even “alternative” is only a loose description of Tame Impala’s music. Kevin Parker redefines what alternative music can be on each album.


Innerspeaker has always given me a classic + prog rock vibe more than anything else. Obviously it’s not “classic rock” if it was made in 2010, but at the same time, I consider it to be timeless music. One universal quality throughout Tame Impala’s discography is the timeless feel of it. Many Tame songs simultaneously sound as if they could’ve been made in the 70s, the 90s, the present, and the future. I believe Parker creates this timeless sound by building off of the rock greats while adding his own unique, futuristic splash.


To me, Innerspeaker gives off that classic rock feel because of Kevin Parker’s other-worldly guitar aptitude. Innerspeaker is Tame’s most raw album - guitar and drums utilized in full. While much of his later music is smoother and more synth-heavy, Innerspeaker is as close to real rock-n-roll as you can get nowadays. Innerspeaker is a beautiful revival of a lost art form.

"Jeremy's Storm" is basically Kevin Parker flexing his guitar skills for five minutes


Despite my affinity for Innerspeaker, my personal favorite is 2015’s Currents. I know this sounds bold, but Currents is one of my all-time favorite albums. Any genre. Currents is essentially just a melting pot of contemporary genres working together in harmony.

Currents borrows inspiration from a wide variety of genres- pop, electronic, R&B, lo-fi. He added all these genres to his one-of-a-kind alternative sauce and mixed them all into a brand new, super-genre.


I know that analogy was cringeworthy, but I think it’s honestly a fitting way to describe the creative process behind Currents. I feel like labeling Currents as solely an alternative album would be flat-out disrespectful to the true diversity of the album. Shit was years ahead of its time in 2015, and it still is today. I haven’t heard an album like it since; the reason being that no one but Kevin Parker can make music that compares. He’s his only competition.

To me, one of Parker’s most interesting talents as an artist is his ability to totally disguise his depressing lyrics under vibrant instrumentals and vocal mixing. Of course, this technique is quite commonplace in a music industry obsessed with sad-themed songs that can be disguised as upbeat. It’s why artists such as Juice WRLD and Joji have been able to blow up so quickly; it’s why artists such as Drake and Ariana Grande dominate the charts. It’s nothing new, either. The music industry has been this way forever.


However, Parker utilizes the technique in his own way. Kevin Parker knows how to use his insane music IQ to his advantage; he knows how to center the whole mood of a song on the instrumental itself. At times, Parker’s vocals are almost just beautiful background noise, like a Kid Cudi hum. The music is just so wonderful that most of the time, you don’t even realize how depressing the shit Parker’s saying really is. The vocals usually serve an aesthetic purpose more than anything else.


If you were to only read the lyrics from each Currents song without actually hearing the music, you would think it was just some generic sadboy music at its finest. It’s mostly about breakups, broken hearts, growing apart, moving on - all the cornerstones of sad love songs.


However, they can also be hopeful and insightful at times - like on “Eventually”


Despite how sad the lyrics of his songs can be, most Tame songs don’t feel sad at all. Personally, I associate most of his songs as happy and nostalgic. Many Tame Impala songs are reminiscent of Beatles songs- carefree, melodic and musically advanced all at once.

Any artist in 2019 who can be compared to The Beatles is an extraordinary artist. Case closed.


I hate being so cynical towards the current music industry; there are undoubtedly many talented artists and producers out now. However, the level of musical talent that Kevin Parker reaches has been unseen in the music world for quite some time. This man literally plays every single instrument in each of his songs; he sings lead on every single song with no backing vocals. He records and produces the music all by himself. Very few people are doing anything like it; no one does it on the same level as Parker.


Kevin Parker is forever in a league of his own.

--


To end each GOTM piece, I want to do a personal round up of the artist. Here goes:


Favorite Album: Currents

Favorite Song: “The Moment”

Most Slept-On Album: Innerspeaker

Most Slept-On Song: “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”

Best Appearance: “Skeletons” - Travis Scott

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