Albums of 2012: “Lonerism” by Tame Impala

“There were times recording this album that I thought, ‘This is the worst fucking thing I’ve heard in my life.’”

Kevin Parker described the recording process of “Lonerism” as a two year long nightmare which drove him to the brink of insanity. However, the misery and torture Kevin endured certainly does not show on the album as there is not one bad moment on the record which is quite rare to find nowadays. The influence of Syd Barrett and The Beatles is certainly evident and although the album oozes psychedelia, at no point does it feel dated or sound like a late 1960s recreation. Parker’s dream-like pop melodies are consistent throughout and instantly memorable.

“Lonerism” has gained Tame Impala a considerably larger following and further indie stardom as reaction to the record from fans and critics alike has been overwhelmingly positive. What I find remarkable about this album is how authentic and natural it feels despite the fact that every instrument played on the record has been distorted and or has had studio tweaks added to them which one would assume would make the album sound perhaps artificial. The album certainly conveys the psychedelic spirit without heavily embodying or imitating that retro sound which defined the late 1960s.

Tame Impala are without a shadow of doubt destined for bigger things as they have proved with the release of this record that they are one of the best and most exciting and innovative rock bands around today.

Favourite Rock Tracks of 2012

Many say that rock and roll is a dying breed… I say they’re wrong. Here is a list, in no particular order, of some of my favourite rock tracks from 2012.

Jack White – Sixteen Saltines
From the album “Blunderbuss”

One thing I have realised when it comes to Jack White is that the minute I hear of any musical project of his taking place, I get pretty excited for it. Before actually attending his gig in Edinburgh, it was the extent of my conversation for weeks prior to it. His second solo single “Sixteen Saltines” packs a guitar edged punch with a catchy hook and along with the entire album “Blunderbuss”, is arguably some of his best material to date. He recently revealed that the song’s lyrical content was inspired by his young daughter who asked him for “16 saltine crackers” to which Jack replied with a firm no. Like much of the White Stripes material, Jack White has adopted the musical philosophy that less is more as despite the simple riff throughout, it is very powerful and it boasts excellent musicianship. 

Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
From the album “Lonerism”

Tame Impala’s critically acclaimed second studio album “Lonerism” was crowned “Album of the Year” by NME and has received unanimous praise worldwide from fans and critics. What I loved about the record is the fact that there are no bad or mediocre songs; the album consistently delivers which in my opinion makes Kevin Parker one of the most talented and most important songwriters of this generation. There are very few albums nowadays which are consistently good throughout.

Arguably, my favourite track from the record is “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”. The track caught my full attention when I saw Tame Impala perform at the O2 ABC Academy as they delivered it with such intense emotion and a powerful stage presence. The track along with most of Tame Impala’s catalogue compares to the musicianship of John Lennon during his Magical Mystery Tour and Sergeant Pepper days, and Syd Barrett.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Panic in Babylon
From the album “Aufbehen”

No list of mine is complete without the Brian Jonestown Massacre. “Aufbehen” delivers their signature psychedelic vibe, colliding both eastern and western influences through the use of smoky sitars and clever musical arrangements. The album’s opening track “Panic in Babylon” is somewhat of a “in your face” opener. The instrumental track conveys psychedelia at its finest and the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s musical philosophy which they have remained true to since their 1993 debut album “Spacegirl & Other Favorites”. The track transcends the listener with its mixture of instruments delivering something dream like and intoxicating which flows with in and out of the consistent unrelenting beat; the Brian Jonestown Massacre at their finest.

The Black Keys – Little Black Submarines
From the album “El Camino”

Taken from the critically acclaimed album 2011 “El Camino”, “Little Black Submarines” was released as the fourth single from the album in October 2012. Many fans and critics instantly compared the track to the sound of Led Zeppelin but favoured the track highly. Beginning with a quiet acoustic like prayer, the tracks later explodes with a simple yet thunderous chord progression played sweetly on an electric guitar; rock and roll at it’s finest. The track I believe is certainly more ambitious in comparison to the rest of the album and according to Dan Auerbach, it gives an idea to the listener what a Black Keys live show is really like.

The Shins – Simple Song
From the album “Port of Morrow”

Prior to the release of “Simple Song”, The Shins had not released any material since 2007. Many fans were excited yet arguably nervous as they anticipated the new release from The Shins.  One thing is for sure though; the release of the “Simple Song” proved to fans and critics alike that James Mercer and his fellow band mates can still successfully deliver a perfect indie pop heart felt song or two.

“My life in an upturned boat,
Marooned on a cliff.
You brought me a great big flood,
And gave me a lift.”

Mercer delivers his signature brand of poetic lyrics throughout the track and refers to it as a much more personal effort in comparison to previous works. “Port of Morrow” was a triumphant return to say the least for The Shins.

Alabama Shakes – Hang Loose
From the album “Boys & Girls”

Alabama Shakes were arguably the most highly anticipated bands of 2012 and their critically acclaimed debut “Boys & Girls” soared into music charts worldwide. Fronted by Brittany Howard, a wildly soulful Janis Joplin like vocalist, Alabama Shakes has delivered an album which oozes with Southern rock and gospel influences and has earned them a considerably large and rapidly increasing following. Having caught the attention of musical legends including Robert Plant and Jack White, it is safe to say that Alabama Shakes will be around for a long time delivering more soulful music.

“Hang Loose” is a soulful and uplifting salute to living carefree which offers a classic rock melody which sounds beautifully timeless.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Walk Like A Giant
From the album “Psychedelic Pill”

Last but certainly not least is Mr. Neil Young & Crazy Horse who released the critically acclaimed album “Psychedelic Pill” this year. Like Brian Jonestown Massacre, no list is complete for me without Neil Young. “Psychedelic Pill” I consider to be one of Neil Young’s finest works as it beholds some brilliant musical moments; personal favourites being “Walk Like A Giant” and “Twisted Road”. These brilliant moments as such are typical of Young as the record furthermore, delivers a similar vibe and feeling to that of “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”.

The epic “Walk Like A Giant” speaks of how his generation were unable to change the world. I get the impression that the album is a somewhat reminiscence of Neil’s colourful life as he recalls on the track “Twisted Road” his joy of listening to Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead on the radio.

Happy 70th Birthday Jimi Hendrix!

“So my love, Catherina and me,
Decide to take our last walk through the noise to the sea,
Not to die but to be reborn,
Away from lands so battered and torn
Forever, forever”

It is safe to say that Jimi Hendrix defied the odds and tore down cultural and racial barriers in both the U.S.A. and the U.K. at a time where change was upon society and revolution was in the air; a time when youth culture no longer felt the need to conform to what was demanded of them and when pop music was at its peak and was about to radically change everything.

Often referred to as the greatest guitarist who ever lived, Jimi Hendrix was and remains to this day one of the most innovative and talented musicians of the 20th century. Many often speculate what would have been if his untimely tragic death at the age of 27 did not occur. Personally my belief is that if he did not leave us so suddenly, he would have still continued to surmount any future barriers and furthermore create groundbreaking music. His spirit and legacy, however, lives on through his musical language and continues to inspire generations.

Jimi was known and associated with many things including his powerful showmanship, psychedelic experimentalism, and his flamboyant fashion and of course his monumental guitar technique. News emerged only days ago that March 2013 will see the release of “People, Hell and Angels”, a repertoire of previously unreleased material which, according to the Hendrix estate, will see a different musical direction that Hendrix was aspiring to before his death. This being Hendrix’s 10th posthumous studio album, one wonders is there an array of genius musicianship that has been locked in studio vaults that the world is yet to hear or is this simply going to be a mediocre album purely for the financial benefit of the Hendrix estate? Nevertheless, Hendrix fans old and new will get to hear new material and gives us something to look forward to. Jimi’s short career entailed three critically acclaimed studio albums namely “Are You Experienced”, “Axis: Bold as Love” and “Electric Ladyland” and one live album recorded with the Band of Gypsys; all of which sit nicely at the top of my record collection.

Today (November 27th 2012) would have been Jimi’s 70th birthday and as a celebration of sort, I leave you with “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)”. There are very few tracks I never tire myself of; this being one of them. An epic stoned classic to say the least which Jimi referred to and explained the connotation of “1983” as “something to keep your mind off what’s happening… but not necessarily completely hiding away from it like some people do”.


Tame Impala @ O2 ABC Glasgow

Psychedelia, the potent smell of dope and quite frankly, sweet as fuck music… What more does one want?

Opening the show were Norwegian orchestral pop collective Young Dreams, who have been likened to Grizzly Bear and the Beach Boys. Despite looking a little nervous, the band did impress the crowd with their bright sound and tropical like pop melodies. The band has still to release their debut album which will no doubt be an indie success. But it was the evening’s headliners who delivered a memorable and astounding show.

From the land of Oz, Tame Impala embraced us with their presence in full psychedelic groove in support of their second critically acclaimed album “Lonerism”. The focal point, Kevin Parker, warmly acknowledged and displayed appreciation for the considerable turnout.

“Last time we played Glasgow, we played to like 10 people under a bridge somewhere”.

On the last night of their European tour, one would think exhaustion may be an evident factor but this was certainly not the case for Tame Impala. Parker fully equipped with his trusty Rickenbacker and four fellow band mates opened with the first track from “Lonerism” namely “Be Above It” which boasted elements of dream pop and psychedelia and immediately intrigued the Glasgow crowd. Throughout the show, distorted guitars and trip hop like echoes were delivered alongside great dream-like pop melodies which are the foundations of Tame Impala’s catalogue. It is undeniable that Tame Impala are one of the best and most exciting modern day rock bands around.

“Elephant”, the bands most popular track, was a crowd pleaser to say the least. The foot-stomping anthem caused some raucousness and much spillage of stale beer. A personal highlight for me included the understated “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”. Despite little interaction with the crowd, the music spoke for itself and I predict bigger things to happen for Tame Impala.

After leaving the stage, Parker and his fellow band mates re-emerged with a thunderous encore and extended version of fan favourite “Half Full Glass of Wine” which boasts a Clapton and Hendrix like repeated guitar riff with improvised jamming and experimental guitar tones which really got the crowd going. When performed live, the track takes on a whole new dimension in comparison to the album version delivering amplification and expansion to every aspect of the song. After exceeding any expectations I might have had, I can honestly say this was one of the best gigs I’ve been to this year.

Tame Impala have recently completed a European tour in support of their second album “Lonerism” which was released on 9th October 2012.

Through Low Light and Trees Rises the Smoke Fairies

“The future of rock belongs to women.” – Kurt Cobain

The rise of popular female musicians has become somewhat a prominent force. The likes of PJ Harvey with a career spanning three decades continues to inspire with critically acclaimed albums such as “Dry”, “Rid of Me” and Mercury Prize winning “Let England Shake”. Bands such as the Duke Spirit, The Kills and Alabama Shakes all equipped with fearless front-women are progressively gaining wide recognition and a large cult following.

The British duo Smoke Fairies, entailing Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies, channel the sultry vocals of Hope Sandoval and the psychedelic and blues foundations of Jefferson Airplane in a somewhat blissful union. After gaining recognition with supporting slots for the likes of Bryan Ferry and Richard Hawley, they became the first British act to release a single, namely “Gastown/River Song”, through Third Man Records and their debut studio album “Through Low Light and Trees” was released in UK and USA in 2010 and 2011 retrospectively.

Their critically acclaimed debut album is composed of cleverly elegant musical arrangements with both Blamire and Davies often singing in unison with occasional lead vocal rearranging and Blamire’s lead and slide guitar work which oozes both the drug fuelled and psychedelic aesthetics and  sounds of the late 60’s and early 70’s. However, despite the Smoke Fairies’ retro sound, in no way do they sound dated or irrelevant. Quite the contrary, their music flows with intoxicating melodies which are of course packaged with, quite frankly, sweet as fuck guitar riffs which are blatantly evident in tracks such as fan favourite “Hotel Room” and “Strange Moon Rising”. One can’t help but notice and wonder when listening to the Smoke Fairies is the fact that both Blamire and Davies are very intelligent and talented musicians whom obtain a deep understanding and love of blues and folk music. The wonder remains whether if it were 40 years ago today; would their debut and their recent critically acclaimed 2012 follow up “Blood Speaks” achieve high commercial success? Undoubtedly, the answer is yes. This may be a reflection on several things but let’s avoid any debate.

To conclude, their music may not captivate everyone emotionally, but there is no doubt that they are an intriguing duo who carry themselves with poise and serenity and whose music carries the same and who are overall, a very good and noteworthy band. Whilst gathering a gradually increasing following, The Smoke Fairies have continued to gain high profile support from the likes of the Dead Weather, whom the duo opened for on their last tour, and former Queens of the Stone Age and Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan who has been performing a cover of the Smoke Fairies’ “Devil in My Mind” on his recent Blues Funeral Tour.

The Smoke Fairies have recently completed a headlining UK tour in support of their 2012 album “Blood Speaks” and are currently on tour throughout Europe.

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