Tag Archives: Tame Impala

A Swanky 2012: Part Two

29 Dec

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[For an Introduction to A Swanky 2012, go here.]

Part Two

 

The Bowl:  Outback Bowl – South Carolina v. Michigan 

The Pick:  South Carolina (-5.5)

The Album:  Confess by Twin Shadow

Bringing a full-fledged commitment and earnestness to the pop/rock musical styles of the 1980s, Twin Shadow delivered one of the more passionate and assured albums of the year.  Confess sounds as if the brooding, bookish introvert from down the hall has been spending all of his time listening to Top 100 rock radio mixes from 1979 – ’89, and now wants to impress that Hot Girl In The Denim Whitesnake Jacket.  That is a very good thing.

The basic, familiar elements are all there on Confess – the shiny and clear guitar chords, the chiming synthesizers that drench everything in a fluorescent haze, the yearning, balls-out, Auto-Tuned yawp of unrequited love.  This is much more than just a tired retread of an old Journey album, though.  There’s a vitality and urgency to every song, as though front man George Lewis Jr. absolutely needed to get these things down on vinyl.

There’s a lot going on here, musically, underneath the flashy veneer that screams “Retro.”  There are different sonic touches and melodies swirling and enmeshing everywhere, marking this as the work of a true music aficionado who knows his way around the creation of big, bold, and flashy hooks.

Those hooks, and the overall adeptness with creating pop songs, make Confess compulsively listenable, particularly if you’ve got the top down on a sunny day, or you’re dreaming of such a scene as the rain trickles down outside.  The songs sound tight and sleek like any well-oiled pop machine should, and various lyrical and melodic hooks will get stuck in your head long after your first hear them.  The true strength of Confess is that Lewis delivers these pop goods without losing any of his vibrant, bleeding, music-loving heart.

 

The Bowl:  Capital One Bowl – Nebraska v. Georgia

The Pick:  Georgia (-9)

The Album:  Lonerism by Tame Impala

It had been two years since Tame Impala’s last album, Innerspeaker, and for fans of that record, the wait for Lonerism was a long one.  Innerspeaker was a constant treat for the ears, with warm guitar feedback loops and vintage electronic touches flying under and around the melodic, Lennon-esque vocals of front man Kevin Parker.  The group set the bar high for themselves, and in their follow-up, they generally managed to hit the same top marks while pushing their sound into new territories as well.  While Lonerism may not have been able to best Innerspeaker, it’s worthy of standing on its own as one of the most unique and high-quality rock albums of the year.

Lonerism features the same melodic characteristics that are now familiar to listeners of Tame Impala – the fuzzed-out halo around every sound effect, the echo-y and airy vocals, the propensity to leap off into a psychedelic groove tangent when the opportunity presents itself.  The album, and the band itself, sounds like a transmission beamed here from a recording studio in 1971.  As they’ve proved before, Tame Impala doesn’t rely on their vintage sound to become a gimmicky crutch – instead it is something that is wholly unique and wholly their own.  They know what they like and they make great music with it.

Lonerism marks some different approaches for the band, particularly in that it features some more open-ended songs and sonic arrangements.  Tame Impala have proved they know how to lock into tight grooves and rock out hard with the best of them, and while there are some excellent hard-driving moments on Lonerism such as “Elephant,” there are also a lot of songs that spread out all over the musical spectrum and take their time getting to wherever they happen to be going.  Vocal effects, spare synths, guitars, and various other chimes and squiggles caterwaul around tracks like “Music To Walk Home By” with a joyous abandon, and it can be overwhelming at times.

The strength of Lonerism, and of the maturing Tame Impala in general, is that they are in control of their free-wheeling grooves at all times, no matter how out-there and exploratory they may seem to be.  Just when you think things are going to spin off into the ether, a well-timed bass and drum combo locks into a deep groove and reminds you that these guys are first and foremost a great rock band.

 

The Bowl:  Fiesta Bowl – Kansas State v. Oregon

The Pick:  Kansas St. (+9)

The Album:  R.A.P. Music by Killer Mike

You’d be hard-pressed to find any other release this year, hip-hop or otherwise, that seethes with as much pent-up vitriol and passionate energy as Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music.  Producer El-P creates spare, pounding beats with menacing synth lines that perfectly match the tone of the lyrics and draw out the essential elements of Mike’s behind-the-beat flow.

For listeners only familiar with Killer Mike from his “All Day I Dream About Sex” days, it’s probably a surprise to hear the bombastic rapper getting serious throughout R.A.P. Music; there’s a refreshing sincerity to his lyrics and delivery as he tackles social and emotional issues through the record.  Mike and Co. aren’t holding anything back on this one.

Things aren’t all somber and preachy, however, as Mike finds plenty of time to toss in off-color jokes and vibrantly ridiculous imagery, much like his fellow Southern hip-hop counterparts, OutKast.  Even as the beats and spat-out lyrics are knocking you flat, R.A.P. never stop being entertaining as hell.

When R.A.P. Music hits its high points, it’s an exhilarating call-back to the days of early Public Enemy and Straight Outta Compton.  There’s an incendiary, almost subversive feeling to the record, and there wasn’t much else like it this year.

 

The Bowl:  Cotton Bowl – Texas A&M v. Oklahoma

The Pick:  Texas A&M (-3)

The Album:  Nocturne by Wild Nothing

Whether they set out to do it or not, Wild Nothing’s Nocturne sounds like a perfect distillation of every summer night you had from age 14 to 21.  Like many of those nights, it wheels between feeling wistful, blissed-out, and restless.  There’s a laid-back vibe over much of the album that evokes the haze of summer; that slow, dreamy feeling deceptively covers up the prolific and deft musicianship going on just under the surface.

Under that sleek surface, Nocturne is filled with layers of sound that are intricately pieced together, and as each track progresses, the layers often build upon each other, building momentum before cresting in powerful and well-earned climaxes.  These are expansive soundscapes largely dominated by delicate yet striking guitar chords that loop around each other and create an immersive atmosphere around bits of drums, synths, and airy vocals.

The album’s tracks flow into each other and create a hazy, seductive mood that borders on the dreamlike – it can make you feel nostalgic for a period of time or singular moment that you can’t quite place, and maybe never even experienced.  It’s a striking and poignant listening experience.  This is sunny music flecked with melancholy, both in the lyrics and in the chiming, mournful chords that fall like rain out of the speakers.

 

The Bowl:  National Championship – Alabama v. Notre Dame

The Pick:  Alabama (-9.5)

The Album:  Port of Morrow by The Shins

The Shins’ last album, Wincing The Night Away, was a strange yet fascinating record, marked by feelings of mystery and a slight menace, that saw James Mercer choosing electronic territory more so than the strummed-guitar chords of Chutes Too Narrow.  In the five years since the release of Wincing, Mercer had reshuffled the band around him, and it wasn’t clear which version of the Shins would be appearing in 2012.  Or if they would be able to sustain the quality of albums’ past.  Port of Morrow answered those questions, and showed that the Shins’ future is bright.

One of the great things about Port is that it takes all of the sonic elements from the group’s earlier records and puts them together into a confident and propulsive new sound.  There are electronic flourishes, there are quiet moments of acoustic beauty, there are eloquent, strange and esoteric little catches of lyrics and phrases, and there are surges of momentum that unmasks Mercer’s rock and roll heart.  It’s an album in which you can see how the band has grown, and it feels both refreshingly new and professionally mature.

The ultimate triumph of Port may be that it shows of Mercer’s ability to remain immediate and impactful with his musical themes.  He may not be an angst-y young songwriter anymore, but he can still combine melodies and lyrics to create moments that connect on deep emotional levels.  Port hits upon some universal, hard-to-eludicate themes of life in a way that few other artists could duplicate this year – without sacrificing any musical enjoyment in the process.

 

TwinShadow

Personal Soundtrack

8 Oct

The Song

 

Mind Mischief by Tame Impala

One of the things that sets Tame Impala apart from most other bands today is their ability to get awesomely weird and loose while never losing focus on whatever tight rhythm they’ve locked into.  The bottom end is deep and prominent throughout the group’s new album Lonerism, but instead of overpowering the rest of the dynamic musical shifts going on everywhere else, the bass and drum sections stay tight to the beat and keep things grounded in a scuzzy, funked-up groove.

Sometimes the heavy rock rhythm comes to the forefront – like in the righteously woolly “Elephant” – and sometimes it sits back before emerging just in time to end a spacey tangent with a nasty bass line/drum run combo.  Despite the airy sound of the Beatles-invoking vocals, Tame Impala are always going to make sure that their electronic-sprinkled brand of psychedelia is heavy enough to get you moving.

The Activity

This is blowing your mind.  Not literally – although you’re pretty sure that if you were ever able to open the window you’re sitting next to, your mind would actually be blown.  Along with the rest of your body.  Into space.  That – space – would be part of what’s blowing your figurative mind right now.

It had all started pretty innocuously – you and Steve hopping in his VW and road tripping down to Florida so you wouldn’t miss the rocket launch that Mr. F. Kennedy had so epically spoken about several years before.  Things were going pretty groovy in the back of the VW on the way down – Steve had volunteered to drive as long as you kept the joints rolled, lit, and passed – and you had both managed to build up a nice little buzz.  And then when you finally got to the launch site and saw how fucking awesome that rocket looked in all it’s shiny, paid-for-by-the-Man glory?  Probably the best moment in your life.

That moment was so good in fact, that you and Steve had decided to take some of that new acid in honor of the event.  Into the red cups of Schliltz it went as you both toasted to America and to the babes parked two spots over in the viewing area.

The Schlitz was the last thing you can remember before just about five minutes ago, when you woke up in the the rocket you were toasting to earlier.  The rocket that is now orbiting the moon.  And that is currently emitting some strangely awesome sounds from what signs tell you is the cockpit.

As you stir in your brand-new space gear, flashes of the past couple hours come back into your head.  Something to do with using the newfound mental awareness the special Schlitz had given you to talk your way past several rounds of lax 60s-era security guards and into the final prep room for the lunar astronauts.  You’re not sure how at the moment, but at some point in the prep room, you switched places with one of the flight crew, and ambled your way into flight position number three.

Well, there’s no use worrying anymore about how you got out here – right?  That music is continuing to get louder as you release your restraints and float effortlessly towards the hatch leading to the cockpit.  As you open it up and float into the corridor, the music leads you straight into a large, cavernous room that is filled with four other floating astronauts, and one shaggy-haired band grooving away on the floor.

On the floor?  You think about the laws of gravity for a moment, and start to wonder if maybe you’re still in the back of Steve’s VW, listening to his new sound system in the Florida swamps.  That’s to be shaken off, though, for now.  When is the next time you’ll be able to listen to an awesomely groovy band in deep-space orbit?

Hot Routes: Week Six

5 Oct

Editor’s Note:  This is the Swanky roundup of our top picks and songs of the week, running every week of the 2012 Year of Football.  For a primer, check out the Introduction.

Week Six

LSU (5-0) at Florida (4-0)

The pick:  Florida (+3)

The track:  Apocalypse Dreams by Tame Impala

Florida over LSU is the popular upset pick this week, and while I don’t think it’s as big of a lock as some analysts are saying, I do think the Gators have a great chance to win or at least keep it within 3 points.  The Swamp will be a very hostile place for an LSU team that has already looked shaky against lesser competition like Towson.  What’s a Towson?

 

Miami (4-1) at Notre Dame (4-0)

The pick:  Miami (+14)

The track:  Lady High (Kanye West vs. Chromatics) by Carlos Serrano

I don’t normally get into ‘mashup’ remixes – while they could be interesting at first listen, it usually starts to seem like a novelty gimmick shortly thereafter.  The end result is often just going back to the original songs because they’re still better on their own.  This particular mix by Carlos Serrano stands out however because it’s got a hauntingly banging beat, and it features some of my favorite old-school Kanye verses.

 

Georgia (5-0) at South Carolina (5-0)

The pick:  South Carolina (+1)

The track:  So Bright by Pretty Lights

This is a pretty even matchup on paper, but I think there are a few key things going in S.C.’s favor that will allow the old Ballcoach to take this victory.  First, the Gamecocks are at home, and that stadium is going to downright rowdy.  Second, Georgia just lost their top WR for the year, and that could lead to some uncertainty for their high-powered offense.  Finally, S.C.’s defense is an elite unit that might be the most talented in the country.  They’ll bring everything they’ve got against Georgia.

 

Tennessee Titans (1-3) at Minnesota Vikings (3-1)

The pick:  Vikings (-6)

The track:  Unpretty (Follow Me Remix) by TLC

Allow me to dip back into the late 90s for a moment with some TLC slow burn action.  I can’t say I was meaning to listen to an old TLC ballad when I came across this sultry remix, but there’s something about this song that brings up some pleasant nostalgia for the grade school days.  Also, electronic touches look pretty good on TLC.  “No Scrubs” dubstep mix coming soon?

 

Chicago Bears (3-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3)

The pick:  Bears (-5.5)

The track:  Blue Velvet (Penguin Prison Remix) by Lana Del Rey

This line isn’t bigger because the Bears are traveling on a short week.  I still think Chicago will win by at least a touchdown though, because the Jags are just not a very good team.  The Bears’ opportunistic D will have plenty of chances to take advantage of the eventual Blaine Gabbert mistakes.

 

Baltimore Ravens (3-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-3)

The pick:  Ravens (-6.5)

The track:  Honey by Swim Deep

I don’t know what exactly it is about this song, but it is oddly catchy in a way that I can’t totally explain.  My best guess is that it’s mostly due to the mid-90s power-pop anthem heart that is beating strongly underneath its indie exterior.  With its “Ooo, ooo baby” hook and idealistic vocals about dreaming and cute girls, this will sound perfect over the ending credits of American Pie 5.

Last Week’s Record:  5-1

Overall Record:  13-15