“Not all of Kevin’s children are created equal.”
In honor of 10 years of Tame Impala albums this week, we’ve decided to rank all 48 of Tame’s album cuts – every song on Innerspeaker, Lonerism, Currents and The Slow Rush. Careful thought and consideration was put into the determining of these rankings, with weight given to instrumentation and production, danceability, and the lyrics. However, the most weight was given to the category of The Chacon Melting Point (trademark pending), a complex algorithm that determines just how heavily a Tame song melts your face.
Being that Tame is an album-oriented project (and as we continue to do our best to pretend that that ZHU collab doesn’t exist), we only decided to include the album cuts. We tried to rank these as objectively as possible and we apologize if your favorite Tame cut fell short of where you hoped it might be. Without further ado, we present you with our latest labor of love: our Tame ImPowerRankings.
48. “She Just Won’t Believe Me,” Lonerism
MC: Clocking in at just under a minute, and featuring a sparse synth arrangement and hint of guitar at the end, this is more of an interlude than a real song.
47. “Gossip,” Currents
KG: An interlude that sounds like psychedelic TV fuzz with a subtle guitar, this snippet of a track is just a tiny blip on the Currents radar. I did see Tame open with this song once, busting it straight into Let It Happen.
46. “It Might Be Time,” The Slow Rush
MC: The Supertramp meets blown-out drums sound of this song makes it Tame’s clunkiest full-length album cut. Weirdly enough, it’s been getting a decent amount of run on alternative radio stations, sandwiched between the tasteful stylings of The Offspring and Pearl Jam…not quite the realm that you want your Tame served up in.
45. “Past Life,” Currents
MC: “I was picking up a suit from the dry cleaners / Which was standard for me / Thursday, 12:30, I gotta pretty solid routine these days.”
These opening lines, delivered by presumably the world’s most domesticated Australian cyborg, make for one of the few downright corny moments in the Tame discography. The instrumental groove that the song settles into eventually kills, but lyrically Parker’s missteps stick out too much on this one to overlook.
44. “Instant Destiny.” The Slow Rush
KG: A rare occurrence of the typically stoic Kevin Parker veering into a Kraft macaroni box of cheese, the lyrics on this sucker are right up there with Jimmy Fallon’s fake laugh in terms of cringe. “I’m about to do something crazy / No more delayin’ / No destiny is too far / We can get a home in Miami / Go and get married / Tattoo your name on my arm.” WOOF.
43. “Sun’s Coming Up,” Lonerism
MC: Lonerism’s closing track is one of Parker’s most personal lyrics, discussing the death of his father, and feelings of despair and hopelessness. Instrumentally, it’s a sparse piano ballad that fades out the album with a melodic guitar solo over audio-recordings of waves crashing on the shore. It acts as the album’s come-down after all the psychedelic highs that preceded it, but doesn’t stick out as one of the most musically-compelling Tame tracks.
42. “I Don’t Really Mind,” Innerspeaker
KG: To be honest, it would be much more fitting for Innerspeaker to end with “Runway Houses City Clouds” as opposed to this song. But alas, “I Don’t Really Mind” rounds out the album leaving not necessarily a bad taste in your mouth… just not that great. It mainly suffers from being a bit repetitive lyrically and exploring the same sounds that were found throughout the album already. “I Don’t Really Mind” doesn’t properly cap off the journey Innerspeaker takes you on in the way it should.
41. “Glimmer,” The Slow Rush
KG: Armin Van Buren’s favorite song on The Slow Rush, “Glimmer” is a 2 minute dance-party that is covered in washed out synths and plucky guitar. I do enjoy hearing KP experiment with different style tracks, but this feels a bit out of left field in the Tame Impala discography.
40. “Lost In Yesterday,” The Slow Rush
MC: One of Parker’s most unabashedly hit-seeking tracks, it features the pop melodicism that Parker has always embraced, but falls short when it comes to any of the psychedelia or musical experimentation. It highlights the populist side of Parker that has writing credits on Travis Scott and The Weekend albums, but that still doesn’t make that Groundhog Day line any easier to digest.
39. “One More Year,” The Slow Rush
KG: The opening track to Tame Impala’s long awaited The Slow Rush sets a pretty nice tone for the album. A stylistic shift from the psych/synth-rock of previous Tame Impala releases, the drums on this track are suited straight for the dance floor. Trippy delay effects make Parker’s voice sound like he is speaking from another dimension, adding to the overall aesthetic. While it isn’t Tame’s best work, I think it serves as a nice introduction to The Slow Rush’s musical themes.
38. “Music To Walk Home By,” Lonerism
MC: I’ve tried for years now to truly love this track, but I generally find that I lose a little interest in it over the course of its five minute run-time. While by no means a weak track, this song comes out the gate with a strong pop melody, features sweeping layers of synths, and has some great guitar riffing. However structurally, with the way it chugs along and then fades out, it all doesn’t add up to one of Lonerism’s high points.
37. “On Track,” The Slow Rush
MC: A rare lyrically optimistic Tame Impala track also happens to be one of the few power ballads in Parker’s discography. It’s a slow burning track that manages to succeed in sounding both arena-ready, while also coming off as a well-produced headphone trip at the same time.
36. “New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” Currents
MC: Featuring a strong R&B-influenced production and pop melody, it’s easy to see why it’s been covered by Rihanna, has been a Tame setlist staple, and is one of Parker’s most commercially successful tracks up to this point. Lyrically this song serves as a strong conclusion to the personal narrative on Currents, and the bridge on this track is an absolute revelation. However, the majority of the song itself just feels a bit too heavy-handed to make it one of Tame’s best.
35. “Tomorrow’s Dust,” The Slow Rush
KG: “Tomorrow’s Dust” is a production feat for Tame Impala. From their garage-ish sounding production on the debut record to this sparkly clean 5-minute track, Tame has come a long way in terms of their sonic polish. The arpeggio acoustic guitar is by far the highlight here, but unfortunately loses its appeal after a few minutes of repetition without going anywhere. While I do enjoy this track, I felt like it was a missed opportunity to capitalize on a really cool idea.
34. “Jeremy’s Storm,” Innerspeaker
KG: Hypnotic guitar riffs and lively drum fills have been a successful recipe for Kevin Parker throughout the years, and “Jeremy’s Storm” is no exception. Featuring the classic psych-rock sound found all over Innerspeaker, this instrumental is strong and fits the context of the album. The only real misstep for this song is its lack of memorability.
33. “‘Cause I’m A Man,” Currents
MC: While certainly not a personal favorite of mine, it’s definitely one of those Parker compositions that manages to hook itself right into your head after the first listen. It exemplifies the genre-fusing direction that Parker has taken to from Currents onwards with a slow-burn R&B bassline while maintaining his signature spacey atmospherics. It might be a tad corny, but it’s a true testament to Parker’s pop songwriting chops.
32. “Is It True,” The Slow Rush
KG: “Is It True” is an excellent representation of the pop side of Kevin Parker. A super groovy bass line layered over drums made for a night out on the town, this track has fun and accessibility in mind. The squeaky synth sounds like a psychedelic kazoo, instantly adding to its dankness.
31. “One More Hour,” The Slow Rush
KG: The ending epic of The Slow Rush, “One More Hour” starts with an intense combination of rattling guitar and hard drums, creating a thick layer of growing suspense. At the same time, Parker is fiercely reflecting on the life decisions that led him to this point in his life. While the beginning section is super awesome, the next part, a stuttering piano with Parker’s heavily distorted vocals, becomes a bit boring after about a minute. That same pattern of the song continues throughout, breathtaking intensity followed by unmemorable filler. The end result is a song with great highs and meh lows.
30. “Yes I’m Changing,” Currents
MC: One of those songs that flexes just how talented Parker from purely a production standpoint. Weirdly enough, when I hear this song I think of Steely Dan, who became known for making cutting-edge, audiophile albums that became the ultimate proving ground for a speaker system or headphones quality. This track has that same kind of brilliantly engineered sound. While, unlike Steely Dan, it’s lyrical depth doesn’t extend much further than its title, it’s a miniature synth symphony (a synthony, if you will) undercover as a pop song,
29. “The Bold Arrow Of Time,” Innerspeaker
KG: Is marketing manipulative? Potentially, because I crave tequila everytime I hear this song. The deep, powerful guitar on “The Bold Arrow Of Time” has made it one of the more iconic tracks in the Tame Impala discography. It’s simple, but incredibly recognizable. The buzzy synth outro is also a taste of future Tame Impala to come.
28. “Why Won’t They Talk To Me?,” Lonerism
MC: Parker airs out his social insecurities with the kind of simple, honest question that so many introverts find themselves wondering. It’s a kaleidoscopic pop song that swirls and swells with synths and vocal layers, and is a perfect showcase for the way Parker turns his anxieties into bursts of psychedelic genius.
27. “Posthumous Forgiveness,” The Slow Rush
KG: “Posthumous Forgiveness” was the first single from The Slow Rush that I really enjoyed. A very personal Parker sings about his late father, longing to tell him about the cool moments he experienced since his passing: “wanna tell you ’bout the time / (I was) I was in Abbey Road / (Or the) or the time that I had / (I had) Mick Jagger on the phone.” Instrumentation wise, this was the first appearance of Tame Impala’s more traditional electric guitar on The Slow Rush. Simultaneous buzzing synth and burly drums quickly transition into a much lower key outro to the song, featuring some hip-hop style drums that are a welcome touch.
26. “The Moment,” Currents
MC: If this song was stripped of everything except for the drums, which shift and skate all over this funky track, it would still be well worth listening to. This is another Current’s showcase for Parker to create mind-bending, immaculately-detailed sonic productions and pass them off to listeners in the form of a pop song. Every texture Parker throws on this canvas from the snaps to the guitars are crisp and exciting to the ear.
25. “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?,” Innerspeaker
MC: One of Parker’s best trancelike grooves. This track could be stretched out to unfathomable lengths and still retain its hypnotic sheen. A$AP Rocky may have tainted this song for some of us by unsuccessfully trying to croon a feel-good song of the summer, but this spacious showcase for Parker’s flanged-out guitars prove that, like all great producers, he knows that sometimes less is more.
24. “Be Above It,” Lonerism
MC: The opening track from Tame’s sophomore album takes a mantra-like hook sung in a near-whisper and turns it into the backbone of this propulsive track. Parker approaches this krautrock-influenced track like an electronic producer, slowly adding and tweaking drum and synth textures into a near collage of sound. There’s nothing else quite like it in the Tame catalogue, and it’s a showcase for Parker’s knack for creating compelling sonic experimentation outside of a pop framework.
23. “Expectation,” Innerspeaker
KG: Saw this song live for the first time at one of Tame Impala’s final shows before the COVID quarantine, and boy was it amazing. The vocal performance on “Expectation” is straight out of a Beatles daydream, airy and psychedelic in the best way possible. Excellent distorted guitar explodes up and down the entire song, layering with the drums to paint a trippy psych-rock portrait. The melodic bassline on the back minute and a half of “Expectation” serves as a peaceful interlude before the drums drink a red bull and overtake every other sound as the song winds down.
22. “Borderline,” The Slow Rush
KG: My timeline of human history is broken into 2 distinct parts. They are the Old Borderline Era and the New Borderline Era. Old Borderline Era refers to the version of “Borderline” that was released as a single for The Slow Rush. The song felt a little bit empty with just Parker’s voice and backing keyboard really carrying any weight. A time of savagery and despair. On the other hand, the New Borderline Era marked the release of The Slow Rush and featured a vastly upgraded version of “Borderline” that changed the track’s narrative. Now accompanied by a stellar bassline and wild flute, Parker’s vocals are amidst a giant palette of sound that make the song a standout on the album. The New Borderline era is the future and I am here for it.
21. “Desire Be Desire Go,” Innerspeaker
MC: The only song from Parker’s debut EP to make it onto Innerspeaker, this track is a perfect showcase for Tame’s heavier side. It nearly sounds like it could be a lost late-60s garage rock gem off the Nuggets compilation, but manages to also maintain a modern feel due to Parker’s studio technology embracing impulses. His use of effects and studio wizardry give these solo passages and riffs otherworldly textures.
20. “Breathe Deeper,” The Slow Rush
MC: Similarly to “The Less I Know the Better,” this is one of those Tame Impala tracks that succeeds at inducing grooves on a dance floor. but also retains fascinating depth from a production standpoint. On top of a cool, loungey instrumental, Parker flips the house-influenced piano chords of that clunked-out on “Patience,” and manages to use them far more sparingly and impactfully in this track’s chorus. This track closes with an acid house riff that completely blurs the lines between a distorted guitar and a synth arpeggiator.
19. “Nangs,” Currents
MC: While the back end of this list included many of the other interludes in the Tame discography, on the grounds that they weren’t full songs, this Currents track is too sonically mind-melting to give that same treatment to. I’ll never know what the birth of the universe sounded like, but I’d like to imagine it sounded something like this track. It also provides a damn good showcase for Parker’s hip-hop influenced drumming.
18. “Reality In Motion,” Currents
KG: A view into the nervous thought-process before making the first move in a relationship, this synthy ballad is a delight to listen to everytime it comes on. Glittery synth tones contrast the sometimes paranoid lyrics, “Making such a promise / Only leads to heartache / Closer to an earthquake,” creating a song that touches a range of emotions. The guitar that sneaks its way in during the last minute is Tame af and perfectly wraps up this gem.
17. “Lucidity,” Innerspeaker
KG: “Lucidity” is Kevin Parker’s harrowing call for a moment of clarity, pleading to re-align his senses and bring him back to normalcy. Truly a song made for acid, the iconic guitar riff disorients the listener in a sonic fuzz that replicates a hazy mental state. Simply put, “Lucidity” is an incredible piece of music that remains at the forefront of modern psychedelia.
16. “Endors Toi,” Lonerism
MC: Meaning “fall asleep” in French, this lyrically sparse track is one of the more explosive psychedelic moments in the Tame discography. Parker’s drum-fills and crashes propel this track forward, while layers of synths swirl and boil over. One of Parker’s classic fuzzed-out guitar solos closes it off after the synths reach their peak, marking the end of this three-minute whirlwind of psychedelia.
15. “Love/Paranoia,” Currents
KG: As the song title suggests, “Love/Paranoia” is a depiction of the paranoid feelings that come with Parker’s love life. While he desires to be secure and comfortable in his relationship, his nibbling anxiety ridden thoughts are eroding his trust in his partner, leading him to question their faithfulness. Alongside the raw lyrical narrative is some perfect instrumentation to capture this period of uncertainty. The first half of the song is a wave of different sounds, intended to depict moments of internal peace juxtaposed with moments of fear and anxiety. The second half of the song switches gears completely as Parker reflects on his erratic mental behaviour. A somber violin and gentle guitar set the mood for introspection and remorse, culminating in his apology to his partner. “Love/Paranoia” is an emotional journey highlighting the elite songwriting talent Parker possesses.
14. “Solitude Is Bliss,” Innerspeaker
MC: Innerspeaker’s most instantly accessible moment comes in the form of this perfect little psych-pop jam. It’s an introvert’s anthem with Parker delivering gems like “there’s a party in my head & no one is invited,” over punchy guitars and sugar-sweet hooks. It’s the most obvious early example of Parker’s incredible pop-songwriting prowess.
13. “Disciples,” Currents
KG: A golden power-pop nugget that doesn’t waste any time jumping directly into the song, the only thing holding “Disciples” back is the short run time. A killer guitar and alien-like synth sound feature heavily here, constructed into the ideal pop structure for Parker’s blunt falsetto proclamations. If this song were stretched another 2 minutes it would be in the top 5.
12. “It Is Not Meant To Be,” Innerspeaker
MC: The lead-off track on Tame’s debut wastes no time in establishing the fact that Parker is an absolute master at creating trancelike psychedelic grooves. This track features a simplistic psychedelic riff, yet Parker manages to make it shift and swirl by bathing it in layers of delay, compressors, and phasers. It’s a blissfully hypnotic track that marks the entry point into the Tame album discography.
11. “Keep On Lying,” Lonerism
KG: Lonerism succeeded in extrapolating the unrefined elements of Innerspeaker’s production into perfect studio quality psych-rock that maintained its vibrant sound and pop sensibilities. “Keep On Lying” is the definition of that success, showcasing a washy soundscape of trippy keyboards and distorted guitar. Another iconic guitar riff is present here, reminding listeners that Parker is adept on pretty much every instrument he commonly has laying in the studio.
10. “Runway Houses City Clouds,” Innerspeaker
MC: “the first true Tame multi-part epic. It’s an ambitious track that’s so good, I’m still mildly disappointed they didn’t close out the album with it…As its title somewhat implies, this song manages to conjure the imagery of flight, jumping out the gate like a plane leaving the runway with frantic drumming, fuzzed-out guitar, and Parker crying out from beneath the noise like a flight attendant having an existential freak-out over the loudspeaker. After four minutes and twenty seconds (coincidence?!?) of on-and-off turbulence, things drop-out into a more subdued and hypnotic jam. The music drifts onwards like the sound of the world’s grooviest passenger plane calmly coasting out of the eye of a storm. Tame would go on to record more impressive epics, such as “Apocalypse Dreams,” or “Let It Happen,” but the end of this track still boasts the most tranquil passage of music Parker has ever recorded” (from Culture Blender’s Innerspeaker retrospective).
9. “The Less I Know The Better,” Currents
KG: Social media’s favorite Tame Impala song, “The Less I Know The Better” is probably the most recognizable of their discography. This is in part primarily due to the intoxicating bassline featured on this track, transporting the listener directly to the dance floor for some impassioned grooves.
8. “Elephant,” Lonerism
KG: “Elephant” was the first Tame Impala song I ever knowingly heard and it honestly makes sense. The simple, but thunderous, bass plods along like an elephant, commanding the attention of anyone within earshot. On top of that, the guitar solo in the middle of this song is one of the best in the entire Tame discography. “Elephant” can only be fully enjoyed when experienced at a live set, but DAMN is it good.
7. “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control,” Lonerism
MC: This impractically-named Tame epic functions as Lonerism’s psychedelic climax – a final burst of prismatic color before the come-down of “Sun’s Coming Up.” Complete disclaimer: on many days this is my personal favorite Tame track. Why? It really just comes down to those drums. The musical interplay between Parker’s synth progression and drum fills makes for one of the most exciting moments in the Tame discography. The urgency of the fills ascend while the synths eventually launch completely skyward to the heavens, only to finally come back to earth to reprise the chorus one more time. A true 10/10 face-melter.
6. “Eventually,” Currents
MC: Parker’s ultimate power ballad is also one of his most immaculately-engineered soundscapes. It features a hard-hitting riff, countless synth textures, hip-hop drums, vocal swirls, and an instantly-memorable belter of chorus. Parker’s use of silence on this track, however, might be its most hard-hitting feature. He builds these immensely-rich walls of sound, only to have a drum-hit snap the track into a brief count of silence, and then brings all the sonic details back. It’s one of the most powerful production tricks he’s employed, and Parker is a world-class producer.
5. “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” Lonerism
MC: A Beatles-worthy psychedelic pop song, Parker manages to blend a captivating bassline, hip-hop drumming, and washes of synths into a sugar-sweet pop nugget. It’s been streamed nearly 200,000,000 times on Spotify, and the fact that he was able to turn such a warped arrangement into an indie-pop favorite speaks volumes about Parker as a songwriter.
KG: An anthem to its core, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” can be loudly sung along to like an everyday pop hit while still maintaining its pure psych roots. The chorus is a dreamy respite, and, as Max pointed out, would fit in seamlessly with any of the Beatles psych-pop selections. This was a no-brainer for the top 5.
4. “Alter Ego,” Innerspeaker
MC: The dial-up intro, the instant propulsive swirls of guitar, some of Kevin’s best introverted stoned wisdom, “ALL YOUR MEANT TO BE,” Lennon-esque harmonies…all while layered like a dance track with continually shifting and building elements of percussion and synths & effects. It’s an immediate transportation into a universe of melt.
KG: This was the first song on my giant spreadsheet of song ratings to score a perfect 10 in the “Chacon Melting Point” section. And rightfully so, my face is completely melted. Slathered in distortion from every angle, commanding drums driving the song forward, it is the 7-layer cake of Tame Impala and it tastes amazing.
3. “Mind Mischief,” Lonerism
MC: Another undeniably perfect Parker-written pop song gets treated to a Zeppelin worthy-riff that sounds like it would have fit snugly into Houses of the Holy, and funks it up with some hip-hop drum kicks. The bridge on this track is about as blissful as psychedelic music gets and the filters that Parker applies throughout this thing are pure ear candy. On the surface it’s psychedelic rock, but there’s so much genre-fluidity happening here from a production standpoint that it’s easy to take the genius of this track for granted.
KG: Kevin Parker’s best instrument is the drums, and this is his crowning achievement. The drum-fills on this song take up every bit of space available, creatively timed to last a little bit longer than the trippy guitar and vocals also present. I always catch myself air drumming to this song and I’ll be damned if the day ever comes where I stop doing just that.
2. “Apocalypse Dreams,” Lonerism
MC: A chipper pop-song of the McCartney strain sounds like it gets launched into outer space in slow-motion. When the gentle synths wash over the wall of sound that Parker engineers, along with the Parker vocals and drum fills, it’s fucking serenity. Time and space stops for a bit. It’s become the beating psychedelic heart of every Tame live set since it’s release. It’s perfect.
KG: “Apocalypse Dreams” and “Mind Mischief” being back to back on Lonerism is like trying to pitch to the murderers’ row New York Yankees lineup. Okay great, I made it through Babe Ruth… fuck here comes Lou Gehrig. Every time I hear these tracks together I feel like the luckiest man on earth, so should you.
1. “Let It Happen,” Currents
MC: A nearly eight-minute psychedelic dance odyssey, this is the perfect encapsulation of everything Tame was and has come to be be about. It features swirling psych melodies with big time riffs, passage after passage of new synth textures and shifting grooves, all while maintaining the feel of a peak-time, disco-ball-lit, dance cut. It’s the perfect merge of Parker’s love for psychedelic rock with his electronic-influenced production tendencies. It might be a complete mystery what he’s singing in the vocoded-out closing of this track, but that doesn’t make it any less serene. I think my friends and I played it on loop for about a full hour when it initially came out, yet it’s one of those tracks that’s so immaculately detailed and well-sequenced that it maintains every bit of its impact no matter how many listens you give it.
KG: There isn’t much more I can say about this song that hasn’t already been mentioned by Max. I will use this moment to reiterate that “Let It Happen” is Tame Impala’s finest and most complete work, showcasing every element of their discography to create a psych/dance/synth/rock masterpiece. “Let It Happen” is also a pillar of Tame’s live set and makes for an absolutely incredible time, filled with dancing, singing, and confetti. Enjoy!