Tame Impala’s Dizzying Side Projects

For being an solo project, Tame Impala sure has a lot of members. Its live act currently consists of Kevin Parker, Jay Watson, Dominic Simper, Julien Barbagallo, and Cam Avery, who replaced Nick Allbrook in 2013. These talented members all play multiple instruments in the band and most have their own projects and collaborations outside of the band. This will serve as a look into the many other bands that Tame Impala’s members are apart of and the other work Kevin Parker has done outside of the band. Before diving into this longform, I’d advise listening to the tracks “It Is Not Meant To Be,” “Apocalypse Dreams,” and “Eventually” if you’d like to get into Tame Impala past their more popular singles.

 

Mink Mussel Creek

Kevin Parker, Nick Allbrook, and Joe Ryan were all founding members of Mink Mussel Creek in 2005. Parker’s drums became a strong feature of the band’s heavy psych sound. The band broke up in 2008 but a 2011 reunion led to the release of their singular album Mink Mussel Manticore. Recommended track: “They Dated Steadily”

 

Pond

Despite featuring a revolving line up that has featured most Tame members at one point or another, the three mainstays of Pond are Jay Watson, former Tame member Nick Allbrook, and Joe Ryan who now provides Tame Impala with live visuals. The band has steadily released albums since forming in 2008, with their pop and funk influences becoming more apparent over time. Recommended track: “Sitting Up On Our Crane”

 

Melody’s Echo Chamber

A solo project of French Melody Prochet, whose band My Bee’s Garden had toured with Tame Impala. Prochet and Parker were dating at the time they collaborated on the self-titled debut album in 2012. Parker’s influence is a key part of this album but what steals the show is Prochet’s beautiful vocals. The two have since broke up and a second album from Melody titled Cross My Heart is on the way. Recommended track: “Some Time Alone, Alone”

 

GUM

Jay Watson, currently playing keys and guitar for Tame, releases his solo work under the name GUM. Naturally similar sounding to Pond, GUM’s sounds are set apart with more electronic vibes. Recommended track: “Growin’ Up”

 

Allbrook/Avery

Long time friends and current (Avery) and past (Allbrook) members of Tame Impala teamed up as Allbrook/Avery in 2011 to record their currently only released album. The album is lo-fi, spacey, and pretty British sounding, fitting considering Allbrook/Avery have two unreleased albums made in collaboration with London shoegaze band The Horrors. Recommended track: “Empty”

 

Nicholas Allbrook

In 2014, between Pond albums and one year after leaving Tame Impala, Allbrook release his first solo album which was followed with another in 2016. His unique voice is accompanied by sparing psych elements on the first album and the second features some more avant garde elements. Recommended track: “Tramadol with Fear”

 

Cameron Avery

Recorded and released after Tame Impala’s most recent album, Cam Avery’s only album so far goes in a different direction than most mentioned here; he harks back to much older music and croons like Sinatra on tracks about love. Recommended track: “Wasted on Fidelity”


The Growl

Prior to replacing Nick Allbrook in Tame Impala, Cam Avery toured with the band as frontman of their supporting act The Growl. Avery splits time between the two bands but The Growl’s most recent releases are from 2013 and 2014. Recommended track: “Douse the Lamps”


Barbagallo

Finally we come to Tame’s  drummer’s eponymous solo project that has steadily produced three albums since 2015. Some of his efforts have been described as reminiscent of the late Elliott Smith. Recommended track: “Ça, tu me”

 

While there are a few other bands the current and past Tame Impala members have played in, I only chose to highlight the ones I felt are most representative of the efforts of Tame members themselves. Parker and some other members have also gone by different monikers and performed one-offs such as the project that began as Kevin Spacey, changed its name to The Golden Triangle Municipal Funk Band, and finally changed it again to AAA Aardvark Getdown Services.

 

Collabs

Kevin Parker has been in high demand for collaborations, especially with the success of Tame Impala’s album Currents in 2015. In 2013, Parker contributed vocals for the French duo Discodeine’s track “Aydin.” He also collabed with Mark Ronson for three songs off of Ronson’s 2015 album Uptown Special; “Daffodils” is my favorite of the trio. Parker and Ronson continued working together and co-wrote “Perfect Illusion” with Lady Gaga from her 2016 album Joanne. Parker remixed Miguel’s song “Waves” on the singer’s EP Rogue Wave in the same year. On Rihanna’s 2016 album ANTI, she covered Tame Impala’s “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” featuring Parker’s instrumental with Rihanna’s voice replacing his. Kevin Parker, Mark Ronson, and SZA have also been confirmed to be working on a new unreleased album by SZA herself. Parker has also been producing more and more albums for other bands, especially other Australian musicians and the many side projects of his Tame Impala bandmates.

 

You can find all of the songs mentioned above on my Spotify playlist below!

Japanese Breakfast at the Glass House Pomona

The last time I saw Japanese Breakfast was at the extremely small Che Cafe in La Jolla in 2016. Michelle Zauner and her then-recently formed outfit did soundcheck in front of the 30 person crowd before performing their three song set on a stage that was six inches off the ground. On Saturday, Feb. 24 I saw Japanese Breakfast at the final show of their West Coast tour with Jay Som and Hand Habits at the sold out Glass House in Pomona. Their newest album, “Soft Sounds From Another Planet,” just recently reached 10 million streams on Spotify. The night was full of fun with an all female-fronted line up.

Hand Habits, the pseudonym of singer songwriter Meg Duffy, opened the show with a short and intimate solo set. Decked out in a sweatshirt over a long floral skirt, she silenced the crowd with her soft lyrics and mellow guitar. She also repeatedly expressed how grateful she was to be on tour with not only Jay Som and Japanese Breakfast but also her friend Sasami Ashworth, who managed merch on the tour and previously played keys for the band Cherry Glazerr. Up next was the band Jay Som, the touring outlet for multi-instrumentalist Melina Duterte. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the live versions of most of Jay Som’s songs were much more upbeat and groovy than the recorded ones. The crowd was really vibing along to the whole setlist, which was a mix of both new and old releases. A surprised Duterte even uttered, “Holy shit guys!”, when they enthusiastically yelled “The Bus Song’s” climatic lyrics “But I like the bus!” Duterte also expressed many times how fun the whole tour had been and how lucky she was to have been on it.

Finally Japanese Breakfast, a touring act for the solo work of Michelle Zauner, took to the stage. Although she only stands a few inches about five feet, she looked imposing in a set of white linen and light up sneakers. The band played many fan favorites from both their newest album and their first album, “Psychopomp,” with Zauner going from simply singing to playing guitar and working a midi launcher. Zauner jumped around stage when not playing guitar and when she did she was playing off her husband, Peter Bradley, who plays lead guitar in the outfit. At the start of the second half of the set, all members but the drummer, Craig Hendrix, left the stage. Hendrix took to the piano and the two sang a softer three song run before the other members returned. Zauner thanked everyone for coming to the show and also said how much she had loved being on tour. She also remarked how easy it was to get a response from the audience, saying “all you had to do was yell the name of the city you were in” before shouting out “POMONA!!” and getting a wonderful response. The band then launched into a perfect cover of The Cranberries’ “Dreams” before ending with their popular songs “Everybody Wants to Love You” and “Machinist.” Zauner stated the band wouldn’t do “that fake encore shit” and thanked everyone before walking off stage.

Japanese Breakfast will be playing at the Irenic in San Diego on April 20th.

Lemon Glow: Single Review

Beach House had a Valentine’s Day present for the world: a new single. “Lemon Glow” is the first single from Beach House’s upcoming seventh album, which they’ve said is “due later this spring,” on Instagram and Twitter. The Baltimore duo, made up of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, somewhat reinvent their sound with each new album, but “Lemon Glow” marks a big departure from the Beach House instrumental canon we’ve grown to know and love. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing. In fact, I’ve been listening to the song on repeat since it was released.

While Beach House kept their trademark drum machine and organ sounds the same, an acidic synth line makes “Lemon Glow” stand apart. The band also brings back a shoegaze-like heavily distorted guitar, which has been used in some songs like “Sparks,” “Beyond Love” and “Elegy to the Void” from their two most recent albums. The combination of the strobing synth and guitar make for a less hazy Beach House, but still provide the perfect canvas for Legrand’s dreamy vocals. She sings of a lover, with more intimate details than Beach House usually affords itself.

  “It’s what you do/This pulls me through/I come alive/You stay all night.”

Legrand also ties this lover to colorful imagery with the hook, “When you turn the lights down low/Lemon color, honey glow.” These references to color continue with the line “Candy colored misery/The color of your mind” just before the song comes to an abrupt end.

 

 

This foray into psychedelia is also explored with the “Lemon Glow” music video. Released on Valentine’s as well, the video mirrors the single’s US album artwork with pulsating patterns of black and white shapes. The waving checkerboard that’s reminiscent of “2001: A Space Odyssey’s” stargate sequence melds into a swirling kaleidoscope and back again throughout the video, ultimately producing a mind melting optical illusion that you can’t take your eyes off of.

Overall, Beach House’s combination of video and music provide a perfect backdrop to zone out to, but Legrand’s personal lyrics bring the audience back down to earth. “Lemon Glow” follows a logical progression from the shoegaze inspiration of the band’s two previous albums, but makes the jump to full psychedelic dream pop without worrying if anyone gets left behind.

Beach House’s sophomore album, “Devotion,” turns 10 this month and is getting a beautiful vinyl reissue through the subscription service Vinyl Me, Please, in March. The duo is currently touring Europe and will return to North America this summer, with a show at the Hollywood Bowl in September.

Photo by Phil King / CC BY

 

Wallows at The Observatory Orange County

On Feb. 3, Wallows performed at The Observatory Orange County  with Precious Kid and The Downer Party opening. As The Downer Party walked out for their set, I realized the audience was comprised mostly of people under twenty, a lot of them screaming tween girls. Despite this, the night turned out to be one of the most fun concerts I’ve ever been to.

The recently formed Downer Party was on first with a lively and Britpop inspired set, followed by the female fronted Precious Kid, who borrowed the Downer Party’s frontman to be their lead guitarist. Justine Dorsey, frontwoman, and Kassie White, bassist, were glitter clad as they rocked out with the unreleased “Jackie in a Fur Coat” before shedding their own jackets to cover the Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way” and play their own released songs, “Jaded” and “Dirty Disposition.”

The audience then got what it was waiting- and chanting- for. As the Wallows’ light up palm tree set was turned on, high pitched screams filled the room. When the members sauntered out in matching-but-not-matching floral shirts, the screams only intensified. I had never seen The Observatory Orange County so empty for a headliner, but the screams made up for the lack of crowd. The unexpected upside to less people was the extra room for dancing- which I made full use of! The Wallows followed an unreleased song that featured an extremely well-received trumpet solo with their extremely popular “Sun Tan.” As fans heard the first few notes, the yells echoed throughout the room, strengthening when co-frontmen Clay Jensen (of “13 Reasons Why” fame) and Braeden Lemasters smiled or glanced at the crowd. Both insisted that the group has new songs coming out “sometime soon” throughout the show.

They played a heartfelt cover of The Smiths’ “This Charming Man” before telling the crowd to stay safe out there and launching into their people pleasing song “Pleaser,” which ignited a raucous mosh pit and some crowd-surfing. Wallows left the stage after receiving a banana from a dedicated fan and returned after a chant of “ONE MORE SONG” shook the building.  Braeden played a solo, “1980s Horror Film,” while his fellow band members lounged on the stage before they all thanked the crowd for coming to the biggest show they’ve ever played. They finished the concert with a cover of “Blister In The Sun” that morphed into a “Boys Don’t Cry” cover with Precious Kid’s Dorsey returning to sing along. Then the song returned to the cover of “Blister In The Sun.” After asking fans to drive home safe, all band members blew kisses and threw guitar picks into the crowd as they left the stage.

Altogether the three bands have only released a handful of songs and didn’t manage to sell out the venue, but the Wallows’ strong fan base made the concert a memorable and enjoyable one. The complete lack of pretension in a crowd that didn’t care what they looked like was refreshing and will be hard to beat with any other band’s audience.