I’m currently spinning my brand new Innerspeaker 10th Anniversary 4LP box set as I approach Year Three of my ongoing attempt to chronicle my favorite albums of the 2010s. At this rate I’ll be compiling my 2020s list before I finish this one. I’m going to do something a little different on this album. Before I do, let’s recap numbers 19-9:
#19: New Amerykah Pt. 2 – Erykah Badu
#18: Lemonade – Beyonce
#17: Laila’s Wisdom – Rapsody
#16: Lonerism – Tame Impala
#15: Choose Your Weapon – Hiatus Kaiyote
#14: Ventura – Anderson .Paak
#13: Stone Rollin’ – Raphael Saadiq
#12: We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service – A Tribe Called Quest
#11: The Electric Lady – Janelle Monae
#10: But You Caint Use My Phone – Erykah Badu
#9: No Beginning No End – José James
#8: Currents – Tame Impala
I’ve written this story before on this very site. I don’t remember where or why so I’m not going to link it. I wrote it years ago, and as with everything that happens, the further an event drifts into the past the hazier the details become. Something I write now might conflict with what I wrote the last time I attempted to recall the events of July 11, 2014. It’ll be fun to fact check this after and see how accurately I remember this.
I was visiting my brother, Andy, in Seattle for the first time despite the fact that he had moved there 17 months earlier. I realize that this is a borderline criminal offense on my part. What kind of brother takes 17 months to visit? In my defense I was busy at the time with three kids under eight years old. A poor excuse, but it is what it is. I arrived in Seattle on a Wednesday evening and spent my first day wandering the city alone while Andy worked. To put things in perspective, it was the day LeBron James announced he was going back to Cleveland after his four years with the Miami Heat. I spent far too much time on NBA Twitter instead of enjoying the beautiful weather in a new city.
That Friday Andy only had to work until noon. So, I left the comfort of his 250 square foot downtown apartment mid-morning and made my way on foot to his place of employment. Over lunch we discussed what we considered to be our three options for the afternoon. Option 1: Stay in the city. Option 2: Drive to a hiking trail that Andy frequented somewhere east of the city. Or north of the city. Or south? I don’t remember. Option 3: Take the ferry across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island, then drive to something called Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. This option included the possibility of a run to the Pacific Coast. As I mentioned above, Andy had lived in Seattle for nearly a year and a half at that point and hadn’t gone to the coast yet. I had never seen the Pacific Ocean in my life. Of course we chose Option 3.
Until that week I had never been within 500 miles of Seattle, so I assumed that it was a hop skip and a jump from the coast. When you look at a map Seattle is sitting right on the Pacific Ocean, right? As it turns out, if I wanted to see the Pacific Ocean we would not be able to mess around because it’s a surprisingly long drive with a lot of water and mountains in the way. We made the 1:00 PM ferry to Bainbridge Island. It was a gorgeous day with sunny skies and 80 degree weather; something I’m led to believe is a rarity in Seattle. Thankfully, the waters of the sound were placid and my body resisted its usual tendency jump straight to full-blown motion sickness and ruin the trip before it even started.
We docked (is that the right word?) at Eagle Harbor and it looked exactly as I expected. A quaint little town on the water. That feeling didn’t last more than two minutes. Have you ever seen Cape Cod in Massachusetts or – much closer to my home – Door County, Wisconsin? I expected our journey around the various inlets and canals and along the mighty Strait of Juan de Fuca to look like the east shore of Green Bay in Northern Wisconsin. A gorgeous shoreline dotted with tiny tourist villages filled with art galleries and antique stores. Golf courses everywhere. Maybe an occasional cherry orchard. I assumed this was the go-to getaway place for big Seattle money. Summer homes/mansions on the shore of the strait with six stall garages and a luxurious boat tied to every dock. It was nothing like that. The little towns were few and far between, and when there was one “luxurious” is definitely not the word I would use to define them. Much of the drive was still beautiful thanks to the frequent views of water and/or mountains. However, the peninsula was far less tourism-friendly than I anticipated. Also, there was nowhere to eat. Would it kill one of these towns to build a decent place for an ignorant tourist to grab a sandwich? I mean, Fat Smittys looked inviting, but couldn’t you Northwest Washingtonians at least throw in a Kwik Trip or something? Come on, Port Angeles! Step your fast food game up, Sequim!
We arrived in Olympic National Park just south of Port Angeles at about 4:30 PM. A gorgeous, winding drive through the park eventually led us to Hurricane Ridge. We stood at one scenic overlook on the route and had a discussion about how we wished we possessed the ability to fly at that moment. Flying seemed unrealistic so we decided we would’ve settled for having a drone to get better views. When we arrived at the Hurricane Ridge Ranger Station we found ourselves surrounded by hiking trails and blacktail deer. If you’re wondering what the difference is between whitetail and blacktail deer, it’s in the name. As a deer hunting enthusiast it was a small thrill to be able to say I was in just about the only place in the country where you can see blacktail deer.
We decided to take a brief hike to a nearby peak for some more scenic views. We encountered several mountain goats along our walk with many of them getting too close for my liking. We also crossed paths with a few other hikers and from what I could see they weren’t the brightest people to ever walk the trails of Hurricane Ridge. One couple was trying to lure in one of the goats so they could get a picture standing next to it. I definitely commented to Andy that it seemed like a bad idea to lure in a wild animal, especially while standing at the top of a steep ridge. I’m pretty sure I also mentioned that I wished the goat would kick their asses. It didn’t. Less than a week later Andy e-mailed me a story from earlier in the year about a man being killed by one of those goats. Technically, the goat rammed him and the fall killed him. Regardless, that’s terrible and I’m glad we decided to keep the goats as far away as possible. All I’m saying is we were trespassing in their homes and the least we could do was respect the goats.
We reached the summit of our hike and stayed there long enough to laugh about pissing at Canada. Not sure what Canada did to deserve that, but it was amusing to think that if we urinated in Canada’s direction there was a possibility – albeit a slight one – that the wind could catch it and some droplets could land on Canadian soil. It was a gorgeous day and if it had ended right there it would’ve been worth the trip. 7:00 PM was fast approaching and our chances to see the Pacific Ocean during daylight were dwindling by the minute.
After we descended from Hurricane Ridge and meandered back to Port Angeles we had a critical decision on our hands: Turn left on Highway 101 toward the Pacific Ocean or turn right and make our way back to Bainbridge Island? It was 7:30 PM at there was no guarantee that we would even make it to the coast before sundown. The bigger issue we had was that we had no idea where our destination was or how we would get there. We hadn’t come this far to give up. We turned left.
We decided on the “town” of La Push as our destination. The next critical decision was how to get there. We could play it safe on Highway 101 or we could try a back road shortcut. Some local advice would’ve really helped us make the right decision at this crossroad because, of course, we decided the back roads would get us there faster. Here’s a funny thing we forgot about the mountains: Roads don’t go straight. They wind. Especially on back roads. You know what happens to me on winding roads, especially when we’re driving fast because we’re in a hurry? I get sick. I avoided the sickness on the ferry, but wasn’t so lucky on Highway 112 in the middle of nowhere on what felt like the edge of the Earth. While Andy skillfully weaved through the woods of northwest Washington, I did everything I could to not cover the dashboard of his Subaru Forester in vomit. It did (or didn’t?) help that we hadn’t eaten anything all day because restaurants don’t exist on the Olympic Peninsula. On the bright side, I had nothing to puke. However, I tend to handle motion sickness better when I’ve eaten something. The events that got us from Port Angeles to La Push are hazy. We were frustrated from trying to stream a Brewer game on Andy’s phone with little to no phone signal. There’s nothing better than a summer drive with Bob Uecker on the radio, but we got very little Ueck that night. I mostly remember Andy asking at one point if I needed to stop, to which I replied, “Just drive.” Andy drove furiously while I tried not to die. It was heroic.
And worth it.
We made it to the Pacific Coast at about 9:15 PM and that gave us exactly 15 minutes to enjoy the sun setting over the ocean. We scurried around the beach looking for the best place to enjoy the view and take pictures. I looked all over the beach for shells. My grandma told me she always wanted a shell from the Pacific Ocean and I promised I’d bring one back. Mission accomplished. It was amazing how quickly a stunning sunset and the thrill of seeing an ocean for the first time cured a queasy stomach. I was running on adrenaline.
Our enjoyment of the Pacific Ocean didn’t last long. Once the sun dropped below the horizon reality hit. What do we do now? Could we possibly make it back to the Bainbridge Island Ferry in time to make the last trip back to Seattle at midnight? Should we go south and try to find a place to stay, then drive back the next day? Also, where were we going to eat? We hadn’t eaten in 9-10 hours and we were both hungry. I referred to La Push as a “town” earlier because I’m pretty it was just a campsite, parking lot, and general store.
We temporarily solved our food issue at said general store. It wasn’t dinner, but they had snacks and that’s all we cared about at that point. We could find a meal later. If we drove straight through the GPS said we’d make it to the Bainbridge Island Ferry with less than five minutes to spare. As long as we stayed on 101 and avoided the back roads my stomach should cooperate. As we did successfully the entire day, we made the risky decision. We were trying to make the 1:00 AM ferry back to Seattle.
A drive like that needs a soundtrack. We decided that we’d each pick an album that we wanted the other one to hear and play those. I went first and chose Childish Gambino’s Because The Internet. I chose it for a few reasons. One, it’s the only album I had listened to since it’s late-2013 release. I love that album. More importantly, the back half of that album has an insanely trippy vibe that I felt fit the late night drive we were about to take. To put it over the top, the video for “The Worst Guys” featured Donald Glover, Chance the Rapper, and their crew hanging out on a beach at sunset. It seemed appropriate. I wasn’t wrong. I hit a home run. There’s no way Andy had anything up his sleeve that could match my choice of road trip music. This time I was wrong.
Andy presented Tame Impala’s sophomore album Lonerism. I’m not saying I like Lonerism better than Because the Internet. Lonerism was #16 on my list of favorite albums of the 2010s. It might not be my favorite album, but it certainly is the greatest introduction to an album I’ve ever had. After that long, strange day with the full moon shining brightly over mountain peaks and reflecting off of various bodies of water, Lonerism was the coolest shit I’d ever heard in my life. What an introduction to Tame Impala and the absolute perfect album for that moment. At another time I might not have given that album more than two minutes of my time and that would’ve been a shame. Instead I fell in love with Tame Impala instantly. I added Lonerism to my iTunes and bought the vinyl but no listen compared to the magic of July 11, 2014.
About a year later Andy notified me that Tame Impala had another album coming out. This time it was Currents. At the risk of generalizing, I’ll say that each Tame Impala album has a different sound, but they all have the same vibe. Currents is less psychedelic rock than the first two albums. It has a groovy, borderline disco feel in some areas, but still keeps that Tame Impala feel. Tame Impala doesn’t really have a genre, in my opinion. I don’t have the musical background needed to describe it using technical terms. I don’t think that background would help to describe Currents anyway. Tame Impala’s music sounds like magic. It’s ethereal. He’s not creating sounds. More of a soundscape. Man, that sounds pretentious as shit, but it’s true. His music transcends the traditional structure of an album. Yes, there are songs and they have names, but I am not sure I could name one. To me listening to one Tame Impala song is an incomplete experience. Tame Impala is the ultimate album artist and I’m an album listener. I like dropping the needle or pressing play at the beginning and not missing a moment until the end. Nobody I know of understands that like Tame Impala. That’s why I’m abandoning my usual format of giving awards to songs for Currents. There is no “best slow song” or “best hype song.” The entire album is one song for me and it would be impossible for me to choose. The entire damn thing is the best song. Just press play and let Kevin Parker (he’s Tame Impala) take you for a 51 minute ride. Better yet, buy the vinyl and drop the needle on it. Since I made the purchase in 2015 I’m not sure I’ve played any record in my vast collection more than Currents. It’s a perfect album for vinyl for reasons that I already explained above. That’s my review of Currents. Just listen to it because my words can’t do it justice.
Please allow me one more tangent. I was listening to Talib Kweli’s podcast People’s Party last week in my car as I often do. His guest was the incomparable Questlove, the busiest man in music/show business. Quest and Kweli were talking about people approaching them and calling themselves big fans, then getting the names of songs wrong, or just not knowing names. When asked what their favorite song is they’ll get a response like, “The one with Erykah Badu,” or, “the one where you say…” They were not complaining about this. Just making the observation that a lot of people who listen to their music don’t even know the names of the songs. They identify them using a featured artist or a beat or a famous line from the song. I nodded and thought about how I can’t name more than one or two Tame Impala songs, but I still consider myself a big fan. If Kevin Parker ever said to me, “What’s your favorite Tame Impala song?” I’d be like, “Umm…you know the one in the middle of side B of the Currents LP? The one with the trippy vibe and the distorted drums?” Thank you, People’s Party podcast, for making me feel like this is acceptable.
As for our late night ride, at one point we were certain that we got stuck in some kind of time loop, doomed to spend eternity driving around the same body of water. We spent what felt like hours driving around something called Lake Crescent. We made it back for the final Bainbridge Island ferry ride of the night with exactly six minutes to spare. We froze our asses off trying to take pictures most of the ride back. We finally ate somewhere in Seattle after 1:00 AM. Or maybe we didn’t. I don’t remember and I don’t have any photos to remind me. I slept comfortably that night on the inflatable mattress in the servant’s quarters of Andy’s spacious apartment that night. To quote the great Ice Cube, it was a good day.
That’s my thorough, technical review of Tame Impala’s 2015 album Currents, my 8th favorite album of the 2010s. My next album is another repeat artist from earlier in the list with a 2018 album that has some old school Prince vibes and a supplemental “Emotion Picture.” I’ll get to it when I get to it. I’ve had the writing bug again lately, so it could show up later tonight. It could also be months. Or maybe never. I have some other big things coming down the pike that I’m not ready to reveal just yet. For now I’m going back to enjoying this Innespeaker box set.