We reflect on a mammoth decade of psychedelic rock and whittle it down to the gems. Here are the albums that dared to innovate, re-create and redefine the genre.
We look back at the last decade (better times as well as a revolutionary period for psychedelic rock). A veritable renaissance has swept through the soundscapes of the world, pillaging hillsides with fuzz-laden riffs and harbouring at docks of oscillating colours.
Why has new life been blown into the lungs of psych-rock? Well, that is an essay unto itself, but we cast our gaze back to the albums that kickstarted the revolution, and the records still innovating today. Here are the 25 best psychedelic rock albums of the 2010s.
25. Morgan Delt – Morgan Delt
Californian native Morgan Delt‘s self-titled debut carefully avoids pigeonholing. The album is like an aural depiction of the impressionists. There are vibrant splashes of colour, and surrealism draped over a velvet reality. Like the conceptual genius, Morgan Delt has a clear vision from the get-go. There was no rigorous trial and error in the making of this album. It’s just Morgan Delt, as clear as the sky.
24. Mild High Club – Timeline
Embrace the slinky, psychedelic jazz fusion of Mild High Club‘s Alexander Brettin and you will immediately realise this is a world you’ve never been to before. With bright pop melodies and woozy, gurgling interludes, you’re never quite sure where the Timeline will take you.
However, it’s as if the group were mildly high when writing the record, opting for a blissed-out chill zone as someone comes off a bad trip, rather than the violent intensities of some of their contemporaries.
23. Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last
The first album to be recorded with the band’s post-hiatus touring lineup, Mutilator has allowed the outfit to peel back the scuzz and fuzz for more textured density.
One of the best live bands around, Thee Oh Sees record their albums more or less in the booth and it puts you right there in the thick of it.
22. Allah Las – Allah Las
The debut 2012 record from Allah Las remains a staple in surf-rock and ’60s revival. The melancholy LA garage-rock outfit obsessively craft seemingly simple tunes with deceptively catchy melodies.
With veritable hits like Catamaran and Long Journey, the Allah Las paved the way for many garage bands as they continue to merrily sing their band name.
21. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
While not technically a psych-rock album it certainly contains traces of LSD, and considering its impact over the last six years, it has earned its place on this list.
The thing that makes Mac DeMarco so great is his talent for effortless simplicity. Never one to overdevelop a song, Mac expertly strips parts to make them work and talk together. Every song on Salad Days is built with great care and the perfect amount of sound and not a drop more.
An artist every aspiring songwriter should study, melt away to everyone’s favourite cowboy: Mac DeMarco.
20. Drugdealer – The End Of Comedy
Michael Collins put together a band of veritable guns for hire on this epic slice of ’60s revival. With Ariel Pink, Weyes Blood and members of Mac DeMarco’s band, it’s a delirious, psychedelic stroll through poetic puns and simple yet focused instrumentation.
Collins’ strong suit however is the songwriting. He hasn’t overclouded the profundity of his lyrics or guitar work with over-layering and instead rests on the power of sincere psychedelic lyrics with only a few cheeky jokes in there to sweeten the pot.
19. GUM – Delorean Highway
GUM is the mind baby of Jay Watson; so it’s no wonder there are elements of POND and Tame Impala to be found here. Though considering it dropped in 2015, it’s still remarkably ahead of the curve and plays out like a sonic flare in the back of the iris.
I can’t help but feel like I’m driving down Mario Kart’s ‘Rainbow Road’ every time I hear this album. The drugs are implicit, the fun is pure and there are so many exquisite sites to see.
18. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
Ruban Nielson is another psych rendition of dream-pop that hits the nail squarely on the head. The third album from the NZ based rock band is essentially a collection of vintage synths, offbeat dance rhythms and Zappa’s references with some gorgeous songwriting thrown in there.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra‘s dedication to remaining unique and averting your gaze is what makes this album so great as we are still peeling back the layers to this day, uncovering the secrets they tried to hide.
17. The Holydrug Couple – Moonlust
Moonlust is a beautiful journey through rich, cascading synths and dense sound mosaics. The bright, almost ambient textures lend veracity to the notion of narcotic pop and this is as close to nirvana as it comes.
Hailing from Santiago, Chile, the duo have created almost no edges to be found in the album. Even the vocals exchange lyrics for a palette on which to splash your own paints and visions.
16. Stonefield – Far From Earth
The Melbourne sibling outfit, Stonefield, hit a stroke of psych excellence on Far From Earth. Perhaps it was their recent signing to Flightless, the fact they were produced by Stephen McBean, or their unique aesthetic, but it all comes down to the heavy riffage and extended song structure that gives this record its mark of brilliance.
Hit play on opener Delusion and you’ll gladly sink into this cohesive pond of scuzzy stoner rock and majestic power.
15. Connan Mockasin – Forever Dolphin Love
Who’s NZ born, a musical genius and Sid Barret incarnate? That’s right: Connan Mockasin and his most stunning work to date, Forever Dolphin Love. Playing out like the madness inside the mind of some deranged doll, Mockasin has surely created a song like no other.
Opening up like an acid trip gone wrong you will almost certainly feel uncomfortable before a groove whispers in smooth and sweet and Connan grabs you by the collar, pulling you into his world. It’s not the tempo changes, the locked groove or longing vocals that make this record exceptional. It’s the unparalleled artistry and innovation. And indeed the whole album exists within this woozy, deranged sounding world and it’s absolutely beautiful. I dare say a masterpiece.
14. Dungen – Allas Sak
Allas Sak is the seventh album from Swedish psych quartet Dungen and it’s a mezzanine of ambient, ’60s inspired, optimism that is transatlantic yet singular. It’s hard to listen to their self-titled 2001 debut without hearing parallels to Tame Impala with its chorused vocals and marching rhythms.
Nonetheless, this is a strong return to form for Dungen blending vintage psych-pop with lush instrumentation and computer-based software.
13. Mdou Moctar – Ilana (The Creator)
The first studio album from Tuareg artist Mdou Moctar is unlike anything else on the planet. Raised in northern Niger, he shares nothing of the inspiration of ’60s guitar gods such as Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton, and as a result, has created an astoundingly psychedelic body of guitar music to a Western ear.
The songs are all reflections of the grim realities that face Moctar – no rock n’ roll fantasies here. His people are “modern slaves”, he explains, colonised by the French. He also wants to draw attention to the “women of the desert.. they don’t have water to drink, there is no medicine in the hospitals”. Serious music for a serious cause.
12. Moses Gunn Collective – Mercy Mountain
Perhaps one of the most underrated Australian psychedelic rock albums of all time, Moses Gunn Collective flared hot like molten lava before solidifying in sedimentary platinum for all time. While most of the members went on to create other successful acts – The Belligerents, Confidence Man, The Jungle Giants – Mercy Mountain remains a precious gemstone in the pantheon of great psych-rock records.
Listen and believe.
11. Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
Foxygen’s second album plays out like a veritable buffet of rock history. From the sobs and wails of Mick Jagger to the ten-ton boredom of Lou Reed, the vocals of Sam France are exceptional and the writing is intriguing and thoughtful. However, unlike many of its rock tribute contemporaries, there is a streamlined focus to We Are that is unforeseen in other albums for the LA duo, and it is in no small part due to the production of Richard Swift.
10. Tame Impala – Currents
The third effort from Kevin Parker came as a bit of a surprise. Gone are the fuzzy escapades in exchange for kaleidoscopic synths. The question of whether this album is better than the others is beside the point as it stands completely apart.
The loneliness is entrenched and the supernatural talent and obsession with making music perfect is clear as crystal. The production, songwriting, and vocals are nothing short of godlike, and it’s all Kevin Parker.
9. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
Burning through the stratosphere for the last six years, Texan trio Khruangbin have innovated interpretations on world music and provided an entirely new perception of psychedelic guitar.
Con Todo El Mundo is a masterful blend of melody and groove, relying on sheer musical skill rather than lush, dense soundscapes.
8. POND – Man It Feels Like Space Again
Sharing members with Tame Impala, POND are essentially their lighter, more jovial cousin. POND are chaotic and Nick Allbrook’s vocals and stage presence liken him to born-performers such as David Bowie.
From the anarchy of Zond to the upbeat, synth juggernaut of Elvis Flaming Star, POND have crafted a classic psychedelic rock album from cover to cover.
7. The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream
Lost In The Dream is the most textured, illustrious and beautifully rendered album in Adam Granduciel‘s repertoire and stands like a lighthouse beacon amidst the records of the decade. Leaning on polarities of ’80s rock, there is an urgency immediate with the opening of the record. Lush guitar lines pilfer down through glacial synths and Adam’s poetry is intriguing yet vague, taking vocal cues from Bob Dylan.
Lost In The Dream is a shining example of starting a record with guns blazing.
6. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – I’m In Your Mind Fuzz
As per all King Gizzard records, I’m In Your Mind Fuzz is not easily categorised. As they consistently wrangle chaos into compositions this record is where the Melbourne septet really found their niche of garage and Krautrock grooves. And it’s all drenched in a healthy glob of psych bliss.
5. GOAT – World Music
GOAT is perhaps the most unique psych-rock album to come out of the last decade. Blending heavy, riff wars with world music, the masked Swedish outfit have intercepted a wild collection of influences. From Led Zeppelin to Fela Kuti to Funkadelic, there are experimental elements here that instantly set GOAT apart from their contemporaries; and that’s before you see the outfits.
4. Kikagaku Moyo – House In The Tall Grass
Emerging from the clubs of Tokyo, Kikagaku Moyo have an undeniably unique piece of real estate in the psych-rock landscape. With floating Japanese falsettos, expert sitar work and many open-ended jams they define what it means to be psychedelic rock.
Furthermore, House In The Tall Grass is a must-listen for any King Gizz fans.
3. Melody’s Echo Chamber – Melody’s Echo Chamber
French musician, Melody Prochet’s debut album is a fine moment for psychedelic rock. Produced by her then-partner, Kevin Parker, it has touches of Tame Impala all over it with a nice soak of darkness on the psych-tinged pop.
Recorded at Kevin’s home studio in Perth, Melody’s Echo Chamber remains a hallmark psych-rock record, standing tall for the past decade.
2. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
While the entire first half of this list could essentially contain King Gizz albums – not only for their prolific output but for the sheer reckoning of each record – we have limited it to two of the best. Nonagon Infinity is their masterpiece and anyone who says otherwise is a fool. Listen to it, listen to it again, you won’t even need to press play.
It’s an infinite loop of garage rock perfection and an incredibly good psychedelic rock record.
1. Tame Impala – Lonerism
Tame Impala have re-invented the psychedelic wheel. Every so often an artist comes into a sound world so wholly unique they electrify a genre and kickstart a legion of imitators. Australia’s Kevin Parker is one such individual. Parker’s highly acclaimed sophomore album Lonerism is an aural masterpiece. From walking through a flutter of butterflies to charging down the barrel of an acid trip, it’s a ride that’s one of a kind.