Editor’s Note: This list was originally released in 2012. With the release of new David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Keith Richards (Rolling Stones), and Chris Baio (Vampire Weekend) records, we thought we would revisit one of our favorite lists: our 10 favorite albums by artists that go solo.
In honor of one of our absolute favorites, Jack White, announcing the release of his first solo album Blunderbuss, we thought it might be fun to do a list of the finest solo records from people who reigned from well-known groups/bands. We decided on a couple guidelines for this category: the artist could not have had a solo career before the band (i.e. Panda Bear of Animal Collective), and it had to be a recognizable band (and not just some college garage band). We also decided it had to be a true solo project and not just a side project (i.e. McCartney in Wings, Jack White in fifty other bands not named the White Stripes).
Jazz rap trio A Tribe Called Quest was unmistakably one-of-a-kind in the early 90s, and Q-Tip no doubt led that charge. His debut solo album, Amplified is fast, calm, and nearly flawless, if it wasn’t for that horrendous Korn guestspot on “End of Times” (it was the late 90s after all). Continue reading “The 10 Best Albums by Artists Going Solo”→
The last month has brought two high-profile surprise albums in U2’s Songs of Innocence and Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke’s second solo album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes. As we all know, there can only be one surprise album champion, so I thought I would go through five rounds of criteria (announcement, distribution, price, reach, and ultimately, the music) to decide who won the September Surprise Shakedown. Two men enter the ring, only one can leave.
Round #1: Announcement
U2: The Irish lads of U2 have long aimed to be the biggest band in the world (and at times have been), so unsurprisingly they used the most anticipated media event of the fall in Apple’s Summit introducing the iPhone 6 and iWatch, to announce their album. They even came out onstage, performed a couple of the new songs, and had an awkward exchange with Apple CEO Tim Cook. During the presentation, they revealed the album would instantly be in your iTunes upon the announcement, even if it didn’t set up that nicely. It was a big announcement, but a bit botched.
Thom Yorke: On a slow-news Friday, Thom Yorke announced in letter co-authored with long-time Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich that he was experimenting with a new form that would bypass the normal gates of distribution and was experimenting with a way that put the power in the creators’ hands. This was much more low-key, but much more intimate towards fans.
Winner: Thom Yorke
Round #2: Distribution
U2: Using the biggest online music store to distribute a free album certainly sounds like a good idea on the surface, but Apple and U2 couldn’t have botched it worse. U2 would have been looked upon honorably if Apple would have just left Songs of Innocence in the iTunes store to be searched for and downloaded. Instead, Apple persisted the music onto every iTunes library and cloud connected Apple device, causing the album to feel more spam than a nice gift on the house.
Thom Yorke: Quite opposite of iTunes, Yorke used BitTorrent, a program notorious for illegally shared and pirated music, for his form of distribution. This definitely has to help his indie cred with such a subversive approach.
Winner: Thom Yorke
Round #3: Price
U2: It’s hard to argue with free, but it does seem to take away from the charitable aspect of it when you realize Apple reportedly paid U2 $100 million for the rights to distribute it for free. Regardless of what the band was paid though, free is a clear advantage to the listener.
Thom Yorke: Yorke sold Tomororow’s Modern Boxes for a very reasonable $6, on again a download software notorious for free and illegal music. This is an interesting and no doubt surprising approach.
Round #4: Reach
U2: Through its spammy approach, U2 did reach over half a billion iTunes customers, which is truly mind-blowing. And even though all we are hearing about is the kids who are trying to do whatever they can to remove the stale-old Dad rock from their iPhones, there were clearly tons of people for whom Songs of Innocence was their first experience with U2, they loved it, and wanted more. In fact, 26 of U2 albums (including various greatest hits collections) made the iTunes top #100, which is unprecedented that they owned more than a quarter of the top 100.
Thom Yorke: The biggest downfall of Yorke’s approach is how BitTorrent isn’t owned by half a billion people like iTunes, although there is still close to 150 million users. The average layperson probably doesn’t know what BitTorrent is, but that’s not really who Yorke is targeting his music towards. I would guess that the majority of Yorke’s fans know and use BitTorrent often, so I think he is reaching exactly who he wants to.
The Main Event: The Music
U2: When it comes down to it, you have to believe Apple didn’t listen to Songs of Innocence before offering U2 $100 million because it’s about as mediocre as U2 has been in quite some time. It’s the sound of U2 recycled through modern rock music and then mimicked by U2. Basically U2 replicating U2 Wannabes. On my favorite podcast of the moment, the hilarious U Talkin’ U2 to Me, Scott Aukerman and Adam Scott actually gushed over the new album for two hours, which shocked me since it was the first truly positive thing I have heard about the album. Regardless of what Scott and Scott think though, beyond Lykke Li’s guest spot on “Troubles”, this is an instantly forgettable album.
Thom Yorke: This is the most definitive winner, as Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is miles better than Songs of Innocence. It’s tender, dense, and mesmerizing from start to finish. While it falls slightly short of The Eraser (which I love), it instantly deserves to be in end of year consideration.
Atoms For Peace UIC Pavilion Chicago, IL October 2, 2013
Last Wednesday, I had the privilege of witnessing a live Atoms For Peace performance for the second time in my life. The first time I had the pleasure of seeing this rare supergroup perform was at Coachella in 2010. Fellow LxL’er Wes and I were lucky enough to land spots right next to Jay and B (seriously) near the sound stage and were gifted a performance of a lifetime. One that I thought I would never have the opportunity to see again. Luckily, that would not be the case, and after haggling my way into a cheap general admission floor seat, I was gifted that opportunity once again. Continue reading “Atoms For Peace Show Review”→
We decided it was finally time to make a list concerning the combination of kindred vocals. Duets that is. A guy and a girl is the most popular concoction, but there is certainly room to wiggle with that formula on this list. For frame of reference, we attempted to stay away from two very specific types tracks that may be considered duets. The first area is hip hop tracks. R&B tracks are fine, as long as they don’t interfere with the next criteria, but it seems every hip-hop song has multiple rappers, or at the least one rapper and someone else for the hook. Just seemed a little too muddled. The second criteria we aimed to stay away from were artists that have two vocalists, where almost every one of their tracks might be able to be considered duets. Sorry, but we were looking for duets where the source recording is at most part of a one-off album. As always, I think we crafted a solid list, but am certain we missed something along the way. Feel free to offer suggestions, and enjoy.
10. The Postal Service & Jenny Lewis – “Nothing Better”
Ben Gibbard & Jenny Lewis combine for an electonic-infused back and forth on The Postal Service’s 2003 track “Nothing Better”. The conversational tone of Gibbard and Lewis vocals is about as fun as it gets, and makes us thirst for more than just a Postal Service tour reunion. Record a new album! Continue reading “Top Ten Thursday: Duets to Die For”→
Atoms for Peace started very differently than many supergroups: on tour. The project started when Thom Yorke, frontman of Radiohead, released a sparse electronic solo album called The Eraser all the way back in 2006. In 2009, Yorke got the idea to tour the album he created mostly with his laptop with a live, organic band to bring it fully to life. Thom Yorke assembled a heavily percussive band in Flea (bass) of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Joey Waronker (drums) of Beck and numerous other alt-rock projects, Mauro Refosco (percussionist) of Forro In The Dark, and legendary Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich (programming, producer) to make this mostly synthesized, glitchy album full-bodied and warm-blooded. The nameless band debuted The Eraser and some fresh material live at the EchoPlex in L.A. in October 2009, and something really sparked with this all-star lineup. A full-blown U.S. tour would follow in 2010, as well as deciding on a name for the band in Atoms for Peace, coming from the Eraser song of the same name. Now, four years since its conception, the band releases their debut album in Amok, which many will call a followup to Thom Yorke’s The Eraser, but is a sound entirely new bringing the strengths of each member to bear. Continue reading “Atoms for Peace Review: Amok”→
The past 24 hours have been quite the wellspring of music news. From leaky twitter accounts, to legitimate releases, some of the bigger names in music seem to have tracks just dropping from the sky quicker than the snow that is currently falling outside my window. Yesterday, Thom Yorke’s collaborative group Atoms for Peace (consisting of Flea, Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker, Mauro Refosco, and of course, Thom) released my favorite track of 2013 thus far. Seeing as how it is only the eighth day of the year this may not seem tough, but give it a listen for yourself and see if you think differently. Continue reading “Ear to the Ground: Listening for the Newest Tracks of 2013”→