10 Indie Rock Side Projects You Should Know


Real Estate inspired us to mix Budweiser with Sprite and embrace Hawaiian print last summer. But more recently, frontman Matthew Mondanile quietly slipped in through the vulnerable cracks of our childlike subconscious, instantly winning us over with the lo-fi comfort rock of Ducktails, whose new album, Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics, dropped on Woodsist this week.

In fact, plenty of indie rock royalty have lower-profile side projects hiding up their sleeves that are every bit as brilliant as their better-known, blogosphere-friendly bands. After the jump, we introduce you ten more such acts that should be on your radar.

Dustin Wong (of Ponytail and Ecstatic Sunshine)

We continue to mourn the loss of Ponytail, arguably the most batshit-enthusiastic indie rock band to ever grace a stage, but guitarist Dustin Wong is clearly still drinking their psychedelic Kool-Aid. Molly Siegel may have provided the band’s gleeful yelps and vocal acrobatics, but it was the momentum of Wong’s shimmering guitar soundscapes that catapulted Ponytail skyward. Left unchecked, Dustin Wong approaches the most luminous of neo-classical guitar stylings with his two-track full-length, Infinite Love, out now on Thrill Jockey. More, please. Check out an excerpt of the album below:

Solanin/Hilly Eye (Amy Klein of Titus Andronicus)

True fact: Amy Klein should get as much hype as the band of boys she joins onstage around the world. We first saw Hilly Eye throttling the mic at a tribute to Kathleen Hanna last month, as Klein yowled her way through Le Tigre’s “Bang! Bang!” with Catherine Tung on drums and additional vox.

As for Solanin, Klein’s psych-folk project shows a gentler, yet equally powerful facet of her talent, with layered vocals and densely controlled guitars. Click here to stream to “I Know What You Want” from Solanin’s yet-untitled album, and check out a clip of Klein covering Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” with Titus Andronicus.

Radical Dads (Robbie Guertin of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah)

If Clap Your Hands Say Yeah strike you as just a little too adorable and fluffy, we suggest you turn your attention to Radical Dads, the side project of singer/keyboardist/guitarist Robbie Guertin. Sharing bills with decidedly more plugged in acts such as the Dum Dum Girls and Crystal Stilts, Radical Dads are three parts rock and one part art; the opposite of Guertin’s more famous day job. Listen to “Recklessness” below, out now on limited-edition 7″.

MEN (JD Samson of Le Tigre)

Le Tigre are technically still on hiatus, and much has been made of Kathleen Hanna’s return to live music with her new incarnation of the Julie Ruin, but DJ/keyboardist/singer/performance artist JD Samson has been plenty busy ever since Le Tigre played their last show. On February 1, Samson’s band/performance art troupe MEN will release their first full-length album, Talk About Body on IAMSOUND. Samson’s sampling expertise and slyly suggestive singing voice create the ultimate genderfucking dance party, complete with costume-laden live shows and a political sensibility. The single “Off Our Backs” reclaims a feminist call to arms with sweaty style. Watch the video below.

Pick a Piper (Brad Weber of Caribou)

As much as Caribou are worldly, slick and sultry, drummer Brad Weber’s side project Pick a Piper is a musician retreating to his Walden. Mossy chants, Rubber Soul harmonies, and frenetic, snake-in-the-brush percussion typify Pick a Piper, and we swear we can hear icicles breaking in the background. Right now, there’s only a self-titled EP out there, but more songs are popping up every few months, such as “Hallam Progress”:

Nels Cline Singers (Nels Cline of Wilco)

Wilco’s inaugural Solid Sound Festival was a breath of fresh air, so to speak, in that it was everything a music festival usually isn’t: organized, affordable, and far from overcrowded. That being said, the musical variety left a little to be desired, which made the Nels Cline Singers a godsend, unleashing their mix of prog and experimental jazz on a crowd of crunchy hippie mamas. Done incorrectly, this genre is our own personal version of hell, but seeing as Cline is one of the best guitarists alive and knows how to pick his band mates (Yuka Honda, anyone?), the Singers fiercely hold down the ever-murky idea of “free jazz” without a touch of the douche chills.

The Missingmen (Mike Watt of the Minutemen/fIREHOSE/Stooges)

You’d think former Minutemen bassist Mike Watt would be met with a sea of post-punk audiences across the country, but his decision to keep a relatively low profile has relegated him to smaller clubs with his current band, the Missingmen. Watt retains punk rock’s DIY ethic more purely than almost any other veteran of the genre, continuing to create via his artfully militant, unapologetic, and occasionally tender guitar noise, complemented by whispering, barking vocals. The Missingmen’s new album, Hyphenated-Man , will be released in the U.S. in March of 2011, but you can already get it from Japanese label Parabolica Records. Check out a video of a new Missingmen track at All Tomorrow’s Parties 2010:

Soft Landing (Paul Collins and Perrin Cloutier of Beirut)

Seems to us it wasn’t so long ago that you couldn’t turn around without tripping over a rave review of Beirut, but now Zach Condon’s bandmates have come out to play. Proving to have equally lovely voices themselves, Soft Landing charm us with confidently huge bass drumbeats, sly pauses for a dramatic tambourine or two, and a wickedly come-hither vocal style, like the faux-geek who knows exactly how attractive he is, in his perfectly cocked eyeglasses. Here’s “Baptism,” a track from their self-titled album, out now on Ba Da Bing.

Dead Child Star (Torquil Campbell of Stars, Broken Social Scene)

Now that Stars have veered off into the dreaded territory of overproduced and underachieving, it makes sense that Torquil Campbell would want to pursue his own project, Dead Child Star. Where Stars strive outwardly, Dead Child Star’s Cold Hands, Warm Heart turns inward to explore whispered, curious dance beats, on a record where the vocals don’t have to rely on production to soar gently above the noise. To make things even sweeter, Campbell’s fellow Canucks Metric, Broken Social Scene, and Apostle of Hustle all contributed to Cold Hands, Warm Heart. Don’t these guys ever fight!? Check out “London Fields” below.

Geotic (Will Wiesenfeld a.k.a. Baths)

Will Wiesenfeld’s adrenalized offerings as Baths are far from cohesive, but his side project, Geotic, deconstructs his electronic obsessions in a dreamlike state, recalling the background music to a Carl Sagan TV special. Wiesenfeld released the full-length Geotic album, Mend, on pay-as-you-wish basis on his (Angelfire!) website in 2010. Here’s one of its more ethereal tracks, “Unwind”: