Musicians are by no means monogamous. Often their loyalty is not to the single entity of a band, but rather to the grander scheme of the things, the music itself. Take Gorillaz (by way of Blur) frontman Damon Albarn, who just announced that he’s going solo again on the side under the guise of Prince Barry. Or Thom Yorke branching out from Radiohead with his once anonymous band who we now know as Atoms for Peace. After the jump, we’ve compiled a playlist of our favorite tracks from some recent indie side projects. As always, leave a comment and let us know who we left out.
Julian Casablancas (The Strokes) – “Left & Right in the Dark”
While the other two Strokes who flew the coop had relative success as Albert Hammond, Jr. and Little Joy, Julian Casablancas was the main songwriter. We expected more from him. His strung-out delivery is the most consistent in its familiarity; the solo project was his way of dreamweaving together big beats and ’80s synths.
Human Highway (Nicholas Thorburn of Islands) – “The Sound”
Thorburn’s meticulous arrangements are still intact in Human Highway (a project with Islands’ Jim Guthrie), but what were poetic musings about whales and oceans have now become existential, societal musings. The darker personification is quite the leap from his old days in the chipper Unicorns, and he manages to channel The Kinks and the Everly Brothers in the debut LP Moody Motorcycle.
Atlas Sound (Bradford Cox of Deerhunter) – “River Card”
Bradford Cox’s affinity (and penchant) for cassette-ready lo-fi pop is evident in both Deerhunter and Atlas Sound, but the latter, his longer gestating brainchild, is stream-of-consciousness gold.
Coconut Records (Jason Schwartzman of Phantom Planet) – “Drummer”
Schwartzman has had more commercial success than the other members of Phantom Planet thanks to his painfully-hip collaborations with Wes Anderson, Band of Outsiders, and Jonathan Ames. The result: the debut album for his undeniably catchy alter ego, Coconut Records, featururing buzzworthy appearances by actresses Zooey Deschanel and Kirsten Dunst.
Destroyer (Dan Bejar of The New Pornographers) – “Painter In Your Pocket”
Compared to fellow Pornographers A.C. Newman and Neko Case, Dan Bejar has always been the quiet, lesser known member of the supergroup. With a purposefully deceptive name, Bejar has been crafting melodic arrangements of cryptic lyrics in a part croon, part colloquial “destruction” of conventional indie rock.
Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton (of Metric/Broken Social Scene) – “Our Hell”
A major departure from the danceable new wave licks of Metric, Haines takes the mellower route, focusing only on the piano and her equally therapeutic contralto made famous by Broken Social Scene’s “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl.”
Jónsi (Birgisson of Sigur Rós) – “Around Us“
When the frontman for Icelandic orchestral rockers Sigur Rós made his foray into the music world alone, he might not have come up with the most original name, but he did remember to bring along his trademark falsetto and stadium-ready anthemic backing — now in English.
CANT (Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear) – “Ghosts”
It might seem that releasing a song on your own imprint (one called Terrible Records) is shameless self-promotion but “Ghosts” manages to stand on its own as an ethereal song that’s reminiscent of Atlas Sound. As the bassist of Grizzly Bear and producer of such names as The Morning Benders and Dirty Projectors, there’s no denying that Taylor has an ear for what works.
White Antelope (Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes) – “Silver Daggers”
Continuing his fascination with adjectives and animals, Pecknold stays true to his folk roots and layered harmonies to take on the covers realm. While he tackled Joanna Newsom‘s “On A Good Day,” the Fleet Foxes frontman has mainly been re-envisioning classic ballads and folk songs such as “Silver Daggers”.
Your Twenties (Gabriel Stebbing of Metronomy) – “Billionaires”
Having slapped the bass in Metronomy, Stebbing knows how to hook you in with a riffy swing and sing-a-long chorus. What Fader describes as one of the “super-positive-teen-movie-roadtrip-beach-party-triumph-over-the-bullies megajams,” this danceable number is perfect for the more agreeable weather.
Honorable Mentions: Lackthereof (Menomena), Perhapst (The Decemberists), Julian Plenti (Interpol), Fyfe Dangerfield (Guillemots), School of Language (Field Music), The Whitest Boy Alive (Kings of Convenience), Moonface (Wolf Parade)