This week’s reviews, of Johnny Marr’s (from The Smiths and Modest Mouse) new solo album and Thom Yorke’s (from Radiohead) new album with side band Atom’s For Peace, got us thinking about musical side projects. Maybe accomplished want to show that they can make something different than what they’re known for, or perhaps they just have too much talent bottled up and need another way of letting it out. Whatever the reason, side projects surface every now and then, and they can either be a fantastic new band or something we wish never existed. Here is a list of five great side projects that stand on their own.
5. Them Crooked Vultures
Dave Grohl just thinks of amazing projects and then they happen. His most recent insanely successful project is Sound City, the documentary he directed as an ode to rock and roll, and the super group to rule them all, the Sound City Players. But in 2009 he was part of Them Crooked Vultures, along with Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones and Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme. Their self-titled album had an old-school sound in the studio and a loud, rock-your-face-off sound on the stage. Shortly after their debut, the band seemed excited for a second album. Let’s hope Grohl’s bottomless pit of energy doesn’t end and a second album is still in the future.
4. The Dead Weather
Jack White is another one of those rare musicians who never runs out of ideas. The White Stripes was just the beginning. Now, he’s a genius entity of his own. The Dead Weather made it’s debut in 2009 at the opening of White’s second Third Man Records venue in Nashville Tennessee. The band includes Alison Mosshart from The Kills, Dean Fertita from Queens of the Stone Age and Jack Lawrence from another of White’s projects, The Raconteurs. They’ve released two albums so far: Horehound and Sea of Cowards. The combination of Mosshart and White’s beautiful-in-a-strange-way talent — like the were created by Tim Burton — makes The Dead Weather a dark, dissonant and just generally bad-ass band.
From Monsters of Folk to his work with the Mystic Valley Band, most of Conor Oberst’s side projects — beyond his main muse, Bright Eyes — have remained rather tame and approachable, but not Desaparecidos. Formed in 2001 by Oberst and a group of longtime musical friends, Desaparecidos’ released only one album, Read Music/Speak Spanish, which offered an energetic dose of hooky post-hardcore just before the genre saw a downturn in popularity. The best part is that Oberst really bared his teeth by writing scathing lyrics about the condition of the United States. Currently, the group has reunited just in time to criticize, well, the even shittier social state of America.
2. Black Star
From the start, Yasiin Bey (a.k.a. Mos Def) and Talib Kweli were meant to start a hip-hop group together. Each artist was born in Brooklyn and started their rap careers in New York City. Then, throughout the early ‘90s, they became affiliated with the Native Tongues crew, which helped foster groups like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. Without a true outfit of their own, however, the emcees decided to start Black Star. By 1998, the duo released their only album, Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star, which mixed reggae, jazz and straight hip-hop influences. As of 2011, Black Star has been teasing and releasing tracks from a mixtape tribute to Aretha Franklin, titled Black Star Aretha.
1. The Postal Service
Around 2001, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie recorded vocals for a song by Dntel, the main project of electronica producer Jimmy Tamborello. After plenty of positive response, Gibbard and Tamborello decided to collaborate under the name The Postal Service and by 2003, they dropped the full-length Give Up. Overall, The Postal Service’s debut was so consistent — with each song being praised as a super-twee, electro-pop, sing-along gem — it sold over 1 million copies. In February, The Postal Service posted an oddly less-upbeat, but still brand new track called “A
Tattered Line of String” and announced a world tour.