10 Great Solo Projects by Rock Frontwomen
When bands gets big, it usually means tons of attention lavished upon the individual members. This can be an incredible change of pace from when the group was down in the trenches, making cool music and clamoring for mainstream success. Often, the focal point becomes the lead singer — particularly if said vocalist is (a) female and (b) attractive. Great drummers, bassists, guitarists and even keyboard players can catch our attention, but that special connection with the human voice resonates deep within our lizard brains and stirs something within our souls.
The better, or more unique a singer’s voice and lyrical hooks are, the more we’re absorbed into the statement she’s attempting to make. With that in mind, we decided to look at some of the strongest albums, singles and projects made by female singers who have stepped away from bands — even if temporarily — and proven themselves on their own. Read our list of 10 Great Solo Projects by Rock Frontwomen and help us celebrate sisters doing it for themselves!
‘Walking With a Killer’ (2012)
Kim Deal, best known for laying down hard bass lines with the Pixies and of course providing the main voice for the Breeders (a band that includes her identical sister, Kelley), has been creating music for quite some time now. While she hasn’t given up on working with others, lately, she’s been kicking it solo. Last year, Kim released her first solo, vinyl limited edition single: ‘Walking With a Killer,’ backed by ‘Dirty Hessians.’ If you don’t own a record player, don’t worry — digital versions of these songs are available as well. Kim has hinted that more solo work is to come. We can hardly wait to see what she’s got planned for us next.
‘Sunny Border Blue’ (2001)
Former Throwing Muses frontwoman Kristen Hersh released the incredible solo album ‘Sunny Border Blue’ in 2001. A showcase for her sublime lyrics and solid songwriting, as well as her stunning musicianship — she played almost all of the instruments herself — this is an indie rock masterpiece. If you haven’t heard this collection of songs, do yourself a favor and buy a copy right now. We’ll give you time to finish this article, of course, but after that, no excuses.
‘Bachelor No. 2 or, the Last Remains of the Dodo’ (2000)
Aimee Mann rose to fame with the Boston New Wave band ‘Til Tuesday, best known for the remarkably catchy ‘Voices Carry.’ These days, Mann is a well-respected solo artist with a catalog of great albums — ‘Bachelor No. 2′ being a prime example — and even an Oscar nomination to her credit. The singer, songwriter, guitarist, bass player and boxing enthusiast (look it up) recently made news by teaming up with the great Ted Leo for a new band called #BOTH. She does just fine on her own, but we can’t wait to see how this turns out.
When people think of this pint-sized Icelandic powerhouse, they tend to think of her as a solo performer, but that’s not how Björk got her start in the music business. Before heading out on her own, Björk was part of the Sugarcubes. Since leaving said musical cooperative, she’s produced an impressive catalog of genre-bending music. One of her best efforts came with 2001’s ‘Vespertine,’ a sumptuous and beautiful treat of an album that dips down into quiet valleys and then climbs wild lyrical peaks, transporting listeners to places they’ve never before visited.
‘Love. Angel. Music. Baby.’ (2004)
Fashion designer, perfumer and midriff-exposing rock singer Gwen Stefani took some time off from her band No Doubt in 2004 to pursue a solo career. Her hiatus yielded a pair of solo albums, and of the two, ‘Love. Angel. Music. Baby,’ the first, is perhaps the more worthwhile. While it isn’t exactly overflowing with the deepest songs ever put down on tape, it features plenty of upbeat tunes and famous guests, including Andre 3000 and Dr Dre.
Annie Lennox, of the electro-pop duo the Eurythmics, tends to release two or three solo albums every decade, starting with ‘Diva’ in 1992, up to “A Christmas Cornucopia’ in 2010. In addition to that aforementioned holiday set, which made excellent use of an African children’s choir, you might want to give 2003’s ‘Bare’ a listen. It’s a beautifully written, emotionally frank and raw collection of songs that demonstrates new depth in her music. At the same time, she delivers some great hooks, which linger inside your noggin long after you’ve put your music player to bed for the night.
Kim Gordon, of Sonic Youth fame, hasn’t launched a distinctive solo career, per se, but she has collaborated on a number of musical side projects over the years. The closest she’s come to going solo is her experimental project Body/Head. This duo, consisting of Gordon and guitarist Bill Nace, delves into a hodgepodge of strange sounds and “free” rock. As of this writing, the duo has only released a few singles, but more are expected. If you’d like to hear Kim in an unrestrained musical setting (not everyone’s cup of tea), catch Body/Head while they’re out on tour.
‘Nobody’s Daughter / How Dirty Girls Get Clean’ (2010)
After going solo with her first album, ‘America’s Sweetheart,’ and leaving her band Hole behind for some time, Courtney Love nearly released a sophomore record called ‘How Dirty Girls Get Clean.’ But then things got a little messy. Love reunited Hole around 2009, and the following year, she released ‘Nobody’s Daughter,’ an album that contained material written for ‘How Dirty Girls Get Clean’ but marketed as a “Hole” album. Regardless of its “solo” credentials, ‘Nobody’s Daughter’ is probably one of Courtney’s best “individual” efforts made with her band. How’s that for a confusing musical paradox?
‘iPhone Sessions’ (2010)
Linda Perry broke out in the ’90s with the band 4 Non Blondes and later gained fame for her mad songwriting skills, which she’s put to work for the likes of Pink, Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani. She’s released some solo albums — none of which have earned her much attention — but what really intrigues us about this songstress is her ‘iPhone Sessions,’ which consists of acoustic covers recorded on, as the name would suggest, her iPhone. Pretty cool for a songwriter as famous as Perry.
Jolie Holland was part of the Canadian band The Be Good Tanyas for a short while, but this Texas native just had to head out on her own. Her music is an amalgum of folk, blues, rock and other genres, all of which she combines in harmonious ways. Tom Waits is a big fan of her work, and after you spin the smooth-sounding ‘Escondida,’ you just might become a convert, too. She’s got a bit of Billie Holiday running through her veins, as well as Nora Jones, but really, at the end of the day, she’s all Jolie Holland.