Mandatory Music: Julian Casablancas, Alt-J, Aphex Twin + More
There's no 'I' in 'band,' but there definitely is one in, "Hey, guys, I'm gonna run off and make a solo album. See you in 14 months. Please keep writing music and feed my cat."
There must be something in the air prompting prominent singers to step away from their bands in order to embark on their own solitary creative endeavors. It's like that M. Night Shyamalan movie, 'The Happening' -- only not hilarious. Case in point: The Strokes' Julian Casablancas, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and now Radiohead's Thom Yorke have all unveiled solo efforts in the past couple weeks -- and that's not even accounting for Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance and or Mike Doughty of Soul Coughing since their former bands are now defunct.
In this week's installment of Mandatory Music, we check out a couple of those solo works -- one of which falls into the category of a project that sounds almost nothing like the frontman's main band. Can you guess which one?
Here's a hint:
JULIAN CASABLANCAS + THE VOIDZ
'Human Sadness’ from 'Tyranny'
For about the first 75 seconds of this track from Julian Casablancas, you could probably say to yourself, "Yeah, that sounds about like what I expected." Aside from a spooky string background, 'Human Sadness' from 'Tyranny' starts out with the same sort of neo-retro vibe you might hear from the Strokes. But then there's this weird robotic vocal effect that only hints at the complete experimental and electronic sonic shift that emerges five minutes into this 11-minute epic.
'The Gospel of John Hurt’ from 'This is All Yours'
It's no secret we're big fans of the second album from British art-rockers Alt-J, and if you've been keeping up with the pre-release push for 'This is All Yours,' you've likely long since overplayed the first three songs unveiled ('Hunger of the Pine,' 'Left Hand Free' and 'Every Other Freckle'). But now that the record is finally out, we're free to post some of the other amazing, disparate tracks from the album. Let's start with 'The Gospel of John Hurt,' a relatively straight-ahead (for Alt-J) and guitar-driven number based on the most iconic scene from 'Alien.'
'Light Will Keep Your Heart Beating in the Future ’ from 'Stellar Motel'
If you aren't all that familiar with Mike Doughty, you might recognize his distinct speak-sing from Soul Coughing's 1996 hit 'Super Bon Bon,' which ESPN recently unearthed to play during bumpers for 'Sunday Night Baseball.' But since Soul Coughing disbanded in 2000, Doughty has released a veritable cornucopia of music on his own -- although he did have a lot of help from fans who crowdfunded his latest, 'Stellar Motel.' Check out the banjo-tinged lead single:
'minipops 67 [120.2][source field mix]’ from 'SYRO'
Speaking of banjo, you aren't going to find any semblance of one anywhere on the first new album from Aphex Twin in 13 years. In fact, you probably aren't going to find much semblance of any organic instruments that don't sound like aliens reverse engineered them. Richard D. James (he's the face on all those creepy kids in the iconic video for 'Come to Daddy') isn't known for his accessibility, but he does make a rare vocal appearance on 'minipops 67 [120.2][source field mix]’ -- a title that just rolls off the tongue the way 'Boom Clap' does.
'Low Key’ from 'Sukierae'
Jeff Tweedy is nothing if not productive. Not only has he made a dozen albums with Wilco since 1995, he also made a handful of records with Uncle Tupelo and created one vital ingredient that made his new band, Tweedy, possible: his 18 year-old son/drummer, Spencer. On top of all that, Tweedy reportedly wrote around 90 songs for the first (double) album from his new band and somehow whittled that down to 20. While there's a little bit of everything on 'Sukierae' for fans of Wilco's bittersweet Americana to those looking for something a little more daring, there's something incredibly soothing about the downbeat 'Low Key.' Also, the amazing video was directed by Ron Swanson himself (Nick Offerman).