Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Everyone Has One...: The Inevitable Solo Album

The solo album is a multifarious beast: It can appear after your band has broken up, after your band has "broken up," while your band is on hiatus, or while your band is still active. Solo artists likewise come in all colors and flavors: a guy and with a backing band, a lone songwriter couched within a larger collective, or an artist sprung from a larger collective.

There you have it: every single possible scenario under which a solo album can occur. My questions, then, are these:

What makes a solo album a solo album? Is the solo album the result of restless creativity, is it the result of ego, or is it simply the desire to do something unfettered? Can one consider a Britt Daniel solo album without looking at it through the prism of Spoon? How different would James Mercer's first go-alone be from, say, Chutes Too Narrow? Does it even have to be different? Whom would you most like to see release a solo album?

--Brian Herrmann


Alex said...

I would love to hear a James Mercer solo album. Although one thing that I always find inherently scary about the solo album is that if it sounds very similar to whatever band the person is associated with, I'm always left with the impression that that performer is the entire brains behind the outfit, and wanted to do the solo album so he/she could finally get all the credit since he/she is doing everything anyway. I would be fearful of a Britt Daniel solo album even though I am sure I would enjoy it.

Trying to think of who I would like to see put out a solo record is tough because everyone has already done one. Maybe a David Berman solo record could be pretty great. You know, get that wife of his to exit stage right.

Matt said...

Will Sheff--but that's too easy. I would actually really like to hear an album by whoever is the lead singer for Devandra Banhart.

Jim P. said...

To answer your first question, the thing that makes a solo album is the name on the cover. I actually think the perfect one is The Eraser. It filled a gap between HTTF and In Rainbows, it sounded like Radiohead, but not so much that it should have been a Radiohead album, and it's really good. Person Pitch is a recent great one too.

I also think that an "inevitable solo album" has to happen during the lifespan of the non-solo band. For example, I don't really consider Mccartney's post-Beatles output as solo - it's an entirely different act. If he released an album under his name between Beatles albums though, it counts.

Brian said...

I think a James Mercer solo record would be great--Nick Drake-like. So I don't know that a solo album necessarily should be a departure from an artist's regular band--especially if that artist has a strong voice/point of view. I'd love to see Bry Webb take a solo turn.

Here's another question: Does a solo artist have to be self-sufficient? That is, must he be able to play and perform his own music? Someone like Michael Stipe, under this definition, wouldn't even be able to make a solo album. If he hired a bunch of session musicians to record some songs you wrote, wouldn't that just be like recording an REM album?

Brian said...

McCartney released a film score between Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's, but I discounted that during research. Is that a solo album?

Jim, is post-Replacements Paul Westerberg not considered a solo act? You're right, though: "inevitable" represents a twist I didn't really account for.

Jim P. said...

I guess what I was trying to say is that I see a difference between a solo act and a solo album. I mean, of course all albums by individuals are by definition solo, I just see a pretty big difference between solo albums made while being a member of an active band and albums made when the artist is not a member of a band.

As for people I'd like to see a solo album from, definitely Mercer, Noel Gallagher, Nigel Godrich alone with his computers, 3D, maybe Jack White.

I don't think a solo artist has to be self-sufficient, as long as most of the ideas are his/hers.

Alex said...

I think a Jack White acoustic album could be fantastic.

Alex said...

Also, if Scott Weiland can make a solo album, I'm sure Stipe could pull it off.

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