Solo albums suck. Well, most of the time they suck, because most of the time they're lousy and ill-considered cash-ins that end up shedding little light on this new side of the artist and just end up damaging our opinions of the original band. History (and record store discount bins) are littered with failed solo-grabs and side projects. How many jokes end with a punch-line about David Bowie's Tin Machine experiment? Was anyone even awake for Nicole Scherzinger's lone-Pussy Cat Doll phase? And really, who wants to listen to an hour's worth of material from the drummer from Weezer? But people do get it right every once in a while. Like Victoria Bergsman's split from the Concretes, or Nick Littlemore's work with Teenager and Empire of the Sun outside of Pnau. This is not to forget someone like Marvin Gaye's creative peak after leaving the Moonglows or even the obvious work of Michael Jackson once he broke free of his brothers. And while Morrisey never quite matched the lightning in a bottle after the Smiths' end, his has been one of the most consistent and enduring solo careers in memory. So here's two fine examples of how to make pretty great solo record.
the Strokes' hiatus continually stretching over the last couple of
years, we've seen the band's members peel off into a multitude of side
and solo projects. From Albert Hammond Jr's confident strides on his
two solo discs, to Frabrizio Moretti's new island-indie group Little
Joy, and Julian Casablancas and Nick Valensi's shuffling guest spots
with the likes of Queens of the Stoneage, Pharrell and Regina Spektor.
The latest Stroke to go it alone is Nikolai Fraiture, masquerading here
as Nickel Eye with
Time of the Assassins. It's a bold and surprising move from the notedly
reserved bassist, but an impressive to be sure. Hints of the classic
Strokes' sound litter the disc, but Nickel Eye's strength lies in the
variations on that sound. There's added harmonicas, whistles and plenty
of acoustic guitars. It's like if the Strokes were concerned with
classic Americana instead of New York cool and lived on throat-scraping
moonshine instead of famous models.
After the Knife's Silent Shout conquered everyone's world in 2006, O. Dreijer and his sister K. Dreijer Andersson put their musical partnership on hold. This led to the birth of Fever Ray
, Karien's latest solo-output. While the self-titled debut of Fever Ray isn't far removed from the Knife's spooky electronic terrains, this record does feel different. It's sparse and paced against the tension heard on the Silent Shout and the attitude of Deep Cuts. Most remarkable of all is the glimpse at Driejer Andersson herself that Fever Ray offers. Beyond the Knife's stark exterior, we see a little of what drives Karin and how she's still steps ahead of the game. - Dave Ruby Howe