Opinion | Artists should experiment
The other day I revisited Alex Ebert's-of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros-debut solo album. Upon listening to the album's single, "Truth," I began to reminisce about the first time I listened to the track and the slight disappointment that I felt. I had been expecting the jovial clapping and all-around hippie feel-goodery of Edward Sharpe or the underground, robotic sound of Ebert's other band, Ima Robot. However, I was instead presented with a much more laid back beat, complemented by Ebert chant-rapping about love and truth. This shock led me to a revelation: side projects should not be expected to sound like a slightly altered version of their original band. Side projects should explore a completely different facet of the artist's musical tastes. We as music listeners are each allowed to like completely different kinds of music so why shouldn't one artist be expected to create varying types of music.
The best examples of the former-the artist who just slightly varies the music he is already making-would be members of The Strokes. Julian Casablancas, Albert Hammond Jr., and Fabrizio Moretti all released side projects during The Strokes' hiatus a few years ago. Moretti's band Little Joy is what you would expect to hear if The Strokes had been strongly influenced by a vacation to Hawaii. Hammond Jr.'s album Yours To Keep gives the listener a taste of what The Strokes would be without one of its most prominent assets: Casablancas. Casablancas' solo album Phrazes For the Young encompasses many of The Strokes' melodies and ideas and then simply adds a keyboard to the mix. While I am a fan of all of these albums, why would these talented artists not use their total creative freedom more liberally? There is obviously a reason one wants to do a solo project in the first place. Please don't make the listener think that maybe it's just a cry for help to your old band mates.
Jack White is a man who has mastered the art of the solo project. The complex simplicity of The White Stripes, the southern-influenced raw rock of The Raconteurs, and the dark, heavy drone of The Dead Weather provide listeners with three completely different sounds. And the best part perhaps? White trades in his beloved guitar to step out of the spotlight and behind a drum set for The Dead Weather. White's 2012 solo album combines all of these sounds, while continuing to further progress his sound. Who knows what super group concoction he will jumble together next. White explores every facet of his musical tastes and brings listeners along for the ride in each of his bands.
So the next time you are introduced to a favorite artist's side project, don't settle for a watered-down version of his original music. Instead, applaud those who are willing to take a chance by introducing listeners to a completely different side of their musical tastes. At least that way we know there is a legitimate reason they aren't making the same record with their pre-existing band.
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