Solo acts are usually one of two things:a horrendous idea, rooted in anartist’s overconfidence in his or her talent or a way for a musician to break from what he or she knows to experiment a bit. Bands have combusted from one artist wanting to do his own thing, while others have formed due to the same reason. Here is a look at a few artists who have started individual careers, which either sparked new groups or have led to a flourishing one-man show.
José González — “Down The Line”
The plucking of a classical guitar along with soothing vocals and warm acoustics characterizes the style of Swedish indie folk singer José González. He launched his solo career in 2003, after which he intermittently put production for his band Junip on the backburner. González formed this original project in the late ‘90s with Tobias Winterkorn on organ and synthesizers. Junip’s pieces, such as“Howl” with its minimal percussion and guitar shuffles, are a bit more whimsical than the artist’s solo pieces.
Neil Young — “Old Man”
Although their time together was short lived, Buffalo Springfield released three albums and earned themselves a spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Directly after the group disbanded, co-founder Neil Young fell into a prominent solo career, dominated by the ragged sound of his acoustic guitar. This track which comes from his 1972 album Harvest features James Taylor on the banjo and Linda Ronstadt on backing vocals. Similar to hiswork for Buffalo Springfield, Young continues to sing somber and contemplative lyrics.
Eric Clapton — “Layla”
After leaving The Yardbirds and Cream in 1968, Eric Clapton joined the group that became Derek and the Dominos, in which for the first time, he did not always assume the leading role. This track, released in the fall of 1970, comes off their only album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Composed by Clapton and drummer Jim Gordon, the piece features Clapton on guitar and ends in a piano composition played by Gordon. Clapton’s style remains fairly stagnant throughout his different bands and solo works — probably why he was the only three-time inductee to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, for The Yardbirds, Cream and his solo career.
Jonny Greenwood — “Skip Loop”
Though better known as the lead guitarist ofRadiohead, Jonny Greenwood also works as a composer both in solo works and frequently on film scores. He recently added this arrangement to his individual repertoire as a follow up to “Loop,” which he performed earlier this year. Greenwood’s “Skip Loop” is less aggressive compared to “Loop,” therefore reigning a bit less true to his style in Radiohead.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds — “Dream On”
The squabbles between Noel and Liam Gallagher began in the early ‘90s and eventually led to Oasis’s break up in 2009. Rather than taking Oasis’s eradication as a sign to try something new, Noel turned to catchy choruses in what is his solo moniker of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. AlthoughOasis borrowed a little too heavily from the works of those who came before them, at least it wasn’t a watered down version of it.
Grizzly Bear — “Yet Again”
Grizzly Bear, initially a channel for Ed Droste’s songwriting in early 2000s, unexpectedly became a full-fledged band. The first album under this moniker was largely a solo piece, and Droste did not add accompanying members until a year after its release. This track comes from their most recent record, Shields, and features the clear, intimate vocals of the band’s founder. It maintains Grizzly Bear’s multi-layered harmonies but is more up-tempo than their previous songs.
Foo Fighters — “All My Life”
After Kurt Cobain died in the mid ‘90s, Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl began Foo Fighters as a solo project. Shortly before the release of their first album, Grohl recruited bassist Nate Mendel, drummer William Goldsmith, and guitarist Pat Smear, also a touring band mate of Nirvana. These members have since changed drastically, but in the twenty years since its founding, Foo Fighters has never returned to its original existence as a solo project. This track, off their fourth full-length record, won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance, hardly a surprise with the raspy grungy crescendos. Foo Fighters announced they will release an eighth studio album this November.
Neutral Milk Hotel — “King Of Carrot Flowers”
Neutral Milk Hotel, formed in the late 1980s, started out as Jeff Magnum’s one-man project, also meant largely as an outlet for his songwriting. He solely created the band’s first album Everything Is, only adding a full band when the time came to tour. The album, which this track comes off, titled Aeroplane Over the Sea, is their most widely recognized collection. Unfortunately, the success surrounding it overcame Magnum, leading to the band’s break up in 1999, though they recently did a handful of reunion shows. “King of Carrot Flowers” begins with Magnum’s subdued vocals and guitar. As thelyrics get more obscure, Magnum’s voice starts to soar, and he adds in horns, synths and violin. Although it combusted, Magnum’s project, established as a creative plug, grew into a name that fans still recognize decades later.
Contact Sasha Chebil at [email protected].