A guy’s got to change things up now and again, doesn’t he? And rightfully so. When an artist divulges from his/her comfort zone and tries new things with new people, it can possibly create a whole new universe of possibilities. This new universe contains some of the musician’s best work, which can turn a side project into a full-time ordeal. And that’s when you know there may be something special going on. To honor the release of The Cinema‘s debut album this week, I thought it would be a good time to list the best indie side projects that are around, were around, and are still kind of around now.
The Postal Service
I thought I would start the list with a more obvious one. The Postal Service is a collaboration between Death Cab For Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard and Dntel (Jimmy Tamborello), named for the way in which the two musicians worked together, which was by mailing their edited work back and forth until a full song had materialized. Give Up, the resulting album, is a light, airy, dreamy mix of computer sounds and Gibbard’s softer-than-ever voice. “Such Great Heights” has been in several commercials, and is often classified as one of the stronger songs by either artist, as is “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight.” A fan favorite, The Postal Service has been missing in action for quite some time, with a second album compared to a Chinese Democracy of indie music.
I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business
Started as an outlet for Ace Enders’ (incidentally my favorite musician) creative energy during his time in The Early November (incidentally my favorite band), I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody’s Business is a mostly acoustic journey through the deeper thoughts of the indie rock frontman. The self titled debut album was notable for its use of television sounds in the background to symbolize the distractions of everyday life. Very deeply appreciated by fans, the side project went on hold for a good seven years until Enders was ready to give it another shot. When The Early November became defunct, the side project turned full time and the band’s second album, The World We Know, went on to become one of Ace’s best, and most certainly the best of 2010. The project is still ongoing, with Gold Rush being one of the best albums so far this year and another album in the works in Mr. Enders’ perpetual factory of music.
After the unfortunate dissolution of soft rock band Lydia, frontman Leighton Antelman teamed up with producer Matt Malpass to create The Cinema’s debut album, My Blood Is Full of Airplanes, released on iTunes earlier this week. The soothing singer’s first plunge into the world of computer beats and catchier pop is one that will possibly end up in the ranks of Ben Gibbard’s, with “Picasso” and “Kill It” being some of his most upbeat work, and “My Blood Is Full of Airplanes” being some of his most imaginative. Now that Lydia is reformed, let us hope that this will not be the last we see of The Cinema.
Also comparable to The Postal Service, Broken Bells sees The Shins mastermind James Mercer go head-to-head with Danger Mouse‘s skilled electronic work. The self-titled debut album is, almost literally, The Shins’ masterwork, Wincing The Night Away, dipped in a pool of quirky synthesizers and mellowed out production. “Vaporize” is a prime example of both spirits that reside in Broken Bells, and ‘The High Road” has had some commercial success. It has been stated that the duo plans to continue working together.
I bet you didn’t expect this one. It was probably due to the fact that it has been well established and adored for so long that you forgot that Dashboard Confessional was Chris Carrabba’s solo project while he was still in Further Seems Forever. Since the success of the project’s classic debut, The Swiss Army Romance, anchored by such essential tunes as “Screaming Infidelities” and “Again I Go Unnoticed,” the solo effort has gradually evolved into a full band. I think it’s safe to say that Dashboard Confessional is one of the most important side projects in independent music, being one of the acts that started to pull the “genre” toward a wider audience.
As can be inferred from the list above, it is absolutely essential for an artist to expand upon their work and journey into a different genre of music. Without side projects, some of the best musicians would have never reached their full potential, and we wouldn’t be listening to our some of our favorite songs today.
Did I forget any great side projects? Let me know who I missed in the replies.