For every band, there’s always a disenfranchised member who wants to do more. Maybe get a little more exposure, come out from behind the drums, or even hear some of his lyrics actually being sung back at him (or her). Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe it’s a female tired of hanging out with these smelly guys all the time. Well, how come there’s no Meg White solo record? Sideprojects are predominantly a man thing. Men seem to lose it when trapped in one groove and want to move on (note, this is no way a reflection on me or my life, but men in general.) Thus they set up other bands, try to express their inner failings/feelings. A lot of them fail. Some, however, don’t.
For this, solo albums don’t count. Nor do new projects. For example, Gorillaz isn’t a sideproject as Blur had broken up, but the Good, the Bad and the Queen is. Gettit? It also means you won’t see Zwan. There’s an album that should be on more lists. Here is the top ten sideprojects of the 00s.
10. Tinted Windows – Tinted Windows (2009)
Tinted Windows is perhaps most notable for being the album where the kid from Hanson became a glorified adult star. We knew he had talent; ‘Penny & Me’ is a great pop tune, but here he really shone. It wasn’t just Taylor Hanson though. He also had Smashing Punpkins James Iha, and Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne. From opener ‘Kind of a Girl’ you knew you were in for something special.
9. Neon Neon – Stainless Style (2008)
Boom Bip must be the best name in music. It’s even better when it’s teamed up with Gruff Rhys of the Super Furry Animals. A heavy departure from the Welsh band’s own material, Stainless Style was not just one of the best side-project albums of the decade, it was also one of the best concepts. About John DeLorean and his famous heap of scrap car. Amazing.
8. The Last Shadow Puppets – The Age of the Understatement (2008)
Alex Turner hasn’t been long on the music scene, but since his arrival with the Arctic Monkeys, he seems to be everywhere. His latest Monkeys record is awful, he would be better off spending his time with his other project and their more straightforward rock. Forget about being clever Alex, you just need to sing and play great. Like on here. Even the video is brilliant. Pure pop perfection.
7. The Good, the Bad, and the Queen – The Good, the Bad, and the Queen (2007)
Really, we all knew that it was Blur and not Oasis had all the talent. Will either Gallagher go on to do anything now that they’ve broken up. After Blur, Damon Albarn did everything. His main time was spent on his cartoon-group Gorillaz, but he also had the chance to break out and form his own supergroup. The results were astounding. It’s an album you’d forget about, but every time you come back, you remember how good it really is.
6. The Thorns – The Thorns (2003)
Essentially more a supergroup than side-project, it still counts as all three members were still pursuing solo careers when they took time out to make this. The harmonies of Matthew Sweet, Pete Droge, and Shawn Mullins were some of the best since the Byrds. It was just as uplifting too. Pity they only made this one album together. The perfect summer album.
5. The Dead Weather – Horehound (2009)
Jack White is Mister Sideproject. I love this about him, but I also wish he’d make a new White Stripes record. His second side-project is damn good. Featuring Allison Mosshart of the Kills (who sounds like a more feminine White), this is one of the dirtiest albums of the decade, and is absolutely fantastic. Their live show is even better.
4. Works Progress Administration – WPA (2009)
Glen Phillips doesn’t need to all these side-projects. Like Jack White, he’s already got a fine career as it is. Neither do Sean or Sara Watkins. But when they come together (the first time on the splendid Mutual Admiration Society), they are amazing. (Oh and Luke Bulla is on board too. No Chris Thile, but it doesn’t suffer for that. Chris can be very controlling anyway!) This record mixes country and pop perfectly and features some of the finest songwriting I have heard in a long time.
3. The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely (2008)
Sideprojects are often one-off things. Not with Jack White. He loves the freedom. He loves making music. Imagine if 2010 had a new White Stripes, a new Raconteurs, and a new Dead Weather. Best year for music ever? I think so. This was his second album with Brendan Benson and the Greenhornes, and here they really honed their craft. It was much more consistent that the first album. That said I still love the debut. ‘Steady as She Goes’ is one of the best songs of the decade.
2. The Postal Service – Give Up (2003)
What makes a side-project great? When it’s better than the main act’s work. This is definitely true (for the 00s anyway) of Death Cab for Cutie, whose lead singer Ben Gibbard recorded this splendid electronic piece with Chris Walla of little-known DNTEL. The sum of the whole is far greater than its parts here, and in it, they’ve made one of the best albums of the decade – main band or side-project. It’s fantastic. And those lyrics…swoon!
1. The Swell Season – Once OST (2007)
Glen Hansard’s main focus, the Frames, are one of the best bands to come out of Ireland, well ever. Their newer material is far better than U2′s, and they’ve started to build a following in the US. This has been seriously helped by the movie Once, which featured Glen and Marketa Irglova as well as all these gorgeous songs. ‘Falling Slowly’ was a worthy Oscar winner, and is sure to guarantee Glen will never have to return to busking again. It’s just a pity Mic wasn’t around to see it happen. (See also: the Swell Season’s self-titled debut for many of these tracks. This brought it all together though)