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From Steven Tyler to Régine Chassagne, five artists who shouldn’t go solo

From Steven Tyler to Régine Chassagne, five artists who shouldn’t go solo (photo)

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Yesterday, Thurston Moore released Demolished Thoughts, his fourth and inarguably best solo album in the three decades since he co-founded Sonic Youth. Unlike his previous song-oriented solo works, Demolished Thoughts finds its sound–lush, lonely, Beck Hansen-assisted rock, retextured with acoustics–and sticks with it from start to finish. After one of the most enviable and inspiring careers in indie rock, Moore continues to reinvent his image and offerings with unexpected approaches.

But it doesn’t work for everyone; in fact, everyone probably shouldn’t try it. Below, we look at five bandleaders who have yet to make a solo album, and why we hope it stays that way.

Steven Tyler: Several years ago, Guided by Voices frontman Robert Pollard released an infamous collection called Relaxation of the Asshole, a best-of culled from the worst of his drunken banter. Even if you dislike his band, it’s sort of an essential one-time listen. That’s about the best I’d hope for with a Steven Tyler album–a collage of his best moments in interviews, drawing heavily from his various exclamations and John Madden-like commentary on American Idol. (Go Scotty, right?) After all, Tyler has been writing and recording for nearly four decades, and his first solo quasi-hit, “(It) Feels So Good,” was released earlier this month. Prominently featuring dobro, acoustic guitar and an electric guitar solo that really makes us wonder where Joe Perry went, it’s a terribly inauspicious debut. Keep quipping, dude. Let the kids do the singing.

Chad Hugo: If the half of the band N.E.R.D. and the production team Neptunes that isn’t Pharrell Williams could tap the right record collection, his solo album–or at least a record released as Chad Hugo, with help from a few big-name friends–might actually work. With the sort of top-rate gear at dude’s disposal, think Toro y Moi with more gumption and production value. The more interesting possibility for the multi-instrumentalist, though, might be beat-based soundscapes built from drum samples and the keyboard, saxophone and guitar he apparently plays. I’m thinking the elemental post-classical music of Eluvium updated with bombast.

Please note, though, that interesting doesn’t always mean good: The combination of drifting soundscapes and idle electronic beats mostly seems like a good idea on paper. It often sounds less interesting than whatever instrumentals they’re playing down at the corner grocery these days.

Régine Chassagne: Honestly, our hopeful solo embargo applies to most of the prominent members of The Arcade Fire, including Win Butler. But Régine Chassagne reminds us of a championship football squad’s special teams outfit: She’s the master of her domain, rather that means reinventing Cyndi Lauper or standing at the helm of her band’s inexhaustible bombast. But you’d never let former Packers sprinter Desmond Howard run quarterback or play middle linebacker just because he’s good at punt returns, right? Chassagne’s zealous delivery and emphatic, occasional drumming are an essential component of The Arcade Fire’s power and popularity; but spread over an album, her lack of subtlety and dynamics might manage a migraine.

Colin Meloy: The Decemberists frontman actually has four solo collections to his name–a live record and three discs of songs by Sam Cooke, Shirley Collins and Morrissey. Cut from the context of his lush rock band, those records emphasize just how unabashedly he sings with that nasally creak of his. While it’s hard to get too riled as someone sings “Bring it on Home to Me” or “Jack the Ripper,” the thought of Meloy belting out his own vacuous attempts at being both literary and clever with no band to hide the bleat is just too much to stand. At least for me, most Decemberists records invoke the thought, “Dude, please shut the fuck up”; if Meloy’s singing by himself, mustering eloquence even that elementary might be impossible.

Robbie Robertson: Oh, yeah. Well, damn. Can’t save ‘em all.

Carol Cate Blanchett

Spirit Guide

Check Out the Spirit Awards Nominees for Best Male and Female Leads

Catch the 2016 Spirit Awards live Feb. 27th at 5P ET/2P PT on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Wilson Webb/©Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Collection

From Jason Segel’s somber character study of author David Foster Wallace, to Brie Larson’s devastating portrayal of a mother in captivity, the 2016 Spirit Awards nominees for Best Male and Female Leads represent the finest in the year of film acting. Take a look at the Best Male and Female Leads in action, presented by Jaguar.

Best Male Lead 

Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea

Watch more Male Lead nominee videos here.

Best Female Lead 

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine

Watch more Female Lead nominee videos here.

Watch: Bon Iver’s brilliant Bonnie Raitt turn for Jimmy Fallon

Watch: Bon Iver’s brilliant Bonnie Raitt turn for Jimmy Fallon (photo)

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Last night, Justin Vernon brought an iteration of Bon Iver to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon that sounded neither like the muted folk of his 2007 breakthrough or the layered majesty of his forthcoming follow-up. Instead, he sang beside pianist Phil Cook–his best friend and former bandmate in DeYarmond Edison, and now a multi-instrumentalist in Megafaun–to play a beautiful and simple medley of hits by other people: “A Song for You,” by Leon Russell via Donny Hathaway, and Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” It was one of the smartest television appearances by a band I’ve seen in a bit.

After he collaborated with Kanye West for last year’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Vernon told Pitchfork Media that he was only “a dude in a t-shirt who smells like shit.” Last night, in a short interview with Fallon before he played, he was the mumbling manifestation of that idea, sheepishly smiling and nodding through his host’s hyperbolic questions and praises. In explaining “Beth/Rest,” the new album’s grand pop finish, he simply said, “Man, there’s not enough Hornsby in my scene.” Even after props from Rick Ross and a Coachella set with West he seemed casually but coolly uncomfortable with the star treatment (a not-so-subtle point of the Russell verse he sang), the sort of dude who’d just stumbled into a sound that made him famous. It was a look that–paired with his choice of songs, and the initial shock of a bearded white boy singing in that voice–should earn him plenty of intrigue from the unfamiliar.

After all, his voice was the embodiment of yearning–in the first half, of wanting an escape that couldn’t come easily enough, and, in the second half, of wanting desperately for something that didn’t want you back. When Vernon released For Emma, Forever Ago, his “neo-folk” music was often tagged for its “neo-soul” voice. Last night, he sang songs by the greats as though they were his own, as if these were the problems he’d himself put to page. It was at once a beginning and an extension.

Of course, this choice of songs and instruments also means that he can save the premiere of his big band and the new record’s stack-of-strands songs for Letterman and the like. Vernon’s medley was a good business decision that, thankfully, is too beautiful to be considered as such for too long.

Music for Fridays: Marissa Nadler’s “The Sun Always Reminds Me of You”

Music for Fridays: Marissa Nadler’s “The Sun Always Reminds Me of You” (photo)

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Note: Each Friday, we’ll close with a song we consider a suiting goodbye for the workweek. With each Music for Fridays post, check for a free mp3.

What’s more sacred than an early evening walk, one of those therapeutic ambles through the woods or down the block to shake away the day’s troubles? That’s at least how “The Sun Always Reminds Me of You,” the second single from Marissa Nadler’s forthcoming album, starts. “It’s a beautiful day/ and I went for a walk,” she sings by way of introduction, her heavy, deliberate strums of acoustic guitar foreshadowing the turn her bright-eyed opening is about to make. Sure enough, by the time Nadler hits the first chorus, she’s backed springtime into the corner as the villain, the bright and forgiving season that annually reminds her of the love–“Your hands have gone”–that she’s lost. The refrain opens up like a big, lonely and gorgeous vista, the sort of hook that you won’t soon forget, the sort of hook that–like the arrival of each sunny morning or calendar year–constantly redelivers Nadler renewed sadness.

Nadler’s music has always been elegiac and elegant, from the time she was considered a freak-folk ascendant to her recent stint on the big rock label Kemado. But her music’s generally sounded distant and reserved, as though she were singing from a diary with dried ink; here, however, the cut sounds fresh, the sting as current as the morning news. And it is, really: “The Sun Always Reminds Me of You” is about a cycle of bittersweet despair, a sound that suits a beautiful Spring Friday that’s ostensibly going to usher in the apocalypse.

Download “The Sun Always Reminds Me of You” here. Marissa Nadler is out June 14th via Box of Cedar.

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