Everyone knows the solo careers of some of music’s finest performers. John Lennon, George Harrison, and Paul McCartney all had amazing solo careers post Beatles. Beyoncé is reaching heights that she only dreamed of when she was just a member of Destiny’s Child. Plenty of musicians leave famous bands for one reason or another and form. I call this the Dave Grohl. Other peoples’ solo albums reflect poorly upon their group work. Gwen Stefani and Dee Dee Ramone, this means you. I have been listening to a lot of famous musicians’ solo work recently.
1. “New Town Velocity” by Johnny Marr
Marr was the inspiration for this list. He announced his world tour two weeks ago, and his new album, Playland, is coming out at the end of October. I am excited to go see him live since I missed him last time. That would be the tour that our own Sara H got to meet him on. In fact, Sara mentions “New Town Velocity” as a song to listen to off of The Messenger. It really rocks and you can definitely see how Marr was the musical genius in the Smiths. In fact, most of his solo songs might eclipse much of the Smiths’ oeuvre.
2. “Vale Oso” by Jeremy Enigk
Enigk was the brains behind one of my favorite bands, Sunny Day Real Estate. His solo career has been a lot like him, very scattered and enigmatic. His first two albums were very orchestral, while his latest, Ok Bear, has some of the heavier Sunny Day qualities to it. This song inspires all sorts of feels in me.
3. “What a Wonderful World” by Joey Ramone
Speaking of songs that give you all the feels, Joey Ramone’s sweet punk cover of the classic song makes every list ever. Ramone chose to cover this song after finding out he had cancer. I will continue to listen to it and think of the moment I found out he had passed. The album Don’t Worry About Me was released posthumously and this song was used as its lead single.
4. “Glaciers of Ice” by Raekwon
The most underrated member of the Wu-Tang Clan, Raekwon’s debut solo album is fucking brilliant. While the Wu-Tang Clan has continued, a lot of the solo albums have been top tier albums. I am very partial to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. What makes this song unique and ballsy is that Raekwon samples a song from a few tracks earlier on the same damn album. My second favorite Clan member, Ghostface Killah, is featured heavily on the album and gets his own verse on this track.
5. “Kind and Generous” by Natalie Merchant
We are seeing Merchant with the Seattle Symphony in a few weeks. Carolina is a fan of both Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs. I really only know Natalie Merchant 101. But I do love this song.
6. “To The Runner” by Jon Anderson
A progressive rock concept album not based on existing properties? Yes, please! Frontman Anderson’s solo debut, Olias of Sunhillow, is fucking rad. I imagine taking lots of mushrooms and listening to this album would be great. It’s almost hard to just pick one song off the album since they are built to flow together. This is the final track and my favorite.
7. “Wednesday Nights” by Sleepercar
Sleepercar is Jim Ward(Sparta, At the Drive-In)’s alt country solo project. I really like it. I have always been a big Jim Ward fan. I took the Sparta side in the At the Drive-In breakup. I would recommend the album to anyone who loves Ryan Adams.
8. “Just One of the Guys” by Jenny Lewis
I was a huge Rilo Kiley fan. It is still kind of sad that they are no longer are around. Jenny Lewis has been killing it in her solo career. I picked this song because the video cracks me up. K-Stew, Brie Larson, and Anne Hathaway!
9. “Mad About You” by Belinda Carlisle
I am on record as saying that Carlisle is the reason I first realized I was a little girl and not a little boy. I owe her my womanhood. Her solo stuff is poppy and fun. I heart you, Carlisle, and I hope to someday meet you and tell you that you made it an ok place for a little trans girl.
10. “Don’t Be Afraid to Run” by Greg Graffin
Bad Religion’s intelligent front man has released two solo albums. I appreciate that they are outside the normal realm of Bad Religion sounds. The album is very much an Americana Bob Dylan/Neil Young sound.
I honestly struggled with this list because there were so many good choices. It seems like every great indie rock band front person has released solo albums. I really am sad I left off Bob Mould and Paul Westerberg. Both of their solo albums are great continuations of their legacies. So Unicorns, leave me some of your favorite solo albums in the comments.