Five noteworthy musical side projects that deserve more attention and appreciation.
Original Artists: Manchester Orchestra, Kevin Devine
Side Project: Bad Books
Born in 2010 when singer/songwriter Kevin Devine began collaborating with members of the band Manchester Orchestra on one of their tours, Bad Books combines the relaxed temperament of the former with the thematic heaviness and momentum of the latter to create a complete, small-scale gem of a band. Part Elliott Smith sotto voce anger, part friendly nasal complaining, every Bad Books song feels incredibly natural for a collaborative experiment and notable especially for the always-eloquent lyrics. So far, the project has succeeded in its own right, with two complete albums released.
Original Artists: Serengeti, Son Lux, Sufjan Stevens
Side Project: Sisyphus
Sisyphus might sound like the most unlikely collaboration on this list, combining an energetic, irreverent rapper, an alternative electronic singer and producer from Colorado and a singer and composer known for his ability to conjure up sadness. These three artists turn to be the perfect ingredients for a wry and beautiful hip-hop group. While every song is catchy and accessible, there’s a deadpan attitude that strikes one as funny and touching in a millennial sort of way. All three of the artists have have discrete roles in this project, but it makes for an experience worth having.
Original Artists: Bon Iver singer Justin Vernon, Collections of Colonies of Bees
Side Project: Volcano Choir
While Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon is reasonably well known, with his heartbreaking falsetto and ambient instrumental music, Collections of Colonies of Bees is less so, probably because they’re more experimental. Either way, the artists’ joint project, Volcano Choir, has a flavor distinct from either of its two parts. More accessible than both Bon Iver and CCB, Volcano Choir is somehow more serious, with heavy drums and pretty raw guitar sounds, suggestive of dramatic landscapes and life-changing decisions. While possibly not for everyone, Volcano Choir makes great music for a certain thoughtful mood.
Original Artist: Mountain Man's Amelia Meath, Megafaun
Side Project: Sylvan Esso
It’s counterintuitive, but Sylvan Esso is a combination of sounds from a haunting, often a cappella group of women vocalists (Mountain Man), and a more standard indie folk rock group punctuated by banjos and rhymes (Megafaun), resulting in something like Regina Spektor under more pressure — heavier beats, more electricity. Sylvan Esso is catchy, touching and a little bit confusing, like its name.
Original Artist: Mac DeMarco
Side Project: Walter TV
A side project started by several of Mac DeMarco’s band members and often including Mac DeMarco himself, Walter TV is recognizably still DeMarco’s DNA, but maybe after letting his hair down a little bit (enough to use a pseudonym). Just as creative as DeMarco’s other music, but less rhythmically coherent, this music is definitely experimental, and the experiment is a success, but perhaps not intended for mass appeal. Walter TV feels like it exists because the music was simply fun to make, and this comes through the experience of listening to it.