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Songwriters Go Solo, Get Weird

by Raymond Cummings

Songwriters Go Solo, Get Weird

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Let a member of an established band off his or her leash, and crazy, magical things can happen. Writing and recording in isolation minus the usual gang of collaborators tends to shake out weirder, woozier stuff. Consider Lakuna, for instance: Throwing Muses drummer Dave Narcizo shrugging off his main gig's hurled punk angularity for hauntingly introspective, spaghetti western trip-hop ("Vega") with a smattering of assists from his alt rock homies. Or Patrick Stump going full-on pop during Fall Out Boy's indefinite hiatus for a slicker take on late '00s Kevin Rudolf ("This City").

Sometimes the peculiar muse takes a while to strike. The acrid, flaying "Medusa" arrived two years after Aaron Dilloway stepped away from noise mainstay Wolf Eyes; the mash-note twee of Beat Happening was ancient history when Calvin Johnson teamed up with Beth Ditto for what sounds like a Negro spiritual ("Lightnin' Rod for Jesus"). Stephen Malkmus thought up the percolating, KeyB-clinched beat clinic "Kindling for the Master" several years into his post-Pavement career; the bizarrely beguiling oddity even spawned a Hot Chip remix. Be Your Own Pet had been quitsville for a year when Jemina Pearl enlisted Iggy Pop for a decidedly buttoned-down love song ("I Hate People") -- a relatively radical move.

And who'd have thought a Dixie Chick like Natalie Maines could rock the electric blues with such adroit authority ("Trained")? Or that outside the confines of Black Dice's resolute anti-music ethos, an obsessive sound tinkerer like Eric Copeland could wed surgically arranged loops and blur bleary tones to emerge with a warped DJ mix that's simultaneously weirder than the mainstream and the underground -- or that early Dice member Sebastian Blanck had a florid, rose-tinted plaint like "I Blame Baltimore" in him? The unholy truth is out there; you just have to listen closely for it.

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