In an unusual twist of fate, this week’s album releases include solo efforts from two established lead singers (Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Trey Anastasio of Phish), as well as a side project from members of Kings of Leon and Mona (aka Smoke & Jackal). Here’s a brief overview of all three.
BENJAMIN GIBBARD: FORMER LIVES
For the past 15 years or so, Ben Gibbard has been best known as the frontman and primary songwriter for indie-rock band Death Cab for Cutie, with the occasional foray into electro-pop as one-half of the duo The Postal Service. But Former Lives marks the first time the singer/songwriter/guitarist has ventured into a full-length solo project all his own, using his full name “Benjamin” to add to the effect. A compilation of tunes written over the years that simply didn’t fit into the Death Cab vibe, this is a true solo effort, with Gibbard playing all the instruments on the album.
TREY ANASTASIO: TRAVELER
Unlike Ben(jamin) Gibbard, Phish frontman Trey Anastasio is no stranger to solo efforts; in fact, he’s one of those artists who is so diverse and creative that he simply can’t be contained or identified by one band alone. In addition to his long-time work with Phish, Anastasio has been associated with numerous side projects, including The Trey Anastasio Band, and has even ventured into orchestral composition, performing his “Evenings with Trey Anastasio” shows with numerous high-profile orchestras. Traveler marks his ninth studio solo record, and while not his strongest offering, is certainly worth a listen. Ironically, his cover of the Gorillaz “Clint Eastwood” featuring Jennifer Hartswick is one of the album’s most interesting tracks, if nothing more than a head-scratcher.
SMOKE & JACKAL: EP NO. 1
Comprised of Kings of Leon bassist Jared Followill and Mona frontman Nick Brown, Smoke & Jackal has a less southern-fried and more atmospheric sound than either of the duo’s other two bands. EP No. 1 was reportedly home-recorded inside of a week, and vibes a bit like a production that evolved during a series of late-night jam sessions. Whether this is a one-off stint remains to be seen, but the EP’s title certainly leaves the door open.