Collaboration Albums

After waiting for over a month, my library reservation of David Byrne and St. Vincent’s album Love This Giant, finally came in the other day.

It’s pretty close to what I expected — no disappointing or pleasant surprises here. It’s strange,  interesting. Call me unsophisticated, but I can only handle it in small chunks. They incorporated horns  into almost every song, which is cool, though. It adds something new that’s different from their previous work apart. I guess that is my point here: when musical geniuses come together to create, they often produce something that’s entirely new and different in the freshest, sohotrightnow-est sense. Love This Giant is not the newsweethottness, but collaboration albums in general are.

Annie Clark and David Byrne are in good company when it comes to collaborating on entire albums. A few of my personal favorites:

  • Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet: The Sparrow Quartet is Abigail Washburn, of course, joined by Ben Sollee on cello, Casey Driessen on violin, and banjo-maestro Bela Fleck. “It Ain’t Easy” is my favorite song from the album, but alas, there wasn’t a YouTube video of it. Below is  another good one, though: “Fall on My Knees.” 

  • The Bens: I found this little EP in high school at some point via aimless browsing in Williamsburg’s Plan 9 Record Store (RIP). I don’t know why people didn’t make a bigger deal about this collaboration. Ben Folds, Ben Lee, and Ben Kweller were each bosses in their own right in the early 2000s when this came out. I still throw “Just Pretend” on mixes I make for friends. And “Bruised” from the album is a deliciously woeful breakup song. It channels misery, heartache, and angst almost as effectively as Mr. Fold and his Five’s “Smoke.” I’d love for them to reunite and invite Ben Sollee and Ben Harper along. Please excuse the terrible quality of the clip.

  • Watch the Throne: Remember summer of last year, when we were all tingly with anticipation for what was  deemed to be the penultimate magnum opus of Hip-Hop’s crowned kings Jay-Z and Kanye West? Yeah. So, the album fell a little short of that, but with help from Beyonce, Frank Ocean (and Otis Redding), these rap royals managed to produce some #winning songs just the same.

  • Déjà Vu: Neil Young makes everything better. CSNY > CSN. Always.

  • Monsters of Folk: I love “The Sandman, the Brakeman, and Me,” “Dear God,” and “His Master’s Voice.”

  • Raising Sand: At first glance, bluegrass darling Alison Krauss and Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant make an unlikely duo, but salty and sweet is often the best combination. Their harmonies are pristine. This album won the coveted Best Album of the Year Grammy in 2009.  

I’m pretty sure I’m missing some stellar colla(l)bums here. Let me know which other ones are also sohot!

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