One and Done
I was sat where I currently am, in a booth at Brewdog, last week when Such Great Heights by The Postal Service came on the sound system. I love that song, I love the entire album, Give Up, that they released back in 2003 and it always fascinated me that it was a singular album without any sort of follow up. I figured with them at least it made a bit more sense as The Postal Service was always a side project from the members other bands and main focuses.
It got me thinking though, what other bands or artists were just one and done. Sure there are countless bands that only release one record and are never to be seen again and are generally considered to be one hit wonders; New Radicals and The La’s come to mind in that category. There are also a hell of a lot of bands that release an amazing debut but fail to capture that same magic with every subsequent release. But what about those truly great albums without a true follow up; What are they? Why are they so singular?
I’ve thought of this as a good blog post idea before, I thought I’d already written it in fact, but I realised when I was doing a bit of research the reason I probably abandoned it last time… there really isn’t a whole lot of them that fit into that criteria!
I’ve read through a bunch of different publications lists and the same albums always come up. I can’t speak to all of them as, despite understanding and appreciating their significance, I’m not familiar enough to feel qualified to talk about them. Shit, I’m not qualified to talk about any of it really, but there are three that I absolutely love and a couple of others that are worth mentioning.
The fist is the aforementioned Give Up by The Postal Service. This side project from key members of Death Cab For Cutie and Rilo Kiley, The Postal Service still had a very indie rock vibe about them but with a lot more synth and dream pop tones to it. The album was a big success which is why its such a surprise the members chose to never follow it up. A reunion tour and re-release for the tenth anniversary gave fans hope but at the final show they announced quite adamantly that that was all she wrote for the band. Their influence might not be as wide spread as some of the others I’ve got to talk about, but its still undeniable.
I don’t have a whole lot to say about Derek & The Dominos’ Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, my mum could probably speak to it more, but well let's be honest, despite an illustrious career in other bands, super groups and solo, this is peak Eric Clapton. Including it on the list feels a bit like a cheat as obviously Clapton did a lot more before and after but as a band Derek & The Dominos only released the one record so it counts.
Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is a banger start to finish. It’ll never hold as special place in my own collection as The Score by her former band, The Fugees, but the singular solo effort is an amazing album in its own right. It encapsulates the very best of what hip hop and r&b was in the mid to late nineties and you can listen to it and just hear the cathartic nature of every track on the album. Lauryn Hill is an artist who has, or at least had, a lot of work out both personally and politically, and she is able to work through a lot of those feeling in the course of one album.
I don’t know the reason she never recorded anything else, but I am aware of some of the statements she made following this albums release. They may be part of the reason she decided to take a step out of the lime light, or it could just be a coincidence, but either way this album is great.
I was quite surprised when I saw Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols on all the lists I was looking at in research for this post, but when I started thinking about every Sex Pistols song I know they’re all from that album. I just presumed it was because I’ve never been the biggest fan, though I’m sure buried somewhere in my knowledge I knew it was the only album they released. The impact this album had those is unprecedented. It is up there as one of the most influential albums of all time and changed culture and perceptions what could be said, done and released to a commercial market across the world.
The final album I want to mention is another one that feels a bit like a cheat; Jeff Buckley’s Grace is technically the only the only album he released before his untimely death in the Mississippi River in ’97, he had been writing and recording new music ever since the first albums’ release three years prior. So in the years since many of those songs have been complied together and released posthumously. Grace still stands as the only album Buckley over saw the release of and thats why it is near the top of every list on this topic. It’s easy to write it off simply as the album that has that cover of Hallelujah on it, but if you listen to the rest of it there is a lot more to take away. It’s a deeply personal and hauntingly melodic album that I believe has been more widely recognised as a masterwork in the past ten or fifteen years than it ever was in the years the young artist was alive to see its success and perform those tracks.
I hope you enjoyed this little look at some very different albums that all have one connecting thread. I really like writing posts like this, doing some research and digging a little deeper into a topic. I’d love some ideas so if anyone has any, send them my way! Oh and I’m going to take the pressure off myself right now and say tomorrows post will most likely be quite brief. You never know though, so come back and check!