In tune with our theme for the month, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite albums by artists who took the whole DIY attitude pretty seriously. Written, played and produced alone, these are some of the best DIY-ers out there.
Prince - 1999 (1982)
1999, the double LP Prince released before his infamous Purple Rain, was a pretty much a one man show. Apart from some backing vocals, the wonderfully talented man did it all himself including production.
Sufjan Stevens - Illinois (2005)
In 2003, Stevens launched his 50-States project with album Michigan. Basic idea: One album for each of the 50 states in the USA. His second installment, Illinois heavily references places, people and events related to the state and it’s said before embarking on each album he reads a lot from authors from that state, studies immigration records and historical events and visits the state a number of times. All songs on the album were written, recorded, engineered and produced by Stevens himself - a huge DIY project undertaking if you ask me.
Bon Iver - For Emma Forever Ago (2007)
So the story goes, Justin Vernon left became a recluse in his father father’s cabin in Eau Claire Wisconsin following a breakup and an illness - the result, his debut album For Emma Forever Ago. Other than some help from friends on trumpet, drums and trombone for “Flume” and “For Emma”, Vernon wrote, played, recorded and mixed everything himself. In 2007 he self released the album he never really intended to make to raving reviews, showing us all it can pay to take some time out from life every once in awhile!
Beck - Morning Phase (2014)
If you can think back to the 2015 Grammy’s you might remember another of Kanye’s infamous rants about Beyonce deserving Album of the Year. Yes Beck got stuck in Kanye’s way, taking out the prize for Morning Phase to the disappointment of a million Beyonce fans (Kanye included) and admiration of alternative rock fans around the work (Rock 1, Pop 0)*.
Ok so the guy didn’t do EVERYTHING on the album but hell he produced, did orchestral arrangements, sang vocals, played acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keyboards, piano, synthesizer, organ, electric bass, sound collage, tambourine, ukulele, charango, celeste, dulcimer, harmonica and glockenspiel. When you can do all that by yourself let me know!
Tame Impala - Currents (2015)
Kevin Parker, lead man and mastermind behind Tame Impala, wrote, recorded, performed, mixed and produced the third TP album completely alone. Mainly working in his home recording studio in Fremantle, Parker started what would become Currents after the band's second album was released. Deservingly winning a bunch of awards, this was by far one of the best albums of 2015!
Notable Mention: Radiohead - In Rainbows (2007)
Not a DIY album by one man in the band but the artwork for this album needs a considerable mention here. When Radiohead do something they go big or go home. Well before Beyoncé was dropping album films, Radiohead were releasing their albums like no one before them. Their 2007 In Rainbows was released about 5 minutes after the album was announced and what's more the band let you 'pay what you want(ed)' for the work. The hard CD copy (yes people still bought CDs then) was a work of art in itself - a soft case containing the book, a front and back CD case sticker and CD so you could assemble your CD yourself. Revolutionary ideas at the time!