Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be 50 fantastic first solo albums recorded by artists who departed—or simply took a temporary hiatus from—their respective groups, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
NATALIE MERCHANT | Tigerlily
Selected by Grant Walters
Natalie Merchant’s departure from her twelve-year stint at the helm of folk-rock juggernauts 10,000 Maniacs was no less than an artistic and commercial triumph. 1995’s Tigerlily is an expertly hewn showcase for Merchant’s cabernet-rich voice, aptly titled as an illustration of its interplay between gutsiness and vulnerability. Determined to singularly steer Tigerlily’s creative path, Merchant rejected financial and production support from her label, Elektra, and assumed full responsibility of every aspect of its inception. “It was very liberating, knowing that every song I wanted to put on the record could go on,” she told the The New York Times upon the album’s release.
The sonic strength of its mid-tempo radio hits “Wonder” and “Jealousy” exemplify the positive momentum of Merchant’s new-found independence, but Tigerlily exudes confidence even in its most understated moments on ballads like “San Andreas Fault,” “Beloved Wife,” and “I May Know The Word.” But the irresistible, sultry pulse of lead single “Carnival” is perhaps the album’s pinnacle.
Despite its obvious merits, Tigerlily was regarded by some critics as a missed opportunity for reinvention as Merchant escaped her Maniacs tenure. Brushing off the flak, she dismissed the notion that Tigerlily was intended to be an exercise in innovation rather than demonstrating authenticity in her craft. “It’s really hard to invent something new,” she confided to The New York Times in 1995. “I don’t want to make dissonant music. I want to make music that’s beautiful to listen to.”