Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The joys of anonymity for musicians

Four side projects you should check out
Courtesy of Yung Lean, Facebook.

Being yourself can be exhausting sometimes. Especially as a prominent artist, the expectations heaped on you once you establish a popular sound can lead down a dead end for creative exploration. Side projects don’t necessarily grant anonymity, but rather alert your audiences that this is not the same sound they’re used to. Here are some of my favorite side projects and what I like about them.


Yung Lean – Död Mark & Jonatan Leandoer96

Swedish rapper Yung Lean encountered fame earlier than most. As a 19-year-old, his rapid ascent was almost dashed away by a drug overdose in 2015 during the recording of “Warlord.” After an extended period of rehabilitation and therapy, Lean returned to make more music under the Yung Lean moniker. He also began two wildly different side projects: Död Mark and Jonatan Leandoer96.

Död Mark is a post-punk band consisting of Lean on vocals and frequent collaborator Gud on guitar. This project, primarily in Swedish, features raw vocals from the rapper many remember for his heavily autotuned early work. Död Mark reflects on the many frustrations Lean has dealt with the years leading up to his brush with death. Though Död Mark only has one release, Lean frequently surprises concerts with impromptu sets of some of their hits.

Jonatan Leandoer96 (formerly Jonatan Leandoer127), is Lean’s more frequently used outlet. He has released three albums under the project, most recently “Blodhundar & Lullabies” in 2020. This project evolved with Lean during these pivotal years, much like he has under his main pseudonym. His first entry “Nectar,” featuring songs like “Wooden Girl,” is characterized by minimal production on this summery track. “Blodhundar & Lullabies,” which has executive production from Joakim Benon, also feels like the winter months it was released in. Lean weaves in between Swedish and English on this sixteen-track odyssey. The production switches between analog and digital, with pulsating synths and swelling orchestras on ballads like “Highway.”


Thaiboy Digital – DJ Billybool

Thai/Swedish rapper Thaiboy Digital is quite tongue-in-cheek in regards to his side project DJ Billybool. He refers to Billybool as the “Universe’s number 1 DJ,” only visiting earth briefly to enlighten us. This Eurohouse project from Digital has seen an EP in 2020, which dazzles in its five-track run. Billybool has also made appearances on NTS radio, curating the royal mix in collaboration with fellow Swede Bladee. Thaiboy even took the distinction from Billybool so far as to have himself “feature” on a track under the project earlier this year. “Som Jag” features vocals from Bladee and Digital, for the first time in their native Swedish. Its accompanying video feels fresh out of 2007 with a baggy wardrobe, blinding lights and irreverent dancing.


Have A Nice Life (Dan Barrett) – Giles Corey

Of the acclaimed post-rock band Have A Nice Life, lead singer Dan Barrett takes a more minimalist/slowcore approach on his side project Giles Corey. He took the name from the infamously accused Witch, featured in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” In the project’s self-titled debut album, Barrett stretches nine songs into almost an hour of music, with the longest track topping out at eight minutes. From songs filled with haunting distortion and almost indistinguishable lyrics like “The Haunting Presence” to more traditional ballads like “Blackest Bile,” the world-building in the Giles Corey project make this an album I have revisited countless times. It truly deserves a front to back listen.


The Garden – Puzzle (Fletcher) & Enjoy (Wyatt)

 Twins Wyatt and Fletcher Shears have firmly established themselves under their main project The Garden as the voices of punk in the 2010s and now the 2020s. Despite consistent releases under The Garden name, the twins have found time to hone their own respective sounds. In the past ten years, Wyatt and Fletcher have combined to put out 23 combined EPs and albums as “Enjoy” and “Puzzle.”



Jackson Walker can be reached at [email protected].

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