Jan 27, 2023
By Mark Redfern
Welcome to the fourth Songs of the Week of 2023. After a stacked, blockbuster seven days that was last week (filled with big album announcements and three boygenius songs), things settled down this week. Still, there was plenty to like.
Don’t forget to check out our Top 100 Albums of 2022 list.
In the past week or so we posted interviews with Amber Arcades and The Delgados.
In the last week we reviewed some albums.
Remember that our current print issue, the My Favorite Movie Issue, is out now.
To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 10 best the last week had to offer, followed by some honorable mentions. Check out the full list below.
1. Clark: “Town Crank”
On Tuesday, British electronic musician and producer Clark (full name Chris Clark) announced a new album, Sus Dog, that’s been produced by Thom Yorke, and shared its first single, “Town Crank.” Sus Dog is due out May 26 via Throttle. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.
Yorke had this to say about the collaboration in a press release: “Chris wrote me to say he’d started singing, looking for feedback/advice or whatever, cuz it was kind of new shark-infested waters for him. I’ve been into what he does for years, and I ended up being a kind of backseat driver as he pieced all the oddness of it together, which was fascinating…. I wasn’t surprised to discover he came at singing and words through another door completely, which to me was the most interesting and exciting part. The first thing he sent me was him singing about being stuck between two floors and I was already sold. To me the way he approached it all wasn’t the usual singer/songwriter guff thank god; it mirrored the way he approached all his composition and recording, but this time it had a human face. His face.”
Clark says that his thought process when making Sus Dog was: “What would it sound like if The Beach Boys took MDMA and made a rave record?”
He also adds: “It’s a lifetime’s worth of listening to songs and working out how to make them, tuning into how to customize all the other elements to my tastes. It feels like my debut, in a way.”
In 2022, Clark remixed Mitski’s “Love Me More” (from her latest album, Laurel Hell).
2. Samia: “Honey”
Samia released her sophomore album, Honey, today via Grand Jury. On Tuesday she shared two last pre-release single from it: title track “Honey” and “Breathing Song.” “Honey” was shared via a music video and the one that impressed us the most and thus makes this list. Jacq Justice directed the video.
Samia had this to say about the two songs in a press release: “Tried writing ‘Breathing Song’ a thousand times and couldn’t get it right. Played one of its iterations for Molly Sarlé on zoom and she was like ‘you just told me a really powerful story before you played this, write it again and just tell the story,’ so I did; I just said what happened, from my perspective. Got to play it for her again when it was finished and we cried. ‘Honey’ takes place in the same world as ‘Breathing Song.’ It’s about always being drunk enough that you don’t have to look around. To me it’s the saddest song I’ve ever written, because it’s mocking my attempt to convince people I was good. Caleb Wright turned it into a campfire song, though, and I love that it can be interpreted as fun too.”
Previously we posted the videos for two songs from Honey: “Pink Balloon” and “Sea Lions.” “Sea Lions” was one of our Songs of the Week.
3. Heather Woods Broderick: “Crashing Against the Sun”
On Monday, Heather Woods Broderick announced a new album, Labyrinth, and shared its first single, “Crashing Against the Sun,” via a music video. Labyrinth is due out April 7 via Western Vinyl. Jeremy Johnstone directed the “Crashing Against the Sun” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
The album includes “Blood Runs Through Me,” a new song Broderick shared in November that was #2 on our Songs of the Week list.
Broderick had this to say about the new song in a press release: “‘Crashing Against the Sun’ is about coming to terms with the realities of today, and moving through the present with a presence of mind and recognition of all the possibilities the future holds. It’s about what we cling to as reassurance or validation in our world, and how these things are often fleeting. The song illustrates a curiosity as to how those same sentiments can also have dual existence and present positivity. The subtleties of existence are full of variability. Our experience can often feel redundant, but uniqueness lies in the details. Essentially, time flies, enjoy the ride.”
D. James Goodwin co-produced the album, which is Broderick’s fifth. She’s based in Los Angeles, but was born in Maine.
Broderick had this to say about the new album’s themes: “Many of us yearn for stillness and peace, as an escape from the movement all around us. Yet movement is perpetual, happening all the time on some level. It’s as wild as the wind, yet eternally predictable in its inevitability. It is linear in part, but infinite in its circuitry. Our lives just punctuate it.”
4. Bodywash: “Massif Central”
Yesterday, Montreal-based dream pop duo Bodywash announced a new album, I Held the Shape While I Could, and shared its first single, “Massif Central,” via a music video. I Held the Shape While I Could is due out April 14 via Light Organ. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Bodywash’s lineup is Chris Steward and Rosie Long Decter. A press release explains that “Massif Central” was inspired by “a typo in a government letter [that] caused Steward to lose his legal work status in Canada.”
Steward elaborates in the press release: “After eight years living in Canada, in the Spring of 2021, a government clerical error caused me to lose my legal status here. As a UK national, I lost my right to work. My savings trickled away during months where I could do little but pace the corners of my apartment. I was prepared to pack my bags and leave as the life I’d hoped to construct for myself seemed to vanish into a bureaucratic abyss…. ‘Massif’ is the sound of wailing into a cliff and not knowing if you’ll hear an echo, The spoken word is inspired by a squirrel that was trapped in the wall behind my bed, clawing its way to salvation. With the help of friends, family, music, and a few immigration lawyers (and the rest of my savings), I’m now a permanent resident here. But this song remains as testament to my experience with an exploitative institution.”
Jordan Allen directed the “Massif Central” video and had this to add: “With ‘Massif Central,’ we wanted to encapsulate the panic and urgency that Chris experienced, and have the abstracts portray the anxiety and hopelessness one can feel at the hands of bureaucracy. I chose graphics that heavily leaned into feelings of being lost in a maze, with towering structures and horizon lines pulling you into them. The idea was that the camera would be both a CCTV view of the band, but also glitching to reveal the more emotionally internal visual aspects.”
I Held the Shape While I Could is the follow-up to their 2019 released debut album, Comforter. It was recorded with longtime drummer Ryan White and recording/mixing engineer Jace Lasek (a member of The Besnard Lakes).
5. Pearla: “Unglow The”
Brooklyn’s Pearla (aka Nicole Rodriguez) is releasing her debut album, Oh Glistening Onion, The Nighttime Is Coming, on February 10 via Spacebomb. On Monday, she shared the album’s final pre-release single, “Unglow The.”
Rodriguez had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Unglow The’ is about mortality, and the absurdity of life on Earth. I wrote it after one of my old friends passed away and I was finding it so impossible to grasp. No matter how many times I experience death, it never feels ‘real.’ I feel a similar way when I experience anything really grand or beautiful. Some things are just too big to process. I think we’re all walking through life in varying degrees of denial of death…anxiety about death. We find ways to comfort ourselves and live in a meaningful way. But we don’t know what we don’t know! There’s a lot of mystery to being alive. I want to stay open to that mystery. That’s what this song is about for me.”
We previously posted the Oh Glistening Onion singles “Ming the Clam” and “With.” Pearla has also shared three other singles from the album: “The Place With No Weather,” “Effort,” and “About Hunger, About Love.” Pearla made our 23 for 2023 list.
6. Gruff Rhys: “Layer Upon Layer”
Gruff Rhys, Welsh frontman of Super Furry Animals, is releasing soundtrack for the film The Almond and the Seahorse on February 24 via Rough Trade. On Tuesday, he shared two more songs from the album: “Layer Upon Layer” and “Orea.” The former was shared via a lyric video and sounds more like Rhys’ electro-pop side-project Neon Neon than his usual solo work. It was our preferred choice for the main Songs of the Week list, although we also quite liked “Orea,” which makes our honorable mentions list further below.
Rhys had this to say in a press release: “‘Layer Upon Layer’ is a song I wrote for the opening titles of the film (The Almond and the Seahorse)—I wrote it to a specific tempo that goes with Rebel Wilson’s bike ride through Liverpool and her ferry journey to the Wirral—so it’s something I’d have never written in any other context—and a great excuse to record a shiny three-minute power-pop song.”
Rhys previously shared a video for the soundtrack’s first single, “Amen.” The film also stars Charlotte Gainsbourg.
In a previous press release, Rhys had this to say about the album: “The soundtrack for The Almond and the Seahorse was recorded largely in pandemic conditions, so it was a matter of recording in bursts of possible activity in various friends’ studios, homes and even scout halls as chance permitted. It’s a varied quilt work as a result. As sonic flagpoles I wanted to signify the film’s location in Liverpool and the Wirral by liberally, but hopefully not too obviously, using the Mellotron synthesizer (as famously used in ‘Strawberry Fields’ by The Beatles and therefore in my mind it represents that great city sonically) and the cello as a nod to its use by Gwen’s character in the film.
“I was encouraged by Mike Jones the editor to take things to a more acoustic, emotional and ragged place. That, I hope, roughly explains the trajectory of the recording and how the varied music contained in this record came about. I hope you enjoy this colorful scrapbook of a soundtrack and get a chance to watch the film.”
7. koleżanka: “Cheers!”
Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist, and producer koleżanka (aka Kristina Moore) is releasing a new album, Alone with the Sound the Mind Makes, on February 17 via Bar/None. On Tuesday, she shared its newest single, “Cheers!,” via a music video. Moore co-directed the video with Michael Madrid.
Moore had this to say about “Cheers!” in a press release: “This song is about the exhausting and annihilating loop of SA, in its unfortunate repetition and also the way you become stuck after trauma. When we were mixing this song, Jonathan Schenke suggested removing the middle distorted guitar and hocket vocal part to create a better flow. He was right and I contemplated it, but I realized I wanted this song to feel uncomfortable. Each movement of this song is very intentional, I hope it says what I needed it to say.”
In October, Moore shared the single “Canals of Our City,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared its next single, “Slapstick,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week.
Alone with the Sound the Mind Makes was produced by Moore and Ark Calkins. Moore’s last album, Place Is, came out in 2020 via Bar/None
8. Steve Mason: “The People Say”
Steve Mason, former frontman of The Beta Band, is releasing a new album, Brothers & Sisters, on March 3 via Double Six, an imprint of Domino. On Tuesday, he shared its second single, “The People Say.”
Mason simply had this to say in a press release: “‘The People Say’ is a rallying call for us all, urging people to keep climbing, find the righteous fight and dive in.”
Previously Mason shared the album’s first single, “No More,” which features Pakistani singer Javed Bashir and was one of our Songs of the Week.
Brothers & Sisters was co-produced with Tev’n and also features British gospel singers Jayando Cole, Keshia Smith, Connie McCall, and Adrian Blake, as well as Kaviraj Singh on the santoor. It is the follow-up to About the Light, which was released in January 2019 via Double Six. That album followed Boys Outside (2010), Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time (2013), and Meet the Humans (2016).
Mason had this to say about the new album in a previous press release: “To me, this record is a massive ‘Fuck you’ to Brexit. And a giant ‘Fuck you’ to anyone that is terrified of immigration because there is nothing that immigration has brought to this country that isn’t to be applauded. Can you imagine what this place would be like without that [immigration]? I mean what would it be like? Cornish pasties and morris dancing?”
9. Patrick Wolf: “Nowhere Game”
After a long hiatus from music, Patrick Wolf is releasing a new EP, The Night Safari, on April 14 via his own label Apport. On Wednesday, he shared its second single, “Nowhere Game,” via a music video. Joseph Wilson directed the video.
In November, Wolf announced the EP and shared its first single, “Enter the Day,” which was his first new song in a decade and was one of our Songs of the Week.
Wolf had this to say about “Nowhere Game” in a press release: “On the way home from a concert on a stage facing the Black Sea in Crimea I recorded a melody into my laptop and started programming on the plane home, trying to make a portrait of the storm rolling I had watched sat backstage on the beach with an armed security guard. Many years later as I was finishing The Night Safari EP I discovered that unfinished project and then the new string section and lyrics of a period of life I named ‘nowhere game,’ a few years where I stopped singing altogether apart from, I realized, to record ‘happy birthday’ down the phone to my friends and family. Ultimately the song to me is a slow realization of being trapped in any manifestation of vicious cycle and a long way yet from knowing how to ask for help. The viola and violin parts on ‘Nowhere Game’ and across the EP are played by myself for the first time since my first two albums, proof to me that I had broken one of my own vicious cycles in the end and returned to my craft”
Of the song’s music video, Wolf says: “This video is the second part of a film directed by Joseph Wilson that journeys through the first two tracks of The Night Safari EP this second part opens with me rowing down the black frozen river of the previous song into the ‘Nowhere Game’ that Joseph and I imagined up inspired by our own mutual experiences of nowhere. Every stitch of clothes and costume in the video from my own to the nowhere creatures too was handmade by me and the visionary Marco Tullio Siviglia, our collaboration, as it came to pass with every creative and dancer involved on the video became as magical as it was accidentally emotional. As we all began to enter past the midnight hour it soon began to feel like an act of solidarity filming in the abandoned Beacon Hill Fort on the coldest night of 2022.”
Director Joseph Wilson adds: “Aside from our creative vision, we share a lot of similarities growing up as outsiders and both overcoming our own traumas through the pandemic. I had come across Beacon Fort a few years ago (I’d been saving it for the perfect project) and this felt like the perfect setting for the ‘Nowhere Game.’ Located at the very edge of a quiet coastal town in Essex, the cold concrete structures and its prolific history of war, battle and invasion created the perfect setting for the ‘Nowhere Game.’ Many of the cast and crew were lifelong Patrick fans which made the shoot feel even more worthwhile. I remember looking up to the sky and seeing a dozen shooting stars as the performers pulled rocks around Patrick whilst he played the viola. It was such a moment! Regardless of the fact there was no electricity and it was the coldest day of 2022! It was all worth it.
“I worked with movement director Ted Rogers to direct the performers or the ‘gloms’ as we named them. Their story was inspired by the Greek Myth of Sisyphus who is condemned to roll a rock up to the top of a mountain, only to have the rock roll back down to the bottom every time he reaches the top. Patrick spoke about how he had learnt to let go of his resentments, lifting a great weight off his shoulders. So the idea was that the ‘gloms’ were pulling around their resentments (which start off as small pieces of coal) and develop into large heavy boarders as the story goes on.”
The British musician was a regular staple of Under the Radar’s coverage in the 2000s and early 2010s, but then he just stopped releasing music. Wolf’s last album was 2012’s double album Sundark and Riverlight, although he returned to touring in 2018.
The release date for “Enter the Day” was no accident, November 11 marked the 20th anniversary of the release of Wolf’s debut EP (simply titled The Patrick Wolf EP), released on November 11, 2002.
10. Gorillaz: “Silent Running” (Feat. Adeleye Omotayo)
Damon Albarn’s virtual band Gorillaz are releasing a new album, Cracker Island, on February 24 via Parlophone. Earlier today they shared another song from it, “Silent Running,” which features Adeleye Omotayo. Omotayo is a long time member of the Gorillaz live band. A music video for the song is promised to be coming soon.
In a press release, Albarn says “Silent Running” has “that sort of mesmerising dreamlike state you get in when you’re just following some train of thought.”
Gorillaz’s virtual frontman 2D adds: “Sometimes I get well lost and end up in the wrong place but then it turns out that’s where I was meant to be going anyway.”
Cracker Island also features musical contributions from Stevie Nicks, Thundercat, Bad Bunny and Beck. It was produced by the band alongside Greg Kurstin and Remi Kabaka Jr.
In June, Gorillaz shared the album’s title track, “Cracker Island,” featuring Thundercat. Upon announcement of the album in August, they shared the single “New Gold,” featuring Tame Impala and Bootie Brown. It was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then in December they shared the album’s next single, “Skinny Ape,” also one of our Songs of the Week, and performed the song virtually in New York’s Times Square and London’s Piccadilly Circus.
In 2021, Gorillaz released the EP Meanwhile. Their most recent album, Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez, came out in October 2020.
These songs almost made the Top 10. The Boo Radleys and Elly Kace came closest to making the main list.
The Boo Radleys: “Seeker”
Fever Ray: “Kandy”
Elly Kace: “Disappear”
Kevin Morby: “Like a Flower”
Dave Okumu & The 7 Generations: “Black Firework”
Gruff Rhys: “Orea”
Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 10 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions: