Mar 03, 2023
By Mark Redfern
Welcome to the ninth Songs of the Week of 2023. There were quite a few strong contenders this week. We were especially enamored by the top two.
In the past week or so we posted an interview with The GOLDEN DREGS and Steve Mason.
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. Lael Neale: “In Verona”
Lael Neale is releasing a new album, Star Eaters Delight, on April 21 via Sub Pop. On Tuesday, she shared its second single, the over eight-minute long, Shakespeare-referencing, Bible-quoting, minimalist epic, “In Verona,” via a self-directed video in which Neale plays a newscaster.
A press release describes the song in more detail: “‘In Verona’ is the centerpiece of the beguiling Star Eaters Delight, a sprawling gospel dirge in which the narrator-as-newscaster chants hypnotic incantations to lament a society plagued by divisions and hypocrisies, reimagining the Montagues and Capulets without mentioning them by name and cautioning the listener to ‘cast no stone.’”
Previously Neale shared the album’s first single, “I Am the River,” also via a self-directed music video. “I Am the River” was one of our Songs of the Week.
Star Eaters Delight is the follow up to 2021’s Acquainted With Night, which was her debut for Sub Pop and was recorded in 2019. The new album was recorded after Neale moved from Los Angeles to her family’s farm in rural Virginia in April 2020.
“Acquainted with Night was a focusing inward amidst the loud and bright Los Angeles surrounding me. It was an attempt to create spaciousness and quiet reverie within. When I moved back to the farm, I found that the unbroken silences compelled me to break them with sound. This album is more external. It is a reaching back out to the world, wanting to feel connected, to wake up, to come together again,” explained Neale in a previous press release.
Guy Blakeslee produced the album with Neale.
Read our 2021 interview with Lael Neale.
2. Water From Your Eyes: “Barley”
On Tuesday, New York-based duo Water From Your Eyes announced a new album, Everyone’s Crushed, and shared its first single, “Barley,” directed by the band’s own Rachel Brown. Everyone’s Crushed is due out May 26 via Matador, their first album for the iconic label. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, including some shows opening for new labelmate Snail Mail, here.
Water From Your Eyes are Nate Amos (he/him) and Rachel Brown (they/them). Everyone’s Crushed is the follow-up to 2021’s Structure (on Wharf Cat) and 2019’s Somebody Else’s Song. Brown says Everyone’s Crushed is the band’s most collaborative album yet.
In 2023, it’s hard to put out music that is truly unique and interesting, and yet not so experimental that it’s unlistenable. With “Barley” Water From Your Eyes successfully thread that needle with a challenging song that still has enough pop to keep the listener fully engaged for three-and-half minutes. Plus the video is edited with precision.
The band collectively had this to say about the song in a press release: “Barley is a rhythmic sound collage experiment drawing from modern classical, classic rock, and dance music. The lyrics suggest repeated futile attempts at attaining the unattainable and allude to Sting and Sonic Youth. The video mirrors these concepts in scope, texture, and variety—juxtaposing feelings of entrapment and late stage capitalism against the sense of freedom inherent to the vast American landscape. Despite all this heady bullshit the song is, at its core, fun.”
Water From Your Eyes was one of the artists to take part in our 20th anniversary album, Covers of Covers, where they covered R.E.M’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine).” Check out the whole album here or listen to Water From Your Eyes’ track on YouTube and Spotify.
Read our 2021 interview with Water From Your Eyes on Structure.
In 2022, Water From Your Eyes’ Nate Amos also partnered with Lily Konigsberg (of Palberta) as My Idea and released the album CRY MFER, via Hardly Art. Read our 2022 interview with My Idea.
3. Youth Lagoon: “Idaho Alien”
After releasing two albums under his given name, Trevor Powers has revived his Youth Lagoon moniker and on Tuesday he announced a new album under that name, Heaven Is a Junkyard. He also shared the album’s first single, “Idaho Alien,” via a music video. Heaven Is a Junkyard is due out June 9 via Fat Possum. Tyler T. Williams directed the video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.
As Youth Lagoon, Powers released three albums: 2011’s The Year of Hibernation, 2013’s Wondrous Bughouse, and 2015’s Savage Hills Ballroom. Then he retired the name in 2016 and released two albums simply as Trevor Powers: 2018’s Mulberry Violence and 2020’s surprise-released Capricorn.
“I felt like I was in a chokehold,” Power says of the initial name change. “Even though it was my music, I lost my way. In a lot of ways, I lost myself.”
He adds: “My mind has always been a devil. It tells me terrible things—like I’m worthless, ugly, or broken. It’s like a motel TV stuck on a channel that won’t shut off, with static and endless late-night ads and preachers screaming about the end of the world.”
Things took a turn for the worse in October 2021, when Powers had a bad reaction to an over-the counter medicine that a press release says turned his stomach into a “non-stop geyser of acid” and coated Powers “larynx and vocal cords for eight months.”
“I saw seven doctors and multiple specialists. I lost over 30 pounds. No one could help me,” says Powers.
By Christmas that year, he could no longer speak. “I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to speak again, let alone sing,” he says. “It all felt symbolic in a way. I’d been swallowing fear all my life and now here it was coming back up.”
Following this trying time, Powers had a renewed focus on his songwriting, writing about home rather than the larger world. “Family, neighbors, and grim reapers,” says Powers. “I’ve always written about far away things, but the best material has been right in front of me this whole time in Idaho.”
That includes first single, “Idaho Alien.” Of the song, Powers says: “I’ve always loved old hardboiled crime novels. They’re twisted but pure. ‘Idaho Alien’ comes from that space. Home often feels like a Jim Thompson book. One of my neighbors smokes meth all day and mows the lawn at 2:00 am. Her boyfriend lived in a tent in her backyard, and one day she locked him out of the house so he went as far as trying to stab her. He got sent to prison for 10 years. She told me she still loves him, and I told her she deserves better. The last time I asked her not to mow the lawn at 2:00 am, we wound up talking about aliens and Subway sandwiches. Every November, a church group rakes her leaves and tells her about Jesus. I don’t think it’s working.”
The video was mainly filmed in the farming town of Kuna, Idaho. Powers had this to say about the video: “Ty and I found the right spot and parked our truck in the clearing. Fifteen minutes later, two black trucks pull up. Ten teens with shotguns and automatic rifles get out. This is normal in Idaho. They start shooting at the dirt by each other’s feet and using liquor bottles as clay pigeons. Still pretty normal. Then they take a shot at a car driving past on the highway. This wouldn’t be considered normal.”
Powers and Williams took a dinner break in hopes the kids would leave.
“We could tell they were shooting into the air now cuz we could hear the bullets coming down in the wind,” Powers continues. “Right before magic hour, wartime finally ended, and we heard their trucks peel out. We went back to the clearing and set up the camera. Their shotgun shells make an appearance in the video at the 10-second mark. The scenes with the dad and young drifter were filmed the following day in Nampa, Idaho by the train depot. That’s their house… they’re a real father and son. This story couldn’t have been told without them.”
Summing up the album, Powers adds: “Heaven Is a Junkyard is about all of us. It’s stories of brothers leaving for war, drunk fathers learning to hug, mothers falling in love, neighbors stealing mail, cowboys doing drugs, friends skipping school, me crying in the bathtub, dogs catching rabbits, and children playing in tall grass.”
Read our 2011 interview with Youth Lagoon.
Read our 2015 interview with Youth Lagoon.
4. boygenius: “Not Strong Enough”
Boygenius, the supergroup featuring Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, and Phoebe Bridgers, are releasing their debut full-length album, the record, on March 31 via Interscope. On Wednesday, they shared the album’s fourth single, “Not Strong Enough,” via a music video.
A press release says the song is “about paradoxically experiencing self-hatred while having a God complex.”
The band filmed the video themselves and it was edited by Jackson Bridgers (Phoebe’s brother).
When the record was announced in January, boygenius shared three new songs from it: “$20,” “Emily I’m Sorry,” and “True Blue.” “$20” made our Songs of the Week list.
Boygenius formed in 2018 and released their self-titled debut EP the same year via Matador. The trio self-produced the record, which was recorded at Shangri-la Studios in Malibu, California. In June 2020, a week after she released her acclaimed sophomore album Punisher, Bridgers sent the demo for “Emily I’m Sorry” to Baker and Dacus and asked if boygenius could record music again. Baker then created a Google Drive folder called “dare I say it?” and the three songwriters began adding potential songs to it. Then after all three were vaccinated, the trio got together in person in April 2021 to truly begin writing the album. The band then recorded the record at Shangri-la in January 2022 over the course of a month, working for 10 hours every day.
Punisher landed Bridges on the cover of our print magazine and topped our Top 100 Albums of 2020 list.
Dacus’ latest album, Home Video, came out in 2021 via Matador (stream it here). It was high up on our Top 100 Albums of 2021 list. In 2021, we posted our in-depth Under the Radar Podcast interview with Dacus on the album (listen to it here). Also read our 2021 Protest Issue interview with Dacus.
Baker’s last album, Little Oblivions, also came out in 2021 via Matador and was also one of our Top 100 Albums of 2021. Read our Protest Issue interview with Baker, where she discusses the album, here. Also listen to our Under the Radar podcast interview with Baker here.
Read our 2019 cover story interview with boygenius.
5. Braids: “Apple”
Montreal experimental pop trio Braids are releasing a new album, Euphoric Recall, on April 28 via Secret City. On Wednesday they shared the album’s third single, “Apple,” via a music video.
“Apple” features a string ensemble playing over delicate shoegaze textures. Singer/guitarist Raphaelle Standell-Preston had this to say about the new single in a press release: “We didn’t have to work hard on this one. We could just jump in and enjoy the ride of it.”
Last August, the band shared the album’s first single, “Retriever,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. Then when the album was announced in January, they shared its second single, “Evolution,” via a music video. “Evolution” was also one of our Songs of the Week.
A previous press release described the new album in greater detail: “A freer and wholly anew effort, their fifth studio album finds the trio abandoning strategy, burning it down, and realizing their love record. Love, all of it; the unbound bliss, the budding impulses, and the messy imperfections, a supernova swirled up in a suite of bold, melodic, symphonic pop songs surrendered to the present.”
Standell-Preston added: “How you cultivate your heart space is extremely important to the outcome of what you are pursuing. I think that when we are operating from a place of safety and feeling loved and have intentions of loving, we can access really interesting places.”
The band wrote, recorded, self-produced, and mixed Euphoric Recall at Studio Toute Garnie, their Montréal studio. Braids also features Austin Tufts and Taylor Smith.
The band’s last album, Shadow Offering, came out in 2020 on Secret City and made it to #24 on our Top 100 Albums of 2020 list.
Read our Self-Portrait interview with the band.
6. Mandy, Indiana: “Pinking Shears”
On Wednesday, Manchester, England four-piece Mandy, Indiana announced their debut album, i’ve seen a way, and shared new single from it, “Pinking Shears,” via a music video. I’ve seen a way is due out May 19 via Fire Talk. George Haydock directed the “Pinking Shears” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.
The band features frontwoman Valentine Caulfield, guitarist/producer Scott Fair, Simon Catling (synths), and Alex Macdougall (drums). The album follows 2021’s … EP.
Fair had this to say about the album in a press release: “We wanted to alter textures, create clashes, and craft those moments when what you’re expecting to happen never comes.”
7. Sparks: “The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte”
Sparks (brothers Ron and Russell Mael) are releasing a new album, The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte, on May 26 via Island. Yesterday they shared its first single, title track “The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte.” Then today they shared a video for the song starring none other than Oscar winning actress Cate Blanchett (who is nominated again this year for Tár). Sparks co-directed the video with Richie Starzec.
Ron and Russell Mael had this to say about the video in a press release: “We met Cate Blanchett in Paris at the César Awards last year, little knowing that a year later, one of the great actors of our time (and a splendid person!) would graciously consent to lending her bootie-shaking skills to the first video from our new album, ‘The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte.’ Dreams really do come true. We will sleep well tonight knowing that forever we can say we co-starred in a film with Cate Blanchett!”
The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte will be the band’s first album on Island Records in 47 years. The band released several albums on the label in the 1970s, including 1974’s classic Kimono My House. Their last album for the label was 1976’s Big Beat.
Sparks’ last album was 2020’s A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip. In 2021, Edgar Wright directed an acclaimed documentary on the band, The Sparks Brothers. In 2021, they also co-wrote the musical film, Annette, with director Leos Carax and also did all the music for it. In 2022, they announced a reissue series.
The Mael brothers collectively had this to say about the new album and rejoining Island in a previous press release: “Funny how things work! One of the most memorable periods for Sparks, the one that forever cemented our relationship with the UK and also exposed Sparks to a bigger audience around the world, was the ’70s Island Records era. Chris Blackwell, Muff Winwood, and Co. went all in on our album, Kimono My House, and released a truly non-conventional first single, ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both of Us.’ Their belief (and ours) proved right: that there was a place for both bold creativity and commerciality in pop music. And here we find ourselves in 2023, almost 50 years later, re-signing with Island Records, again with an album that we all feel is as bold and uncompromising as anything we did back then, or for that matter, anytime throughout our career. We’re happy that after so much time, we’ve reconnected with Island, sharing the same spirit of adventure that we all had way back when, but with our new album, The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte.”
8. Momma: “Bang Bang”
On Wednesday, Brooklyn-based band Momma shared a new song, “Bang Bang.” The single is out now via Polyvinyl/Lucky Number. Check out the band’s upcoming tour dates, including shows opening for Alex G and other shows supporting Weezer and Modest Mouse, here.
Momma is led by songwriters Etta Friedman and Allegra Weingarten. For “Bang Bang” they worked with producer/bassist Aron Kobayashi Ritch to write and record the track.
“Allegra and I ended up getting COVID at the same time, so we decided to isolate, get drunk, and write together,” Friedman explains in a press release. “Within a night we had demoed a hot sounding song about great sex.”
Weingarten adds: “We wanted to write something lyrically different than anything else we’d done—just super literal and crude. We shared it with Aron and he sent us back a new version with a lot of added extra production: drums, bass, synths, acoustic guitar, etc. It felt totally different and fresh. The finished song has a lot of classic Momma—heavy guitars and catchy melodies— but packaged in a different form. It feels immediate, like a whole new sound for the band.”
Momma’s most recent album, Household Name, came out last year via Polyvinyl.
Read our review of Household Name.
9. Dutch Uncles: “In Salvia” (Feat. Metronomy’s Anna Prior)
British art-pop quartet Dutch Uncles are releasing their sixth album, True Entertainment, on March 10 via Memphis Industries. On Tuesday, they shared its fourth and final pre-release single, “In Salvia,” which features backing vocals by Anna Prior of Metronomy. The band also announced a limited edition pizza, for sale for one night only.
On March 11 Dutch Uncles will be celebrating the release of True Entertainment via two events in Chorlton, England (in the greater Manchester area). During a football match that day where West Didsbury & Chorlton play Ascot Utd in the FA Vase competition, the band will be promoting the album via a pop-up store with merch and discounted tickets, and tracks from the album will be played over the tannoy. Then later at The Beagle in Chorlton, they will be selling a limited edition True Entertainment Pizza for one night only, a pizza that features chips (or French fries for U.S. readers) on top, since Dutch Uncles have a podcast called Chips of Chorlton. There will also be a DJ set from the band at The Beagle.
Vocalist Duncan Wallis had this to say about “In Salvia” in a press release: “A reference to the flower of the same name’s symbolism of wisdom, longevity, good health and innocence, is a rather stark narrative detailing when the qualities listed above have nothing to contribute to the realities in front of you. Partly inspired by a not insignificant number of years propping up bars and asking the wrong questions, its only seeming redemption being an acknowledgement of what the end actually looks like.”
Prior had this to say about working with Dutch Uncles on True Entertainment: “I love Dutch Uncles. I’ve been tooting their horn to anyone who will listen. Naturally, I responded with a resounding ‘I DO’ when they asked me (on Valentines day 2022) if I would consider lending my voice to some of their new music. Fast forward a few months whilst on tour with Metronomy and holed up in a hotel room in a part of Europe I was newly visiting, I set up a make-shift vocal booth (with equipment borrowed from my band mate Gbenga) and started adding my own touch to what has turned out to be one of my most adored Dutch Uncles LPs yet. ‘In Salvia,’ is one of my favorites on the new record—a perfect slice of melancholy pie.”
Previously Dutch Uncles shared the album’s title track, “True Entertainment,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared its second single, “Poppin’.” Then they shared its third single, “Tropigala (2 to 5),” via a music video.
Wallis had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “True Entertainment is a soundtrack for the pursuit of anonymity within ever-changing societal norms, and the trappings that come with it. Those trappings are presented in a series of life-changing scenarios and epiphanies that include: abandoning one’s identity and accepting one’s generation as a useless vessel; to suffering for betterment and dealing with challenges from other generations.”
Dutch Uncles’ previous album, Big Balloon, came out in 2017 via Memphis Industries.
10. Clark: “Clutch Pearlers”
(British electronic musician and producer Clark (full name Chris Clark) is releasing a new album, Sus Dog, that’s been produced by Thom Yorke, on May 26 via Throttle. On Wednesday, he shared its second single, “Clutch Pearlers,” via a music video. Dylan Hayes directed the video.
A press release describes the song in more detail: “Set to a bright carefree ditty with Reich-ian tuned mallets, ‘Clutch Pearlers’ deals with social awkwardness and insecurity, but, as with much of the record, definitely isn’t earnest; more sideways, with a self-awareness and self-deprecation ensuring things never descend into the air violin sin bin.”
Previously Clark shared the album’s first single, “Town Crank,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.
Yorke had this to say about the collaboration in a previous 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 said 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 added: “It’s a lifetime’s worth of listening to songs and working out how to make them, tuning into how to customise 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).
These songs almost made the Top 10.
Califone: “the habsburg jaw”
Decisive Pink: “Destiny”
Hayden: “On a Beach” (Feat. Feist)
Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 10 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions: