Jun 25, 2021
By Mark Redfern
Welcome to the 24th Songs of the Week of 2021. Today was a blockbuster new album release day. It saw the release of new full-lengths by Modest Mouse, Lucy Dacus, The Mountain Goats, John Grant, SPELLLING, Faye Webster, Matthew Dear, Lightning Bug, Pom Pom Squad, Hiss Golden Messenger, Gaspard Augé, Hiatus Kaiyote, Squirrel Flower, and more. But it was also a strong week for new singles, with several notable upcoming albums also announced this week. We narrowed it down to the 10 best below.
In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Modest Mouse, Lucy Dacus, SPELLLING, Faye Webster, Matthew Dear, Lightning Bug, Pom Pom Squad, and more.
Don’t forget that in April we announced our new print issue. The issue features Japanese Breakfast and HAIM on the two covers and is another edition of The Protest Issue, which examines the intersection of music and politics and features musicians photographed with protest signs of their own making. It follows Protest Issues we also published in 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016.
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, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last seven days. Check out the full list below.
1. Low: “Days Like These”
On Tuesday, Low announced a new album, HEY WHAT, and shared its hypnotic first single, “Days Like These,” via a video for it. They have also announced some tour dates. HEY WHAT is due out September 10 via Sub Pop. Karlos Rena Ayala directed the “Days Like These” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates, here.
HEY WHAT is the band’s thirteenth album and follows 2018’s acclaimed Double Negative, which was #4 on our Top 100 Albums of 2018 list. For the third time, Low (led by Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker) worked with producer B.J. Burton on HEY WHAT. Steve Garrington, who played bass with the band since 2011’s C’mon, seemingly sat this album out.
A press release describes the vibe of the album: “The new album finds the group focusing on their craft, staying out of the fray, and holding fast their faith to find new ways to express the discord and delight of being alive, to turn the duality of existence into hymns we can share. These 10 pieces—each built around their own instantaneous, undeniable hook—are turbocharged by the vivid textures that surround them. The ineffable, familiar harmonies of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker break through the chaos like a life raft. Layers of distorted sound accrete with each new verse—building, breaking, colossal then restrained, a solemn vow only whispered. There will be time to unravel and attribute meaning to the music and art of these times, but the creative moment looks FORWARD, with teeth.”
Read our My First Concert article with Low, where Alan Sparhawk discussed the first concert he ever attended.
Double Negative was the follow-up to 2015’s Ones and Sixes. Read our 2015 print magazine interview with Low’s Alan Sparhawk about Ones and Sixes, as well as our 2015 digital magazine bonus Q&A with Sparhawk.
2. Geese: “Disco”
Geese are a new post-punk five-piece from Brooklyn and this week they released their debut single, “Disco.” It was also announced that the band has signed to the labels Partisan and Play It Again Sam.
The band, whose members are recently out of high school, collectively had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Disco’ was our first big step forward as a band. It’s a very urgent and restless song, which was indicative of all our headspaces at the time. ‘Disco’ has a lot of organized chaos at its core; the music, the lyrics, and even the way we recorded it all speak to a sort of manic energy we were all working through. It’s a song that sounds like it’s perpetually on the verge of collapse—and yet it always manages to keep itself together. There’s a bit of chaos in all of our songs, or a sense that they could explode at any moment. ‘Disco’ represents that the most for us: the little bit of chaos each of us carry and bring to our music.”
The band are expected to release their debut album later this year and will be performing at some festivals this year, including Shaky Knees and Desert Daze. On July 10 they will play at NYC’s Berlin venue.
3. Colleen Green: “I Wanna Be a Dog”
On Wednesday, singer/songwriter/guitarist Colleen Green announced a new album, Cool, and shared its first single, “I Wanna Be a Dog,” via a video for it. The song is about longing for the simple life dogs lead. Cool is Green’s first new album in six years and is due out September 10 via Hardly Art. Steele O’ Neal directed the “I Wanna Be a Dog” video, which partially features Green at a dog park. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Cool is Green’s fourth album and the follow-up to 2015’s very well-received I Want to Grow Up. Green co-produced the album with Gordon Raphael, which was mixed by Brendan Eder. The album was recorded at various Southern California studios: comp-ny (Glendale), Tenement Yard (North Hollywood), and Cosmic Vinyl (Los Angeles). Frida Claeson Johansson mastered Cool at Svenska Grammofonstudion in Gothenburg, Sweden.
4. Morly: “Dance to You”
This week, Minneapolis-born, London-based singer/songwriter Morly (aka Katy Morley) announced her debut full-length album, ‘Til I Start Speaking, and shared its new single, “Dance to You,” via a video for it. ‘Til I Start Speaking is due out August 20 via Cascine. Lawrence Pumfrey directed the “Dance to You” video, which was choreographed by Katya Bourviski. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
‘Til I Start Speaking follows three EPs: In Defense of My Muse (2015), Something More Holy (2016), and Sleeping In My Own Bed (2017). Since those EPs, Morley took some time away to deal with a chronic illness. She also moved from Los Angeles to London to be with her partner. For the album she worked with regular collaborator Christopher Stracey.
Morley had this to say about the new single in a press release: “‘Dance to You’ is about the need for—and is the vehicle for—a benevolent exorcism. It sprang from an encounter with someone so radiant to me that they helped light my way, but that I had to outgrow in order to see my own brilliance: I can’t grow/inside your glow.”
Of the video, Morley says: “[Choreographer] Katya and I talked about my experiences as a young artist finding my feet in a difficult industry, especially with flagging health, and the constant pressure to define and sell yourself which helped to inform the structure of the piece. It’s also partially inspired by Pina Bausch’s dance, Kontakthof.”
5. Damon & Naomi with Kurihara: “Sailing By”
This week, Damon & Naomi announced a new album, A Sky Record, and shared its first single, “Sailing By,” which is inspired by BBC Radio’s The Shipping Forecast. Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang were formerly of Galaxie 500 (with Dean Wareham) and the new album was made in collaboration with Japanese guitarist Michio Kurihara. A Sky Record is due out August 6 via 20 20 20. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
The Shipping Forecast is a longtime British tradition, in which several times a day the BBC helps guide sailors with a weather forecast covering shipping routes.
Krukowski had this to say in a press release: “‘Sailing By’ is also the title of a light classical waltz that’s played every night shortly before the 1 a.m. end of the broadcast day on BBC Radio Four, followed by the Shipping Forecast (and then ‘God Save the Queen!’). The Shipping Forecast is simply the weather forecast for the sea around the UK. But it’s also a mesmerizing list of place names (‘Viking’ and ‘Tiree’ are examples) and slightly coded information about wind direction, etc—it has its own language. But for some reason, Naomi and I found ourselves listening to it almost every night during lockdown… It comes on just as we’re usually cooking dinner, which is how we stumbled on it… and then this marker became important to us, even though (or because?) it’s a report about conditions for places we couldn’t possibly visit…”
The press release also includes a quote from Jarvis Cocker: “The Shipping Forecast is something you absorb unconsciously if you live in the UK. It’s been on the airwaves since 1911. Technically speaking, it’s a weather guide designed to help sailors on the high seas but it helps people navigate in other ways than that. For insomniacs it’s a mantra that (hopefully) helps them finally drift off to sleep. Is it the mention of obscure places around the British coastline with names like ‘German Bight’ and ‘South Utsire’ that does the trick? Or is it the sheer feeling of relief you get knowing that you’re safely tucked up in bed whilst others are battling it out upon stormy seas? Whatever the reason, it usually works. And if it doesn’t at least there’s a bonus in store: the first Shipping Forecast of the day is preceded by a piece of music called ‘Sailing By.’ I chose this as one of the eight pieces of music that I would take with me to a desert island when I was on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs programme in 2005. When you listen to ‘Sailing By’ it really feels like life is drifting past you in an extremely pleasant way. A handy go-to sedative to have around if you ever happen to become a castaway. Or if you get cut off from normal everyday life for any other reason….”
6. John Grant: “County Fair”
John Grant released a new album, Boy from Michigan, today via Partisan in the U.S. (and Bella Union in the U.K.). Stream it here. All of its singles made our Songs of the Week lists, but there were some album tracks we really liked too. We settled on “County Fair,” which vividly recounts a childhood visit to a fair. As Grant sings in the chorus: “We’ll ride the Zipper and the Tilt-A-Whirl/Wе‘ll watch the cotton candy twist and swirl/We’ll ride thе Matterhorn and the double Ferris-Wheel/We love to listen to the screams and the squeals/And it’s hard to believe that the things we are seeing are real.”
Boy from Michigan was produced by Welsh musician Cate Le Bon. Previously Grant shared a video for the album’s title track, “Boy from Michigan,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. The album’s second single was the amusing and quite ’80s sounding “Rhetorical Figure,” a song about the sexiness of good grammar. “Rhetorical Figure” was shared via a lyric video and was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then he shared the album’s third single, “Billy,” via a video for it (which once again landed on our Songs of the Week list).
Also, this week we posted an interview with him on the Why Not Both podcast we present and you can listen to that here.
Last year Grant also sang guest vocals on the Lost Horizons song “Cordelia.”
Also be sure to read our in-depth 2013 article on Grant, one of the most honest and personal interviews we’ve ever done.
Plus read our The End interview with John Grant.
7. SPELLLING: “Revolution”
SPELLLING (aka Chrystia Cabral) released her third studio album, The Turning Wheel, today via Sacred Bones. Stream it here. As with John Grant, all of the album’s singles previously made our Songs of the Week lists, but there were also some album tracks we wanted to highlight. We were torn between “Magic Act” (with its amazing guitar solo) and “Revolution” (which also has a great outro) and settled on the latter, with the former an honorable mention below.
Yesterday we posted our review of the album and you can read that here.
Cabral previously shared the album’s first track and lead single “Little Deer” (which was inspired by the Frida Kahlo painting Wounded Deer). “Little Dear” made it to #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then she shared its second single, “Boys At School,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared the album’s almost title track, “Turning Wheel,” via a self-directed video for it (which again made our Songs of the Week list).
The Turning Wheel is described in a press release as revolving around “themes of human unity, the future, divine love, and the enigmatic ups and downs of being a part of this carnival called life.” The album, orchestrated and self-produced by Cabral, features an ensemble of 31 collaborating musicians.
Cabral’s last album, Mazy Fly, came out in 2019 on Sacred Bones.
Check out our My Favorite Album interview with Cabral.
8. Nite Jewel: “This Time”
On Thursday, Nite Jewel (aka Ramona Gonzales) announced a new album, No Sun, and shared its first single, “This Time,” via a video for it. No Sun is due out August 27 via Gloriette. Anna Stypko directed the “This Time” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
No Sun is the follow-up to 2017’s Liquid Cool. In 2018 Gonzales’ 12-year marriage fell apart. In the same period she began her PhD in Musicology at UCLA, where she researched “women’s musical lament practices,” which informed No Sun.
A press release explains in more detail: “Dating back to ancient Greece, the lament has utilized female voices as a vehicle for expressing communal and personal grief. In her research, Gonzalez considers this tradition within the context of contemporary pop divas, asking the question ‘What does it mean to be a professional mourner?’ or to be a woman hired as an emotional vessel for a historically male composer? Gonzalez’s research considers the creative power of such singers, arguing that while often seen as visceral performers alone, these women are agents in their own right.”
The guitar part at the end of “This Time” is said to be “a deconstructed ode to Prince.”
9. Helado Negro: “Gemini and Leo”
On Monday, Helado Negro (Miami-born, New York-based artist Roberto Carlos Lange) announced a new album, Far In, and shared its first single, “Gemini and Leo,” via a video for it. Far In is due out October 22 via 4AD, his first album for the label. Jacob Escobedo directed the animated “Gemini and Leo” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Far In is his seventh album and the follow-up to 2019’s This Is How You Smile and 2016’s Private Energy. “Gemini and Leo” features Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak and Flock of Dimes on bass.
“Escape is never out there, you have to go inward,” Negro simply says about the album in a press release.
10. Dave Okumu: “RTN”
On Thursday, Dave Okumu, singer/guitarist with London three-piece The Invisible, announced his debut solo album, Knopperz, and shared its first single, “RTN.” Knopperz is an instrumental album that combines hip-hop, jazz, and experimental electronic music and is a partial homage to J Dilla’s Donuts. Knopperz is due out September 24 via Transgressive. Check out the album’s cover art here.
The Invisible’s self-titled debut album was nominated for The Mercury Prize in 2009 and Okumu produced and sang on Jessie Ware’s acclaimed debut album. Since then he’s also worked with Arlo Parks, Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien, St Vincent, Tony Allen, Grace Jones, David Lynch, and Adele. Knopperz uses elements of pianist Duval Timothy’s 2017 album, Sen Am (Timothy and Okumu are friends).
“This song was constructed from, and in response to Duval’s piece entitled ‘Return,’” explains Okumu in a press release. “At the beginning, you hear a sample of Duval’s piano from the original recording which then merges into a new sonic landscape. Somehow this is what Duval’s piece represented to me—a relocation, a spiritual pilgrimage, finding oneself and taking hold in alternate soil. This type of journey is never easy and is usually characterized by twists and turns, I wanted the piece to reflect that feeling.”
The last album by The Invisible (which also features Tom Herbert and Leo Taylor) was 2016’s Patience.
These songs almost made the Top 10.
Damon Albarn: “The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows”
Lucy Dacus: “Triple Dog Day”
Ellis: “hell” (Feat. Chastity)
Nicolas Godin: “Love Theme” (Feat. Kadjha Bonet)
Gone to Color: “Voyeur Nation” (Feat. Carson Cox of Merchandise)
SPELLLING: “Magic Act”
Faye Webster: “A Dream With a Baseball Player”
Wye Oak: “Its Way With Me”
Other notable new tracks in the last week include:
Absolutely Free: “How to Paint Clouds”
Devendra Banhart & Noah Georgeson: “In a Cistern” and “Into Clouds”
CHVRCHES: “How Not to Drown (Robert Smith Remix)” (Feat. Robert Smith)
Foxing: “If I Believed In Love”
Half Waif: “Horse Racing”
Hater: “Bad Luck”
Journey: “The Way We Used to Be”
Khruangbin: “Pelota (Cut a Rug Mix) (Quantic Remix)”
Ada Lea: “hurt”
Quicksand: “Missile Command”
Swim School: “Anyway”
Unknown Mortal Orchestra: “Weekend Run”