Jul 16, 2021
By Mark Redfern
Welcome to the 27th Songs of the Week of 2021. There wasn’t an onslaught of amazing new songs this week, but we liked enough to come up with a solid Top 10.
We also posted the latest episode of the Under the Radar podcast, featuring an in-depth interview with Lucy Dacus.
In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums.
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. TORRES: “Thirstier”
TORRES (aka MacKenzie Scott) is releasing a new album, Thirstier, on July 30 via Merge. On Wednesday she shared its third single, “Thirstier,” via a video for it. “The more of you I drink/the thirstier I get,” Scott sings on the song. The video features Scott at a beach.
Previously Scott shared the album’s first single, “Don’t Go Puttin Wishes in My Head,” via a video for it. It was one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared its second single, “Hug From a Dinosaur,” via a video for it.
Thirstier is the follow-up to 2020’s Silver Tongue, which was her first album for Merge following a one-album stint on 4AD with Three Futures. Thirstier was recorded in the fall of 2020 at Middle Farm Studios in the UK and Scott co-produced the album with Rob Ellis and Peter Miles (she self-produced Silver Tongue). A press release says the album “marks a turn towards a bigger, more bombastic sound for TORRES. The anxious hush that fell over much of Scott’s previous music gets turned inside-out in songs tailored for post-plague celebration.” The press release also compares the production to that by Butch Vig on ’90s albums by Nirvana and Garbage.
“I wanted to channel my intensity into something that felt positive and constructive, as opposed to being intense in a destructive or eviscerating way,” Scott says in the press release. “I love the idea that intensity can actually be something life-saving or something joyous.”
Scott indicates that she’s in a good place in her life right now and that the album stems from that. “I’ve been conjuring this deep, deep joy that I honestly didn’t feel for most of my life,” she says. “I feel like a rock within myself. And I’ve started to feel that I have what it takes to help other people conjure their joy, too.”
Read our 2020 interview with TORRES on Silver Tongue.
Read our 2017 interview with TORRES on Three Futures.
Read our 2015 interview with TORRES on Sprinter.
2. W.H. Lung: “Showstopper” (Feat. softlizard)
Manchester, England-based dance-rock band W.H. Lung are releasing a new album, Vanities, on September 3 via Melodic. On Wednesday they shared its second single, the highly danceable “Showstopper,” which features softlizard and was shared via a video. Eve Louisa directed the video.
The band collectively had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Showstopper’ is about The Fear. It’s the day after the night before when you’ve let it all go or let yourself go large or let yourself get vulnerable, thinking, ‘Ah no what happened last night? What did I say?’ And yet the song does contain testimony of the beauty and transformation that can be found in a very good night out. Softlizard’s verse is saying, alright stop thinking so much, get up and dance.”
Vanities is the band’s sophomore album, the follow-up to 2019’s Incidental Music. W.H. Lung’s main songwriters are Tom Sharkett and Joe Evans.
In a press release, Sharkett says that their hometown is integral to their sound. “Manchester is a very important part of this record,” he says. “The White Hotel, nights like Wet Play, seeing Gerd Janson DJ at the End of Year Riot (Electric Chair) and then discovering all the amazing stuff on his label Running Back. Then when we moved to Todmorden it was the same. Seeing Andrew Weatherall down the road from our flat at The Golden Lion—it just felt like an exciting time for us and I wanted to consume as much new music as possible.”
Evans says that the dancefloor is also an important component of the new album. “Vanities is a musical representation of what Tom and I crave the most now that it’s been taken away from us,” he says. “In simple terms, we love to dance and have both fallen deeper in love with the music that facilitates that. Because of this voracious appetite for new music and the experiences that come with that hunger, influences on the album are vast: the aforementioned Weatherall, Robyn, Todd Terje, Grauzone, Kelly Lee Owens, Helena Hauff and countless others.”
3. Mega Bog: “Maybe You Died”
Mega Bog (aka Erin Birgy) is releasing a new album, Life, and Another, on July 23 via Paradise of Bachelors. On Wednesday she shared the album’s fourth single, the atmospheric “Maybe You Died,” via a self-directed VHS-shot video for it.
“This song was an exercise in presence, looking around,” says Birgy in a press release. “What do I see and feel? What I see and feel are influenced by everything I’ve experienced up until that point, making that point irrelevant as an individual, meaning my present is less about time and external, but more about accepting my perspective, the narrative that got me here, images or situations, triggers that hold you from moving forward or rushing past without reckoning, and learning to care for pains that are part of you.”
Previously Mega Bog shared the album’s first single, “Station to Station” (not a David Bowie cover) via a video for it. “Station to Station” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared the album’s second single, “Weight of the Earth, on Paper,” via a video for the song (which also landed on our Songs of the Week list). She then shared another song from the album, “Crumb Back.”
Life, and Another is the follow-up to 2019’s Dolphine. The album features instrumental collaborations with Aaron Otheim, Zach Burba of iji, Will Segerstrom, Matt Bachmann, Andrew Dorset of Lake, James Krivchenia of Big Thief (who co-produced the album), Meg Duffy of Hand Habits, Jade Tcimpidis, Alex Liebman, and co-engineers Geoff Treager and Phil Hartunian. It was recorded in various studios: the Unknown in Anacortes, Washington, Way Out in Woodinville, Washington, and Tropico Beauty in Glendale, California.
A previous press release described the album like so: “Life, and Another stages a semi-fictionalized drama in the interior self, with scenes of collective longing at the bowling alley, disputes over a distended memory outside the bar, and solitary circling on the patio, looking out over the yard in stubborn awe. These memories, from both past and future, bubble up throughout the album and present their characters as new entries into the Mega Bog Book of Symbols. In ‘Station to Station,’ an artichoke, the decadent indulgence young Erin learned to steam for herself, is gutted around the spine.”
4. Soccer Mommy: “rom com 2004”
On Thursday Nashville-based artist Sophie Allison (aka Soccer Mommy) shared a brand new song, “rom com 2004,” via an animated video for it. BJ Burton (Charli XCX, Bon Iver, Chance The Rapper, Miley Cyrus) produced the song, which has a bit more of a pop vibe in some parts, but elsewhere has a distorted sound similar to Low’s Double Negative (which Burton also produced). Fustic Studio produced the video game looking music video.
Allison had this to say about “rom com 2004” in a press release: “I wrote this song a while back and made a poppy demo for it. Then I told BJ to destroy it.”
Soccer Mommy’s last album, color theory, was released in February 2020 via Loma Vista, just before the pandemic hit, so she didn’t really get a chance to tour the album (although she did open a Bernie Sanders rally). To keep busy during quarantine, Soccer Mommy released a deluxe binder version of color theory, joined forced with artists like Jay Som, Beabadoobee, and MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden in a Soccer Mommy & Friends Single Series in order to raise money for National Bail Out & Oxfam’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, as well as held a digital concert on the online gaming platform Club Penguin Rewritten.
5. HARD FEELINGS: “Dangerous”
This week HARD FEELINGS, which is the new project of New York City based singer/songwriter Amy Douglas and British producer Joe Goddard of Hot Chip, announced their self-titled debut album and shared a new single from it, “Dangerous,” via a Katie Paul-directed video for it. HARD FEELINGS is described as “an opera of sad bangers” and is due out November 5 via Domino. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
My eight-year-old daughter Rose is a huge Jessie Ware fan and has asked me twice this week if “Dangerous” is a new Ware song, and really it wouldn’t sound that out of place on her last album.
Douglas had this to say in a press release: “‘Dangerous’ is aptly named; slinky, sexy and drenched in hip-hop goodness. Of all of the tracks on this LP, this is one where Joe and I worked backwards, usually our mode d’emploi is that I write melody and lyrics to his incredible productions. Here is an old, resurrected song of mine, that I brought into the mix and Joe’s incredible bass heavy, dag-nasty production makes the whole song anew! It also showed Joe and I that there really is absolutely no method by which we can’t seemingly and quickly come up with these bangers. We write by telepathy!”
After hearing Douglas’ work with writing Róisín Murphy’s single “Something More,” Goddard reached out to her over Twitter in which he asked: “Amy, can we make a thing?”
Goddard released a solo album, Electric Lines, in 2017 on his own Greco-Roman label, via Domino. Hot Chip meanwhile released a new album, A Bath Full of Ecstasy, in June 2019 via Domino (stream it here and read our positive review of the album here).
6. Wye Oak: “Electricty”
On Tuesday Wye Oak (Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack) announced Civilian + Cut All the Wires: 2009–2011, a new 10th anniversary reissue of their 2011 album Civilian plus a 12-song collection of rare and unreleased songs from the era. They have also shared one of those bonus tracks, the previously unreleased “Electricity,” which was recorded but never mixed (until now). Check out the bonus album’s tracklist and the reissue’s cover art here. Leave it to Wye Oak to put out a decade old song they originally threw away and still have it land on our Songs of the Week list. “Electricity” is a bit rawer than their current, but still great, more polished sound.
Stack had this to say in a press release: “After playing ‘Electricity’ in live shows for a year or so around 2009, we made a studio recording but never mixed it, and ultimately decided to shelve the song. And so, it was relegated to the dustbin of time, AKA an old hard drive which I did not unearth until 2020 when I came looking for old photos and other memorabilia from the Civilian era. On my old drive, I found a treasure trove of material which we had both forgotten ever existed—original demos, live versions of the songs, and, most exciting, a bunch of fully realized studio recordings from this era which never saw the light of day. On ‘Electricity,’ I was really bashing the drums in a way that I never would now, and I hear that same abandon in Jenn’s singing. The recording has much of what defined the first phase of Wye Oak: an urgent push and pull between chaos and beauty, and a hard-hitting attempt to push out as much sound as we possibly could from our duo setup. It’s not who we are anymore, but I still relate to the old feeling, and I still get goosebumps when I listen to these recordings. Everything old is new.”
Last month Wye Oak shared a brand new song not connected to the reissue, “Its Way With Me,” via a video for the track, which just ended up on former President Barak Obama’s summer playlist. In May the band released another new song, “TNT,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.
While Wye Oak released their last album, The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs, back in April 2018 via Merge, they have still been quite busy in last three years. Wye Oak released a new EP, No Horizon, in July 2020 via Merge. Stream it here and read our review of it here. The entire EP featured the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Previously the band has shared three songs from the EP: “AEIO” was our #1 Song of the Week, “No Place” (which also made our Songs of the Week list), and “Spitting Image.” When it was released, the EP’s “Sky Witness” also made our Songs of the Week list.
In June 2020 Wasner surprise-released Like So Much Desire, a new EP with her Flock of Dimes solo project. It was her first release for Sub Pop and the title track made our Songs of the Week list. Then Flock of Dimes released a new album, Head of Roses, in April via Sub Pop. Stream it here, read our review of it here, and read our recent The End interview with Wasner about endings and death here. Previously shared songs from Head of Roses are “Two” (which was one of our Songs of the Week), “Price of Blue” (which was also one of our Songs of the Week), “Hard Way” (which was also featured as one of our Songs of the Week), and “One More Hour.”
7. Morly: “Wasted”
Minneapolis-born, London-based singer/songwriter Morly (aka Katy Morley) is releasing her debut full-length album, ‘Til I Start Speaking, on August 20 via Cascine and Sweet Entertainment. This week she shared its latest single, “Wasted.” The lush song is augmented by a backing choir.
Morly wrote the song with her friend Marcus Foster “as they found themselves at a piano together for a day in Los Angeles,” according to a press release. Morly adds: “It’s one of those songs that felt like it was already written.”
‘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, Morly 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.
8. The Joy Formidable: “Chimes”
Welsh rockers The Joy Formidable are releasing a new album, Into the Blue, on August 20 via Enci Records. On Tuesday they shared a new single from it, “Chimes,” via a self-directed video featuring lead singer and guitarist Ritzy Bryan performing along to the song in a barn, along with an animated bird.
Bryan had this to say in a press release: “We filmed the video in a beautiful, old barn in Southern Utah that shared a pen with the animals next door. ‘I wonder if they enjoyed the show?!’ When the sun started falling at dusk these beautiful patterns of light beamed through the cracks in the wood. Nature’s lightshow at it’s finest. There’s a tiny homage to Snow White with the animated bird. It represents a real life moment that happened to me last year that felt symbolic of someone I’d lost; not just a visit from a little bird but a message that everything was going to be okay and to live life to the fullest.”
Enci Records is the U.S. label for the album, but in Europe it’s out on Full Time Hobby and it’s on Soundly Distro in the rest of the world.
Into the Blue follows the band’s 2018 album, AAARTH. The album was written in North Wales, but recorded in the band’s current home of Utah.
A previous press release said the album is “about opening your eyes to beauty and love again.”
Bryan added: “Whilst not conceived as a metaphor for the times we all live in now, it certainly turned out that way.”
The band also features Rhydian Dafydd and Matt Thomas.
9. Shannon Lay: “Awaken and Allow” and “Geist”
This week Shannon Lay announced a new album, Geist, and shared two songs from it, “Awaken and Allow” and title track “Geist,” via a joint Kai Macknight-directed video. Since the two songs were shared in one video and flow into each other, we are cheating and including them in one entry.
Geist is due out October 8 via Sub Pop. It includes “Rare to Awake,” a new song Lay shared in May.
Lay had this to say about the new songs in a press release: “‘Awaken and Allow’ is a prayer and a promise. A quiet moment to reflect on transformation and what it means to me. California represents my comfort zone and in this song, I am urging myself and everyone listening to move out of their comfort zone in order to push ourselves to grow and evolve. We are all in a constant state of change and the way we can learn to move and flow with that change completely elevates our experience with it. The most amazing thing we can do for ourselves is recognize where and how we are standing in our own way and move aside. ‘Awaken and Allow’ your greatness to emerge.
“‘Geist’ is a testament to the power we all have within. We are so much more amazing than we know ourselves to be. With this video, I really wanted to acknowledge some of the incredible people who make shows possible. We filmed at Zebulon in Los Angeles; a venue that has brought so much to the community here and I am so happy they have survived this uncertain time. There is so much going on behind the scenes to create the amazing memories we all have of live music and every part of that took a hit with the pandemic. With all we have been through it has been awe-inspiring to see the strength of the human spirit. Let us move forward with kindness and love toward ourselves and others. Let us see the beauty and wonder in the lives we get to live and appreciate every moment of it.”
The initial vocals and guitar for the album were recorded by Lay at Jarvis Tavinere of Woods’s studio. Then various others worked on the songs from there: multi-instrumentalists Ben Boye (Bonnie Prince Billy, Ty Segall) in Los Angeles and Devin Hoff (Sharon Van Etten, Cibo Matto) in New York, Sofia Arreguin (Wand) and Aaron Otheim (Heatwarmer, Mega Bog) added additional keys, and then Ty Segall did a guitar solo on “Shores.”
10. Hovvdy: “True Love”
This week Austin, TX duo Hovvdy (Charlie Martin and Will Taylor) announced a new album, True Love, and shared its first single, its title track, via a video for it. True Love is due out October 1 via Grand Jury, their first album for the label. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as their upcoming tour dates, here.
Andrew Sarlo (Bon Iver, Big Thief) produced True Love, which was recorded at his studio in Los Angeles throughout 2020. The band’s last album was 2019’s Heavy Lifter.
Martin had this to say about the new single in a press release: “For each Hovvdy record there’s always been a song that kinda shocks my system, kinda jolts me into a brand new and inspired place. This was definitely that song for me. I remember writing it and feeling a rush of excitement—crying a lot honestly. It feels so good to express love and appreciation when you really fucking mean it. But it’s hard to feel worthy of love, of something so rare, and all we can do is try to measure up—that’s what that last part is all about.”
The duo collectively had this to say about the album: “This collection of songs feels to us like a return to form, writing and recording songs for ourselves and loved ones. Spending less energy consumed with how people may respond freed us up to put our efforts into creating an honest, heartfelt album that spans a range of sonic landscapes, yet feels like a singular breath.”
These songs almost made the Top 10.
Billy Bragg: “I Will Be Your Shield”
CHVRCHES: “Good Girls”
HAIM: “Cherry Flavored Stomach Ache”
Lala Lala: “DIVER”
Pip Blom: “It Should Have Been Fun”
Yves Tumor: “Crushed Velvet” and “Secrecy is Incredibly Important to the Both of Them”
Tycho & Benjamin Gibbard: “Only Love”
Other notable new tracks in the last week include:
BADBADNOTGOOD: “Signal From the Noise”
Shirley Collins: “My Sailor Boy”
Foxing: “Draw Down the Moon”
Future Islands: “For Sure (Washed Out Remix),” “Thrill (COMPUTER DATA),” and “Hit The Coast (Smallboy Remix)”
Gang of Youths: “Asleep in the Back” (Elbow Cover) and “Unison”
Lingua Ignota: “Perpetual Flame of Centralia”
Lone: “Hidden By Horizons” (Feat. Morgane Diet)
Manic Street Preachers: “The Secret He Had Missed” (Feat. Julia Cumming)
Caroline Polachek: “Bunny is a Rider”
POP. 1280: “Noncompliant”
Xenia Rubinos: “Working All the Time”
Supergrass: “It’s Not You (Early Version)”
Hana Vu: “Maker”