Jul 02, 2021
By Mark Redfern (with Caleb Campbell)
Welcome to the 25th Songs of the Week of 2021. This week we were feeling a bit indecisive and couldn’t really narrow it down to a Top 10, so we went with a Top 12 instead.
In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by 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 12 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. LUMP: “We Cannot Resist”
LUMP (aka Laura Marling and Tunng’s Mike Lindsay) are releasing a new album, Animal, on July 30 via Partisan/Chrysalis. On Tuesday, they shared the album’s third single, “We Cannot Resist,” which features pristine production. It was shared via a video featuring the band’s big colorful LUMP creature wandering a snowy forest and an equally snowy London. Marling and Lindsay also feature in the video, which was directed by Christian Cargill.
In a press release Lindsay had this to say about the song: “It wants to be this massive pop track, but it’s been twisted. I like that when the chorus comes in you’re like ‘Wow!’ It’s this huge pop chorus, but then it becomes really creepy with the whispered ‘We cannot resist.’”
Marling adds: “This is another one about hedonism. But it was tricky because it’s such American imagery. I remember we had to stop and start and redo quite a lot of the lyrical takes because saying things like ‘Down to burn rubber’ are quite awkward to say in an English accent.”
Previously LUMP shared a video for the album’s title track, “Animal.” “Animal” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then they shared the album’s second single, “Climb Every Wall,” via a playful video for it (the song also made our Songs of the Week list).
Animal follows the band’s self-titled debut album, LUMP, which came out in 2018 via Dead Oceans.
“LUMP is so the repository for so many things that I’ve had in my mind and just don’t fit anywhere in that way,” said Marling in a previous press release. “They don’t have to totally make narrative sense, but weirdly they end up making narrative sense in some way.”
Marling’s last album, the acclaimed Song For Our Daughter, came out last year via Partisan/Chrysalis. Tunng also released a new album, DEAD CLUB, last year via Full Time Hobby. Marling was working on both Song For Our Daughter and the LUMP album at the same time.
“It became a very different thing about escaping a persona that has become a burden to me in some way. It was like putting on a superhero costume,” she said, adding that sometimes it feels as if she might be “edging Laura Marling off a cliff as much as I can and putting LUMP in the center.”
Animal was recorded at Lindsay’s home studio in Margate, Kent. A big feature of the sessions was his Eventide H949 Harmonizer, which is the same pitch-shifter David Bowie used on Low. In order to make sure her lyrics were more spontaneous, Marling would show up at the studio without hearing Lindsay’s music ahead of time.
“There’s a little bit of a theme of hedonism on the album, of desires running wild,” said Lindsay. “We created LUMP as a sort of persona and an idea and a creature. Through LUMP we find our inner animal, and through that animal we travel into a parallel universe.”
Marling and Lindsay met when Marling supported Neil Young at a London show in June 2016 and they discovered that they were mutual fans of each other’s work. The collaboration grew from there.
2. Villagers: “So Simpatico”
Villagers (aka Irish musician Conor O’Brien) is releasing a new album, Fever Dreams, on August 20 via Domino. On Thursday he shared the album’s second single, the seven-minute “So Simpatico,” via a video for it. The lush song suddenly and briefly turns into almost a Kamasi Washington number, thanks to a three-minute saxaphone solo from Ben Castle, and then when O’Brien’s vocals come back in there are hints of Marvin Gaye’s “Save the Children” (from What’s Going On).
Rosie Barrett directed the video, which features two competing clowns, as well as O’Brien and his band.
O’Brien had this to say about “So Simpatico” in a press release: “It’s a song of devotion; whether to a person, the self, or the art of being, a struggle for authenticity is at its core. We all jammed and recorded an early version with too many words and I took it home and simplified it until it was as pure an expression as possible. It’s a pop song about the essence of love.”
Barrett had this to add about the video: “‘So Simpatico’ is a journey of awakening and self-reflection of a sad clown finding love within himself and sparking that zest for life that was lost some time ago. Creating a visual narrative for this beautiful song was a joy as I have been long admiring Conor’s music. I had the pleasure of working with a brilliant cast and crew in the making and I am very excited to see this video out in the world.”
O’Conor had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “I had an urge to write something that was as generous to the listener as it was to myself. Sometimes the most delirious states can produce the most ecstatic, euphoric and escapist dreams.”
3. Magdalena Bay: “Chaeri”
This week Los Angeles-based electro-pop duo Magdalena Bay (aka Mica Tenenbaum and Matthew Lewin) announced their debut full-length album, Mercurial World, and shared its first single, “Chaeri,” via a video. Mercurial World is due out October 8 via Luminelle. “Chaeri” has a bit of a CHVRCHES feel to it. Check out he album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as their upcoming tour dates, here.
Mercurial World is the follow-up to 2020’s A Little Rhythm and a Wicked Feeling EP. The band wrote, produced, and recorded the album themselves.
“We spend all of our time together, and in some ways Mercurial World is about that particular sense of madness in containment,” Lewin says in a press release. “We live together and make art together; this immerses you in our creative, insular universe.”
Of the new single, the band collectively say: “‘Chaeri’ muses on mental health, friendship, loneliness and control. It’s about the walls we put up and the walls we should tear down for the sake of authentic connection, and Mica’s own personal difficulties with that…. We tried taking these themes and elevating them to build a big, dark world with unsettling undertones.”
4. Meatbodies: “Reach For the Sunn”
This week Los Angeles-based rock trio Meatbodies announced a new album, 333, and shared its first single, the bass-heavy shoegaze cut “Reach For the Sunn,” via a video for it. 333 is due out September 3 via In the Red. Josh Erkman directed the “Reach For the Sunn” video, which features buildings being demolished in reverse. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.
Meatbodies is led by Chad Ubovich, who has also performed with Fuzz and in Mikal Cronin’s backing band. After the band’s second album, 2017’s Alice, Ubovich was a bit burnt out.
“I’d been touring for eight years straight with all these bands, and just couldn’t do it anymore,” he says in a press release. “There was also a feeling in the air that everything was changing, politically. Things just didn’t feel right, and I went down a dark path.”
But eventually Ubovich found his way back to Meatbodies, alongside drummer Dylan Fujioka, and a new album was finished by late 2019. But then COVID-19 hit, putting its release on hold. In lockdown, Ubovich revisited some demos he and Fujioka had recorded in 2018 that he says “sounded gross, like a scary Magical Mystery Tour.” Enamored by the demos’ “deliriously disordered” nature, Ubovich turned those into Meatbodies’ third album instead.
5. Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth: “Living a Lie”
Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream and Jehnny Beth from Savages released a new collaborative album together, Utopian Ashes, today via Third Man (stream it here). They only released two pre-release singles from the album, so there were other album tracks we wanted to highlight. We settled on penultimate track “Living a Lie,” with “Your Heart Will Always Be Broken” an honorable mention further below.
Also, today we posted our review of the album and you can read that here.
Previously the duo shared the album’s first single, “Remember We Were Lovers,” via a video for it. “Remember We Were Lovers” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared its second single, the string-backed “Chase It Down,” via a video for it. “Chase It Down” was also one of our Songs of the Week.
As well as Gillespie and Beth, the album also features Beth’s musical partner Johnny Hostile (bass) alongside three members of Primal Scream—Andrew Innes (guitar), Martin Duffy (piano), and Darrin Mooney (drums).
Utopian Ashes is a concept record of sorts that chronicles the collapse of a marriage. A press release compares the album to country-soul classics such as Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris’ Grievous Angel and George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s We Go Together.
“In the same way you create characters for a novel, we’ve created characters here,” says Beth in the press release. “But you put yourself in it, because you’re trying to understand the human situation. The singing has to be authentic. That’s all that matters.”
“When you write a song you marry the personal with the fictional and make art,” adds Gillespie. “I was thinking about two people living alone, together but apart, existing and suffering in a psychic malaise, who plough on because of responsibilities and commitments. It’s about the impermanence of everything—an existential fact that everyone has to face at some point in their lives.”
It was in 2015 when they were both invited to get up on stage with Suicide at the Barbican in London that the duo first met. In 2016 Beth joined Primal Scream on stage for a duet of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood’s “Some Velvet Morning” (a Primal Scream staple). Sessions for the album happened in Paris in 2017.
Summing up his intentions with Utopian Ashes Gillespie says: “I wanted to put pain back into music. I wasn’t hearing a lot of it in modern rock music.”
Beth released her debut solo album, To Love Is to Live, last year via Caroline.
Read our 2020 interview with Beth on To Love Is to Live.
Primal Scream’s most recent album, Chaosmosis, was released back in 2016 via the band’s own label, First International.
Read our 2016 interview with Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie on Chaosmosis.
Also read our 2013 interview with Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie on More Light.
6. Ade & Connan Mockasin: “The Wolf”
On Thursday New Zealand’s Connan Mockasin announced a new album made in collaboration with his near 72-year-old father, Ade, entitled It’s Just Wind, and shared its first single, “The Wolf,” which is inspired by the fairytale character the Big Bad Wolf. A psychic told Connan to make the album and it was recorded in the aftermath of Ade flatlining for 40 minutes after a cardiac arrest. It’s Just Wind is due out July 14 (which is Ade’s 72nd birthday) via Mexican Summer. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
A psychic told Connan that a project with his father had to be “made a priority, or you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.” After Ade’s near-death experience the duo went from Te Awanga, New Zealand to Mexican Summer’s Marfa Myths festival in Marfa, Texas to record the album, armed with Ade’s notebook of song ideas and various other musicians—John Carroll Kirby, Matthew Eccles, Nicholas Harsant, and Rory McCarthy (aka Infinite Bisous). The band improvised somewhat in the studio, with Ade reciting his lyrics over the jams. Ade says he “had a lot of nasty drugs pumped through me, my doctor at the time said it’d cooked the brain a bit,” so he was a bit out of it at the time. The album was mainly recorded in one day.
A press release compares It’s Just Wind to a couple of classics: “There’s a quality of bittersweet self-reflection redolent of Bowie’s Blackstar or Cash’s American IV as an old man, from a point of slight detachment, surveys his life like a landscape.”
Connan Mockasin’s last album was 2018’s Jassbusters, which has an accompanying film, Bostyn ’n Dobsyn. That album was the follow-up to 2013’s Caramel, although in 2013 Mockasin teamed up with England’s Sam Dust (who records as LA Priest and is the former frontman of Late of the Pier) to form Soft Hair.
7. POND: “Toast”
Australian psych-rock band POND are releasing their ninth studio album, fittingly titled 9, on October 1 via Spinning Top/Secretly Distribution. On Wednesday they shared its second single, “Toast,” via a video.
According to a press release, “Toast” is about “last year’s bush fires in Australia and the appalling wealth divide in frontman Nick Allbrook’s childhood home in Western Australia.”
Allbrook elaborates: “The intro chords came from a Joe Ryan demo mysteriously titled ‘Toast.’ I’ve never asked Joe why he landed on that name, and I probably never will, but it pointed toward the image of fat-headed gobblers touching flutes of bubbles, watching the End of Days gallop over the horizon. I often wonder about those people—the money hoarders, climate change deniers, earth-pilferers, and adventure capitalists—are they nihilists or anarchists or do they really believe they are to be saved by some Rock Opera Jesus? We may never know, but here is ‘Toast,’ which is hopefully as smooth as the smooth, smooth sailing of our glorious leaders fat old white lives.”
The band co-directed the video with Alex Haygarth. The band’s Jay Watson had this to say about it in the press release: “We filmed the clip on a green screen in an abandoned garden centre in one continuous take. It cost us $300 to make (the price of four takes worth of champagne). I ate five fried eggs over the course of it. Another instalment in a long series of homemade Pond videos.”
Previously the band shared the album’s first single, “Pink Lunettes,” a new song the band shared in April via a video. “Pink Lunettes” was one of our Songs of the Week. When 9 was announced POND shared its second single, “America’s Cup,” which also made our Songs of the Week list.
POND’s last album was 2019’s Tasmania. POND produced the album, which was mixed by the band’s Jay Watson and James Ireland.
Allbrook also had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “We sort of gave ourselves permission to make something stuffed this time. We’d settled into a pretty tight routine with the last few albums and wanted to shake a boat with this so we started off with filling a few tape reels with some absolutely heinous improvised sonic babble which, after much sifting, became the first few songs of the album. We also wanted to up the tempo. The last few albums have a neat little mantra or repetitive theme. If I was forced to find something like that in 9, I guess it would be ‘biography’ or ‘observation’—a lot of the lyrics seem to focus on single people’s lives, or the lives of small moments or small things when you zoom real close up and they reveal something deeper. Stuff like my cheap Chinese slippers, or a soiled teddy bear, or Agnes Martin (not to put them in the same category, although maybe Agnes would’ve appreciated it). In the Rorschach test of re-reading lyrics, one thing that sticks out is a fixation on leaving behind a time of golden optimism and uncynical abandon. We can’t look at ourselves the same anymore, and the world we’ve built provides a scary lense for viewing our past.”
8. We Were Promised Jetpacks: “Fat Chance”
On Tuesday Scotland’s We Were Promised Jetpacks announced a new album, Enjoy the View, and shared a new song from it, “Fat Chance.” They also announced some new North American tour dates. Enjoy the View is due out September 10 via Big Scary Monsters. Check out the tour dates here.
Enjoy the View is the follow-up to 2018’s The More I Sleep the Less I Dream. Since that album, they have amicably parted ways with founding member Michael Palmer, leaving them a trio featuring Adam Thompson, Sean Smith, and Darren Lackie.
Lead singer Thompson had this to say about the album and “Fat Chance” in a press release: “We started properly writing this album at the end of March 2020 when we realized that everything was going to be shut down and that touring wasn’t going to be a possibility any time soon. So from March to June we sent each other ideas remotely and collaborated that way. I was so glad to have had a project to focus on when proper lockdown hit. When we were finally able to get into our practice space in July and write together in one room like we normally do, this song appeared pretty quickly.”
He adds: “I was just messing about on guitar in our studio and got the verse chords and as soon as the other guys joined in, we had a song! We can sometimes spend weeks and months and years trying to get the right parts together but this one flowed. I finished the pre-chorus and chorus that day and sent the demo to the rest of the band and we were excited about it straight away.”
The album was written remotely during the pandemic. “Writing together this way meant we had to stay in near daily contact to talk about the songs and what we were individually and collectively trying to achieve with them,” Thompson says. “Even though we were unable to be in the same room, this way of working allowed us to continue to create together and communicate perhaps more directly and efficiently than normal. Having music to focus on during lockdown only reinforced how much we enjoy being in our band together and how important it is that we do it for as long as we can.”
Lackie adds: “Having had so much time off of touring has given us a renewed desire to get out there and play to as many people, in as many different places, as possible. We’re so appreciative of the people who listen to us; it’s because of them that we are constantly pushing ourselves to get better.”
The album also features “If It Happens,” a new song shared in April.
Also read our 2014 interview with the band or the guest blog post former guitarist Michael Palmer wrote for us in 2014 on professional wrestling.
9. Caveman: “River”
New York indie band Caveman is back in August 13 with their long-awaited fourth record, Smash (on Fortune Tellers). Named after and inspired by frontman Matthew Iwanusa’s late cousin, the band’s latest record is their first since 2016’s Otero War, though we did hear from the band in 2020 with their EP, New Sides. The record is also the band’s first LP released via Fortune Tellers, the new label from The Walkmen’s Peter Matthew Bauer.
The record sees the NYC mainstays continuing to carry the torch for indie rock, with the album’s lead singles, “Helpless” and “Like Me,” proving the band’s deft songwriting touch hasn’t dulled in the years away. Today they released a new single, “River,” premiering with Under the Radar.
“River” builds upon the band’s melding of heartland rock, indie rock, and hints of explosive psychedelia. Heady layers of guitar and towering percussion recreate the sweeping effect of the titular river, rushing through the song’s vast and spacious soundscapes. It’s a dramatic new effort from the band, showing both their contemplative and anthemic sides as it explores grief, loss, and perseverance.
Iwanusa explains of the track: “‘River’ is mostly about how you survive when you have suffered a big loss; how to look at yourself and your actions moving forward. This song is about my cousin Ashley ‘smash’ who we lost about 4 years ago. She was one of my best friends and sidekick in trouble-making all around NYC. She was one of the only people in the world who never judged me. Since she was my youngest cousin I felt like I had to protect her, but in the end, we protected each other. I miss her every day and this song coming out makes me think about the process it’s been to continue life without her and have the good memories continue to help me when I get down.” By Caleb Campbell
10. GLOK: “Maintaining the Machine” (Feat. Sinead O’Brien and Simone Marie Butler)
This week Andy Bell, founding member of ’90s British shoegaze band Ride, announced a new album under his side project GLOK, Pattern Recognition, and shared the album’s first single, “Maintaining the Machine,” which features Sinead O’Brien and Simone Marie Butler. Pattern Recognition is due out October 1 via Bytes. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Just last year, Bell released his aclaimed debut solo album, The View from Halfway Down. And since then he’s released a series of accompanying solo EPs. Whereas Ride are shoegaze legends and Bell’s solo work embraces Krautrock and other styles, GLOK is Bell’s dance music project. As Bell says in a press release: “GLOK is all about the push and pull between electronic and psych in my music.”
The View from Halfway Down came out in October of last year on Sonic Cathedral, and made it to #25 on our Top 100 Albums of 2020 list. It featured the songs “Love Comes In Waves,” “I Was Alone,” and “Skywalker,” all of which were on our Songs of the Week lists.
11. Steve Gunn: “Other You”
On Tuesday, Steve Gunn announced a new album, Other You, and shared two new songs from it, title track “Other You” (via an animated video) and “Reflection.” We preferred the former for the main Songs of the Week list, with “Reflection” an honorable mention further below.
Other You is due out August 27 via Matador. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as his upcoming tour dates, here.
Other You is the follow-up to 2019’s The Unseen In Between. Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith, Cass McCombs, Kurt Vile) produced the album, which was recorded at his Mant Studios in Los Angeles. The sessions featured longtime friend and collaborator Justin Tripp. The album also features Juliana Barwick, Mary Lattimore, Bridget St. John, Jeff Parker, Bill MacKay, Ben Bertrand, drummer Ryan Sawyer (TV On The Radio, Thurston Moore, Gang Gang Dance), and others.
Gunn had this to say in a press release: “I came up with this title when we were recording vocals and Rob was very into harmonies. There was a third part and I just couldn’t find the note. I couldn’t vocalize it. He went in and took my voice and put it into his computer program, then he could playback and ‘sing’ the note with my voice using the computer. And he said, ‘Sing to the other you.’ So I was singing along to myself singing a note I couldn’t sing.”
12. Anika: “Rights”
Berlin-based singer Anika (aka Annika Henderson) is releasing a new album, Change, which is her first in 11 years, on July 23 via the labels Sacred Bones and Invada. On Wednesday she shared its third single, “Rights,” via a video.
In a press release Anika says the song is about “turning the tables, giving power to those who normally feel disempowered. This song is about unification not division. This song is about female (/queer/non-binary/marginalized communities) empowerment—the joining of forces, not pitted against each other. This song is about wanting to escape reality but then we can never truly escape it, it will always be there to collect its dues. We can only ever achieve temporary escape. The better option is to bring whatever we want into reality.”
Anika co-directed the video with Sabrina Labis and it features Anika and Mueran Humanos’s Carmen Burguess. Anika had this to say about the video: “At the end of the video, the memory of the feelings, the knowledge that it was possible, remained, that is enough to start bringing it into our own life. We all have rights.”
Co-director Labis adds: “Making videos is my way to feel power. The power of changing perspectives, escaping conservative structures and landing on a very close and free power-planet where everything is possible. Press play, take off and enjoy.”
Change features “Finger Pies,” a new sing Anika shared in April. It was her first new song in eight years and made our Songs of the Week list. When the album was announced she shared its second single, title track “Change.”
Anika’s self-titled debut was released in 2010 on Stones Throw. Her most recent solo release was 2013’s Anika EP.
Exploded View’s Martin Thulin co-produced Change and played some live drums and bass. The album was recorded during the pandemic.
“This album had been planned for a little while and the circumstances of its inception were quite different to what had been expected,” said Anika in a previous press release. “This colored the album quite significantly. The lyrics were all written there on the spot. It’s a vomit of emotions, anxieties, empowerment, and of thoughts like—How can this go on? How can we go on?”
Anika, who is a British ex-pat and former political journalist, had this to add about the album’s title and theme: “There’s a lot of stuff I want to change. Some things I sat down and decided last year, I had to change about myself and my life. Sometimes it feels helpless because the things we want to change are so huge and out of our control. Starting with yourself is always a good place. I think we can change.”
These songs almost made the Top 12.
Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth: “Your Heart Will Always Be Broken”
Steve Gunn: “Reflection”
The Ophelias: “Neil Young On High” (Feat. Julien Baker)
Alexis Taylor: “Dying In Heaven”
Other notable new tracks in the last week include:
Big Red Machine: “The Ghost of Cincinnati,” “Latter Days” (Feat. Anaïs Mitchell), and “Renegade” (Feat. Taylor Swift)
Black Dice: “White Sugar”
The Bug: “Clash” (Feat. Logan)
Chicano Batman: “Dark Star” and “Pastel Sunrise”
Little Dragon: “Hold On (Ela Minus Remix)”
Manchester Orchestra: “Bed Head (Local Natives Remix)”
Janelle Monáe: “Stronger”
My Idea: “Stay Away Still” and “That’s My Idea”
Noun: “In the Shade”
Pendant: “Blood Rite”
Slow Pulp: “Iowa”
Spirits Having Fun: “Hold the Phone”
Woods: “Nickels and Dimes”