Jun 18, 2021
By Mark Redfern
Welcome to the 23rd Songs of the Week of 2021. It was a strong week for new songs, so we ended up with a Top 12 and some excellent honorable mentions as well. This is a very Scandinavian Songs of the Week, with artists from Denmark (two of them), Sweden, and Norway.
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 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. Tachys: “When the World Wakes Up”
Jonas Bjerre of Danish trio Mew has teamed up with childhood friend Tobias Wilner for the new project Tachys and this week they shared their debut single under that name, “When the World Wakes Up.” The song seems to be asking us what we plan to do when the pandemic truly ends and is a bit of an anthem for our times, as we slowly ease into a post-COVID world. It was shared via a video starring model Karime Bribiesca.
Tobias Wilner is a veteran of various projects, including Blue Foundation, New York United, Ghost Society, and Bichi. Bjerre and Wilner wrote, recorded, and produced “When the World Wakes Up.” Wilner mixed the song, which was mastered by Joe Lambert and is out now via KØN/Positive Elevation.
A press release says “When the World Wakes Up” is “an upbeat pop song with underlying dark tones.” It adds: “The lyrics deal with unexpected twists of fate, both on personal and global scales. With the song Tachys blends the genres of nostalgic shoegaze, synth/chillwave into uplifting dream-pop atmospheres. One can imagine the morning summer light streaming through gossamer curtains, the natural awakening of the world around us gleaming with dew droplets and just—life in general—around us, chirping birds and the feeling of being not-quite-awake but not-quite-asleep either.”
Mew’s last album was 2017’s Visuals.
Read our 2015 print magazine interview with Mew’s Jonas Bjerre. Mew performed at Under the Radar’s SXSW party in 2015. That year they also kept a SXSW diary for us, made a mixtape for us, and wrote a guest blog on a British design TV show.
2. Ora the Molecule: “The Ball”
Norway’s Ora the Molecule (aka Nora Schjelderup) is releasing her debut album, Human Safari, on July 23 via Mute. On Thursday she shared another single from it, “The Ball,” via a video that features lots of slow motion shots of her riding a horse (sometimes in reverse), as well as of her with a dog on a beach. Kristof Gerega directed the video.
“Community is so important. It’s the most important,” Schjelderup says in a press release. “But Human Safari is also criticizing when there’s a lack of community. ‘The Ball’ is about everyone wanting the same thing but there’s only one. And this ball is going so fast that it could actually kill you if it hits you the wrong way. Strong division creates friction and unhealthy competition. Community is everything, but it starts with the individual.”
Of the video, Schjelderup says: “The video was shot and directed by the Polish director/cinematographer Kristof Gerega. We met in Berlin, and shortly after he came to visit us in the mountains of Andalucia, Granada. We shot the film over a weekend in between stealing oranges from the side of the road, swimming in the Alboran Sea, running around with (the then puppy) Olive, and borrowing a horse from the husband of the lady that worked in the local grocery corner shop…. ‘The Ball’ is about the chase. We wanted to create an atmosphere of urgency at a steady pace. Something fast in slow motion. Like the speed of everyday life in contrast to the steady pace of a human lifetime. It goes slow, but fast at the same time. The horse idea was derived from my childhood memories of riding horses. I thought it could fit as the song has some influences from Western cowboy movies. Filming me on the horse was pretty crazy as it had been 10 years since I sat on a horse. I had totally forgotten about galloping. For the slow motion idea to work, the horse had to run pretty fast. I was holding on for my life!”
In February, Schjelderup shared the song “Creator” upon the album’s announcement, and it was featured on our Songs of the Week. Then she shared its next single, “Die to Be a Butterfly,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. The album also features previous single “Sugar.”
3. Wet Leg: “Chaise Longue”
On Tuesday new British duo Wet Leg shared a new song, “Chaise Longue,” via a self-directed video for it. The band have also announced that they have signed to Domino and the song is being described as their debut single. Check out the band’s upcoming UK tour dates here.
Wet Leg’s Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers are based in the Isle of Wight. A press release cites their love of French disco, The Ronettes, Jane Birkin, Ty Segall, and Björk, but “Chaise Longue” sits nicely next to the post-punk sounds of fellow Brits Dry Cleaning and Sorry. Jon McMullen produced the song, which was mixed by Alan Moulder (Arctic Monkeys, Beach House, Foals).
4. Indigo De Souza: “Kill Me”
On Tuesday, North Carolina singer/songwriter Indigo De Souza announced a new album, Any Shape You Take, and shared its first single, “Kill Me,” via a video for it. Any Shape You Take is due out August 27 via Saddle Creek. Jordan Alexander directed the “Kill Me” video, which, according to a press release, was “inspired by the cake sitting culture originated by multimedia artist, performer and cam girl, Lindsay Dye.” Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as her upcoming tour dates, here.
De Souza had this to say about “Kill Me” in a press release: “I wrote ‘Kill Me’ sometime in 2018 when I was really tired and fucked up in a lot of ways. I was deeply consumed in a big crazy love and coming to terms with the reality of living with mental illness. I recorded myself stream-of-conscious singing it on the kitchen floor at night with my laptop cam. I found the video about a year later, and could barely recognize the person singing. It was such a strange feeling watching the video because I couldn’t remember writing the song, but little bits and pieces of it felt familiar to me. It felt like it had been a lot longer than a year.”
Alexander had this to say about the “Kill Me” video: “We wanted to make a film about performance and stage an event that would get the crew and actors going. Cake sitting is this wonderful art form, rampant with metaphors of creation and destruction, engaging in equal parts with desire and disgust. It lends itself to the song and Indigo came over to test it out and was way better at it than I am.”
Any Shape You Take is the follow-up to her 2018 debut, I Love My Mom, which was self-released and recently reissued by Saddle Creek. De Souza co-produced the new album with Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Waxahatchee).
5. Mega Bog: “Weight of the Earth, on Paper”
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 second single, “Weight of the Earth, on Paper,” via a video for it.
Birgy co-directed the video, which features Big Thief’s James Krivchenia and Adrianne Lenker, among others.
“The video for ‘Weight of the Earth, on Paper’ came out more pure Mega Bog than I even expected,” says Birgy in a press release. “We are a community of deep friends and collaborators, who move through the world as scrappy little archeologists who love to play dress up. I’m so thrilled to have the friends I have show up and trust me over and over again, and I’ll always be there to do the same.”
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.”
6. Water From Your Eyes: “When You’re Around”
New York-based duo Water From Your Eyes are releasing a new album, Structure, on August 27 via Wharf Cat, their first album for the label. This week they shared its second single, the dreamy horn-backed love song “When You’re Around,” which references the band’s name in the lyrics and has a Beach Boys vibe. It’s the opening song to Structure.
Water From Your Eyes is Nate Amos and Rachel Brown. Amos had this to say about the new song in a press release: “‘When You’re Around’ is the first ‘movie’ song on Structure. It was written for a karaoke scene that never came to fruition (I probably would’ve written something else if it had because I like this song too much). It was initially supposed to be a straight-forward love song but it gradually twisted and developed a weird sea-sick core. I was really obsessed with the album Climate of Hunter by Scott Walker (still am) and I think that had a lot to do with it. Light on the outside, spooky on the inside. It serves as sort of separate but thematically related scene to set the tone for the rest of the album.”
Structure is influenced by Scott Walker’s Climate of Hunter and the works of painter Mark Rothko. A previous press release said that “it’s a concept album that pokes fun of the idea of concept albums, exploring high-minded ideas while subverting them and applying a hyper-focused eye for detail in the service of a series of clever misdirections.”
The duo’s last album was 2019’s Somebody Else’s Song.
7. koleżanka: “In a Meeting”
Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist, and producer koleżanka (aka Kristina Moore) is releasing a new album, Place Is, on July 30 via Bar/None, her debut for the label. On Wednesday she shared another song from it, “In a Meeting,” via a video for it. Moore co-directed the video with Mike Fuller. It involves an unsettling night out at a bar and doppelgängers.
“‘In a Meeting’ is basically about social anxiety and how it operates like internal dialogue, imploring you to just go home instead of staying out in hopes things will feel ‘normal,’” explains Moore in a press release. “I want to feel close to people or allow myself to feel comfortable but I am often obstructed by being generally terrified and overwhelmed by even the simplest of interactions. I wanted to create a horror narrative in which the anxiety manifests itself into a doppelgänger that follows me to a bar and taunts me with my own desires of social ease and freedom. In addition, I wanted to convey the vulnerability of small rituals one has (ie standing in the shower, an outfit check, etc) before leaving their personal space to help them feel ready and confident, as well as the way anxiety creates an alternate world that everyone around you seems to be in on when often times most people are feeling just as weird as you and wondering if everyone else can see it.”
Moore was born in Phoenix. The project also features percussionist/multi-instrumentalist Ark Calkins.
8. Piroshka: “V.O.”
Piroshka are releasing their second studio album, Love Drips and Gathers, on July 23 via Bella Union. This week they shared the album’s second single, “V.O.,” via an intriguing video for it. The song is a tribute to the late Vaughan Oliver, who was 4AD’s in-house designer and responsible for many iconic album covers for the label, including ones by Lush, the former band of Piroshka singer Miki Berenyi. Connor Kinsey directed the video.
Berenyi had this to say about the song in a press release: “I wrote this originally as an instrumental but the rest of the band convinced me to put a vocal on it. The lyrics are snapshot snippets of Vaughan Oliver’s funeral in January 2020—lines from the speeches, fleeting impressions of the day. I’m getting to the age where the people I grew up with are dying and I find funerals a comfort in the sadness, formal but emotional, a celebration of a life, a space for the living to reconnect.”
Connor Kinsey had this to add about the video: “We wanted to put this ominous-being center frame and allow the viewer to reflect on fear and loss whilst also embracing hope and futurity through its life experiences. Giving the subject no recognizable features meant that it’s emotional journey through the different timelines felt more relatable to a wider audience.”
Piroshka features members of various iconic British acts. The band is fronted by former Lush singer Miki Berenyi (vocals/guitar) and also includes former Moose guitarist KJ “Moose” McKillop, Modern English bassist Mick Conroy, and former Elastica drummer Justin Welch.
The band’s first album, Brickbat, came out in 2019 on Bella Union.
Berenyi had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “If Brickbat was our Britpop album, then Love Drips and Gathers is shoegaze! It wasn’t intentional; we just wanted a different focus. I’ve always seen debut albums as capturing a band’s first moments, when you really have momentum, and then the second album is the chance for a more thoughtful approach.”
Conroy added: “Brickbat was a classic first album; noisy and raucous. On Love Drips and Gathers, we’ve calmed down and explored sounds, and space.”
9. Modest Mouse: “The Sun Hasn’t Left”
Modest Mouse are releasing a new album, The Golden Casket, on June 25 via Epic. This week they shared the album’s third single, “The Sun Hasn’t Left.” Frontman Isaac Brock seems to be encouraging us to put down our phones and get outside. “Friendships are just a chain of texts, there’s much more than this,” he sings, later adding: “Well there’s more to life than online dating sites or hell you pick the vice, I know that’s not concise.”
The Golden Casket is Modest Mouse’s first full-length in six years. Previously the band shared the album’s first single, “We Are Between,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared the album’s second single, “Leave a Light On,” and announced some U.S. tour dates for the summer and fall. “Leave a Light On” was also one of our Songs of the Week. That was followed by a video for “We Are Between.”
The band’s last album was 2015’s Strangers to Ourselves. Although in 2019 Modest Mouse released a great new song, “Ice Cream Party,” which was one of our Songs of the Week and sadly isn’t on the new album.
Dave Sardy and Jacknife Lee produced The Golden Casket, which was recorded in Los Angeles and in Modest Mouse’s studio in Portland.
A previous press release described The Golden Casket like so: “The album hovers in the liminal space between raw punk power and experimental studio science, frontman Isaac Brock explores themes ranging from the degradation of our psychic landscapes and invisible technology, to fatherhood. The twelve tracks behave like amorphous organisms, undergoing dramatic mutations and mood swings that speak to the chronic tug-of-war between hope and despair that plays out in Brock’s head.”
10. Efterklang: “Living Other Lives”
This week Danish trio Efterklang announced a new album, Wildflowers, and shared its first single, “Living Other Lives,” via a video for it. “Living Other Lives” has a Talk Talk vibe. Wildflowers is due out October 8 via City Slang. Søren Lynggaard Andersen directed the “Living Other Lives” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Wildflowers is the follow-up to 2019’s Altid Sammen, which was their first album in seven years and released via 4AD. Efterklang consists of Casper Clausen (vocals), Mads Brauer (synths, electronics), and Rasmus Stolberg (bass).
Clausen had this to say about the new single in a press release: “‘Living Other Lives’ started out as a jam in my Lisbon studio during Spring 2020 lockdown. I was playing around with my 404 sampler and I found that kind of groove that makes my head bop—put some samples on it, and I could listen to it forever—a good sign. So I was just having that on loop while scrolling through my Instagram feed. The lyrics sort of came out of that moment; living other lives, imagination jumping from one life/image to another, revisiting, updating myself, absolutely bodiless, while scrolling up and up with my thumb. It’s a fascinating world we’re living in, so strangely symbiotic and aware of what everybody’s doing, I feel I’m living multiple lives all at once. Watching all these people expressing and changing themselves far away, out there around the planet.”
Andersen had this to say about the video: “I visited Efterklang in the studio when they were in the process of recording their new album. I had packed this old Russian 16mm camera and I wasn’t even sure if the camera actually worked, but thankfully it did (sort of). The video that came out of it I feel is a charming and genuine look at the band together in the studio and in the nature of the island of Møn in the south of Denmark.”
11. Sally Shapiro: “Fading Away”
Swedish duo Sally Shapiro (the project of producer Johan Agebjörn and an anonymous singer who goes under the name Sally Shapiro) returned today with a brand new song, “Fading Away,” despite announcing in 2016 that they were putting an end to the project. What’s more, they are working on a new album for Italians Do It Better and Johnny Jewel, co-founder of that label and a member of various bands including Chromatics, is mixing the album with Agebjörn. “Fading Away” definitely bears Jewel’s imprint on the sound.
In 2016 Sally Shapiro released what was promoted as one last single, “If You Ever Wanna Change Your Mind.” The Italo disco duo garnered acclaim and attention from music blogs with the release of their 2006 debut album, Disco Romance, and followed that up with two other albums, 2009’s My Guilty Pleasure and 2013’s Somewhere Else.
Revisit our 2009 interview with them.
12. The Go! Team: “A Bee Without Its Sting”
England’s The Go! Team are releasing a new album, Get Up Sequences Part One, on July 2 via Memphis Industries. On Tuesday they shared its third single, “A Bee Without Its Sting,” via a video for it. The song features the guest vocals of two Detroit teenagers, Jessie Miller and Rian Woods, who are both members of the choir at The Detroit Academy for Arts and Sciences. They are also featured in the video.
The Go! Team’s main songwriter Ian Parton had this to say in a press release: “When I was working on the last Go Team record Semicircle I approached the choir leader of a Detroit school called the Detroit Academy for Arts and Sciences—Miss Kee and asked if any of her students were interested in singing on a Go! Team song. So when it came to finding the singer for ‘A Bee Without Its Sting’ I thought again of Miss Kee and her students. One of the singers was a teenager called Jessie Miller whose voice was perfect for the song. She’d never been into a recording studio before, but her voice is so full of character.”
Previously The Go! Team shared the album’s first single, “World Remember Me Now,” via a video for the track (which was one of our Songs of the Week). Then they shared its second single, the energetic “Pow,” via a video for the single (which also made our Songs of the Week list).
Get Up Sequences Part One was created as Parton was losing his hearing. “I lost hearing in my right ear halfway during the making of this record,” he explained in a previous press release. “I woke up one Thursday in October 2019 and my hearing was different in some way—it fluctuated over a few weeks and at one point everything sounded like a Dalek. I seem to remember listening to music was bordering on unbearable. Over time it settled into just a tiny bit of hi end being audible on my right side. I thought the hearing loss was from playing music too loud over the years but it turns out I was just unlucky and it was a rare condition called Menieres. It was traumatic to keep listening to songs I knew well but which suddenly sounded different and it was an odd juxtaposition to listen to upbeat music when I was on such a downer. The trauma of losing my hearing gave the music a different dimension for me and it transformed the album into more of a life raft.”
Back in November, the band shared the song “Look Outside (A New Year’s Coming)” for Memphis Industries’ Lost Christmas compilation.
Their last album, Semicircle, was released in January 2018, also on Memphis Industries.
These seven songs almost made the Top 8.
Gang of Youths: “the angel of 8th ave”
Aldous Harding: “Old Peel”
Pip Blom: “Keep It Together”
Rose City Band: “In the Rain”
TORRES: “Hug From a Dinosaur”
Yves Tumor: “Jackie”
Kamasi Washington: “Sun Kissed Child”
Other notable new tracks in the last week include:
Alien Boy: “The Way I Feel”
Leon Bridges: “Why Don’t You Touch Me”
Chubby and the Gang: “Coming Up Tough”
Hand Habits: “motherless” and “no reply”
HEALTH and Tyler Bates: “ANTI-LIFE” (Feat. Chino Moreno)
H.E.R.: “My Own”
Jennifer Hudson: “Here I Am (Singing My Way Home)”
Lingua Ignota: “Pennsylvania Furnace”
K.D.A.P.: “The Slinfold Loop”
The Killers: “Dustland” (Feat. Bruce Springsteen)
Liars: “Big Appetite”
Diana Ross: “Thank You”
Slow Pulp: “At It Again (Again)”
Soccer Mommy: “Kissing in the Rain”
Esperanza Spalding: “Formwela 5” (Feat. Corey King)
Twin Shadow: “Sugarcane” and “Lonestar”