Jun 11, 2021
By Mark Redfern
Welcome to the 22nd Songs of the Week of 2021. Admittedly, there weren’t too many new songs that overly impressed us this week. We almost considered taking a week off. But there were enough tracks of note to keep us in the game. Still, we only came up with a Top 8, instead of our usual Top 10 (or sometimes we have an expanded Top 12).
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 eight 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. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: “Yours”
Melbourne-based psych-rock group King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard released a new album, Butterfly 3000, today via the band’s own KGLW label (stream it here). No advance singles were released, so today was the first chance for fans to hear any of the album. And it’s our first and only chance to include any of its songs on our Songs of the Week list. When we were first sent an advance press download of the album, opening track “Yours” was the one that first connected with us the most, so we’re going with that. We also considered “Catching Smoke,” which we’ve added as an honorable mention below.
Also, today we posted our new interview with the band’s Stu Mackenzie about the album (read that here).
Butterfly 3000 is their second album of 2021. In February the prolific band released their first album of 2021, L.W., on Caroline/Flightless. Butterfly 3000 is the band’s 18th studio album.
A previous press release described the album as such: “Butterfly 3000 might be their most fearless leap into the unknown yet; a suite of 10 songs that all began life as arpeggiated loops composed on modular synthesisers, before being fashioned into addictive, optimistic and utterly seductive dream-pop by the six-piece. The album sounds simultaneously like nothing they’ve ever done before, and thoroughly, unmistakeably Gizz, down to its climactic neon psych-a-tronic flourish. This is undoubtedly the most accessible and jubilant album of their career.”
Read our review of L.W.
2. W.H. Lung: “Pearl in the Palm”
This week, Manchester, England-based dance-rock band W.H. Lung announced a new album, Vanities, and shared its first single, “Pearl in the Palm,” via a video for it. The song has a bit of an LCD Soundsystem vibe. Vanities is due out September 3 via Melodic. Gracie Collier and the band’s Joe Evans directed the playful “Pearl in the Palm” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
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.”
Sharkett calls “Pearl in the Palm” a “transition from the old W.H. Lung to new.”
Evans had this to say about the single and its video: “This video was shot in January across the unlikely beauty of the Irish midlands, in Co. Offaly and Co. Laois. My inexperience directing and shooting films is part of the story here. We did the whole thing on an iPhone with makeshift tripods and second-hand gimbals. It gives the video a beautifully honest, home-filmed quality.
“The story speaks to a connection with nature so everything was shot outside, in the rain, in the cold, in the quiet of the early morning. There’s water, there’s forest, there’s bog, there’s a donkey. We wanted to say something about creative expressiveness too, which comes through in the amazing outfits, styled (and hand painted) by Spice Vintage. I think there’s also something in the video about spontaneous living and flowing with the unexpected. Like, a balloon? I’ll have a day out with it!
“The song is exploring relationships, the stakes of relationships, and how that defines the individual. You can find yourself in a balloon, if you’re willing to let that happen. Just like you can find yourself in another person. And you’ve got to go away to come back.”
3. The Goon Sax: “Psychic”
Australian trio The Goon Sax are releasing a new album, Mirror II, on July 9 via Matador, their first for the label. On Wednesday they shared its second single, “Psychic,” via a video for the new song. Christine Marie Jones directed the video.
The trio features Louis Forster, Riley Jones, and James Harrison. Previously they shared the album’s first single, “In the Stone,” via a video for it. “In the Stone” was also one of our Songs of the Week.
Forster had this to say about the new single in a press release: “‘Psychic’ exists in the fragile intersection of fantasy and reality—a supernatural world you escape into until you feel reality’s grip on your collar. As you’re dragged back to linear time and supposed objectivity, the supernatural reinstates its claim to a more powerful truth. Eventually, the friction between these worlds causes you to question your faith in both, wondering to what degree truth can be chosen and what forces from both are too strong for you to stand in their way. Much like ‘In the Stone,’ this song is a conversation. Two people’s truths of the search for this very thing.
Mirror II is the band’s third album and the follow-up to 2018’s We’re Not Talking, which was released by Wichita.
John Parish (Aldous Harding, PJ Harvey) produced the album, which was recorded in Bristol, England at Invada Studios (which is owned by Geoff Barrow of Portishead and Beak>). Since their last album, Forster moved to Berlin and worked in a cinema, while Jones and Harrison formed a post-punk side-project, Soot.
“The first two albums are inherently linked,” said Forster in a previous press release. “They had three-word titles; they went together. This one definitely felt like going back to square one and starting again, and that was really freeing.”
“We lived in a shared house together, this tiny little Queenslander we called ‘Fantasy Planet,’ where we wrote the album,” Jones explained of the album’s genesis. “We were able to go to each other’s rooms and say anything that came to mind and go to the practice room three times a week. It was pretty intense.”
Of the album title, Jones added: “I was reading The Philosophy of Andy Warhol the other day. He said something so perfect… ‘I’m sure I’m going to look in the mirror and see nothing. People are always calling me a mirror, and if a mirror looks into a mirror, what is there to see?’ The name [Mirror II] was totally arbitrary to begin with, but it became about reflecting on reflection: we all get so influenced by each other. You find other people who show you yourself, who you are.”
Influences on the album cited in the press release run the gamut and include HTRK, Young Marble Giants, Stereolab, The Motels, Justin Beiber, Les Rallizes Dénudés, Keiji Haino, Kylie Minogue, The Walker Brothers, Jandek, Felt, and Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett.
“I got into Syd Barrett’s lyrics because they were hazy, relatable and honest but up in the air. That’s how I felt,” said Harrison. “I was experiencing romantic love for the first time, it felt out of my control, and there’s something about Syd Barrett’s lyrics… it doesn’t just come from inside us; it is the moments that are happening to us as well.”
4. Jessie Ware: “Pale Blue Light”
Today, Jessie Ware released What’s Your Pleasure? The Platinum Pleasure via PMR/Friends Keep Secrets/Interscope. It’s a deluxe edition of her acclaimed 2020-released album, What’s Your Pleasure?, and features eight bonus tracks, including six new songs. It includes new songs not previously released as singles, such as “0208” (which features Kindness), “Pale Blue Light,” “Impossible,” and “Eyes Closed.” “Pale Blue Light” stood out the most from those, partially because of its heavenly backing vocals, which makes the song reminiscent of “Remember Where You Are,” the highlight of the main album.
Previously she shared the first bonus track from the deluxe edition, “Please,” which was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then she shared a video for “Please.” Then she shared another of the bonus tracks, a dancefloor-ready anthem to desire, “Hot N Heavy,” which also made our Songs of the Week list.
What’s Your Pleasure? was #5 on our Top 100 Albums of 2020 list. The deluxe edition includes eight extra tracks (including six new songs, the previously released “Overtime,” and a remix of “Adore You”). It will be available on all formats, including double vinyl and double cassette.
Ware had this to say in a previous press release: “I had such an amazing response to the What’s Your Pleasure? record that I didn’t want the lights to go up and the party to be over just yet! ‘Please’ is full of optimism and ready to be played in a place where we can all be together and flirt, dance, touch, and kiss. A wonderful excuse not to stop the party from ending.”
Pick up our current print issue (Issue 68) to read our exclusive interview with Jessie Ware on What’s Your Pleasure?
What’s Your Pleasure? was Ware’s fourth album and the follow-up to 2017’s Glasshouse. The album featured an array of collaborators, including Kindness, Danny Parker, Shungudzo Kuyimba, Clarence Coffee Jr., Benji B, Midland, Morgan Geist (Storm Queen), Matthew Tavares, Metronomy’s Joseph Mount, and James Ford (who was the primary collaborator on the album). The album’s “Remember Where You Are” was our #1 Song of the Week and also made it on former President Barack Obama’s playlist of his favorite songs of 2020. In February she shared a video for the song that starred British actress Gemma Arterton and also performed the song on The Graham Norton Show.
Read our 2014 interview with Jessie Ware.
5. José González: “Head On”
José González is releasing his first new album in over six years, Local Valley, on September 17 via Mute. On Wednesday he shared another song from it, “Head On,” via a video for the song. Mikel Cee Karlsson directed the video.
“I wrote ‘Head On’ as a combat song or a list of instructions…a manual. I mean both ‘straight ahead’ and head ON—as in switching on your mind,” says González in a press release. “It was inspired by Fela Kuti’s ‘Zombie’ and the way I used to write lyrics for my hardcore band. It’s also in the vein of my song ‘What Will’ from 2015. That one and this one are both anti-dogma, pro reason songs. Some of the terms I use like ‘rent seeker’ or ‘value extractor,’ are from books on economics that I’ve been reading, like The Value of Everything by Mariana Mazzucato.”
“The animations for ‘Head On’ are based on a cellular automaton called “Game of Life” created by mathematician John Horton Conway,” adds Karlsson. “‘Game of Life’ has emergent properties, meaning that complex forms can arise, or evolve, through simple individual parts. Without any designer, plan or intent. In the video, we used visuals from ‘Game of Life’ as an analogy for the flow of information; bits of information forming patterns. Adapting. Evolving. Mutating. Like memes, or mind viruses; positive, neutral or negative. Travelling from mind to mind in a never-ending war of ideas that we all participate in and are influenced by.”
Local Valley includes “El Invento,” a new Spanish language song González shared in February, and “Visions” (which was one of our Songs of the Week). Then he shared a video for “Visions” and announced some co-headlining U.S. tour dates with Rufus Wainwright.
The Swedish singer/songwriter/guitarist’s last studio album was 2015’s Vestiges & Claws. Local Valley was recorded at Studio Koltrast Hakefjorden, a studio set up by González in his family’s summer house, north of Gothenburg.
In the previous press release the musician said the album “is similar to my other solo albums in sound and spirit, a natural continuation of the styles I’ve been adding through the years both solo and with Junip. I set out to write songs in the same vein as my old ones: short, melodic and rhythmical, a mixture of classic folk singer songwriting and songs with influences from Latin America and Africa. It’s more outward looking than my earlier works, but no less personal. On the contrary, I feel more comfortable than ever saying that this album reflects me and my thoughts right now.”
Of the themes on the album, González added: “Many of these songs have a crystal-clear, secular humanist agenda: anti-dogma, pro-reason. There’s no political agenda, though, at least not in a classical left-right spectrum. Maybe in a globalist-secular vs. theocratic-nationalist way: the focus is on underlying worldviews, and on our existential questions as smart apes on a quest to understand ourselves and our place in the cosmos.”
6. Lucy Dacus: “Brando”
Lucy Dacus is releasing a new album, Home Video, on June 25 via Matador. On Tuesday she shared another song from it, “Brando,” via a lyric video for the single. The song is about a friend Dacus had in high school who was obsessed with old films. She has also added a handful more tour dates opening for Bright Eyes. Check out all her upcoming tour dates here.
“‘Brando’ refers to a very dramatic friend I had in high school whose whole personality was the media he consumed,” Dacus explains in a press release. “He showed me a lot of amazing movies and music, but I think he was more interested in using me as a scrapbook of his own tastes than actually getting to know me. He claimed to know me better than anyone else but I started to feel like all he wanted from me was to be a scene partner in the movie of his life.”
Dacus has also announced a video contest connected to “Brando,” where fans can submit videos of themselves dancing (or rollerblading, skateboarding, iceskating, etc.) for a chance to be included in the song’s music video. Find details at Dacus’ website.
Home Video includes “Thumbs,” a new song she shared in March that was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. When the album was announced Dacus shared its second single, “Hot & Heavy,” which also made our Songs of the Week list. Then she performed “Hot & Heavy” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, performing it with her backing band from the stage of the Virginia Repertory Theatre, in her native Richmond. Dacus’ mother used to play piano for musicals at the theater, musicals Dacus would sometimes appear in as a child. Then she shared another song from it, “VBS,” via an animated video for the single which was about going to vacation bible school and was also one of our Songs of the Week.
Home Video was recorded at Trace Horse Studio in Nashville with the aid of Jacob Blizard, Collin Pastore, and Jake Finch. Shawn Everett mixed the album and Bob Ludwig mastered it. Two songs feature her boygenius bandmates Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers. Dacus’ regular touring band is Jacob Blizard (guitar), Dominic Angelella (bass), Ricardo Lagomasino (drums), and Sarah Goldstone (keys, background vocals).
Pick up our current print issue to read our Protest Issue interview with Dacus.
7. illuminati hotties: “Pool Hopping”
On Thursday, illuminati hotties (the project of singer/songwriter Sarah Tudzin) announced a new album, Let Me Do One More, and shared a new song from it, “Pool Hopping,” via a video for the single. Let Me Do One More is due out October 1 via her new label Snack Shack Tracks, which is in partnership with Los Angeles-based indie label Hopeless. Katie Neuhof directed the “Pool Hopping” video, which fittingly features Tudzin in various pools. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Tudzin had this to say about the new single in a press release: “It’s POOL HOPPING SUMMER. I’m so stoked to have grilled up a splashy new song & music video (directed by Katie Neuhof) to soundtrack your wettest and wildest parties to date. This track is for when it’s hot, you’re crushing on someone new, and your adventure senses are tingling. Come on in, the water’s fine!!!”
Of the album as a whole, she says: “The songs tell a story of my gremlin-ass running around LA, sneaking into pools at night, messing up and starting over, begging for attention for one second longer, and asking the audience to let me do one more.”
Tudzin also adds: “I love these songs and they’re a part of me and I’m proud of them.”
Illuminati hotties found success with 2018’s debut album, Kiss Yr Frenemies, but when it came time to release a follow-up Tudzin found herself at odds with her then label, Tiny Engines, who didn’t have the proper infrastructure to fully release their second album. “It felt like any momentum came to a screeching halt. It felt painful to pick up a guitar, to write, to record any loose ends that needed to happen to wrap up the album,” Tudzin says in a press released. So instead, illuminati hotties self-released a new album (although carefully not referring to it as one), the acclaimed FREE I.H: This Is Not the One You’ve Been Waiting For, in 2000. Now Tudzin has a new home and more control.
“I’m incredibly stoked to be partnering with Hopeless Records on my own imprint, Snack Shack Tracks,” she says. “With everything that has brought me to where I am, I knew that the next time around I needed to seek support from folks who trusted me—who believed not only in illuminati hotties, but also in myself, and my curative vision as a creator at large. Hopeless is the perfect collaborator for IH and beyond. I am thrilled, grateful, and looking forward to an expansive future for the music that we’re all total nerds about!”
8. Madi Diaz: “Woman In My Heart”
This week, Nashville-based singer Madi Diaz announced a new album, History of a Feeling, and shared a new song from it, “Woman In My Heart,” via a video for the single. History of a Feeling is due out August 27 via ANTI-. Diaz co-directed the video with Jordan Bellamy, which was filmed in Colorado. Checkout the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Andrew Sarlo (Big Thief, Bon Iver) co-produced the album with Diaz.
Diaz had this to say about the album in a press release: “The bulk of this music came from dealing with a kind of tsunami clash of compassion, both for my former partner while she was discovering a deeper part of her gender identity long hidden, and my own raw heartache over having lost the partner I knew. I felt so torn through the middle because half of me wanted to hold this person through such a major life event, one that is so beautiful and hard, and the other half felt lost—like I had lost myself in someone else’s story.”
Diaz had this to add about “Woman In My Heart”: “This song came out in a sort of waking dream while I was actively learning how to part with someone. It was hard enough not to miss/hurt/hate/fight/fuck/feel/get over them, and, what was even harder, was the love we had felt more and more like a mystery and the pain was the only thing coming in clear.”
These four songs almost made the Top 8.
Deafheaven: “Great Mass of Color”
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: “Catching Smoke”
Lunar Vacation: “Shrug”
Pom Pom Squad: “Crying”
Other notable new tracks in the last week include:
2nd Grade: “Superglue”
Babehoven: “A Star”
Bleachers: “How Dare You Want More”
Max Bloom: “All the Same”
Lindsay Buckingham: “I Don’t Mind”
Kevin Devine: “Lakes on the Moon”
Future Islands: “Thrill (Did They Hear Me Calling) (Egyptian Lover Remix)”
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Bird: “Flying on the Ground”
Peggy Gou: “Nabi” (Feat. OHHYUK)
The Joy Formidable: “Chimes”
Valerie June: “Stay (Little Dragon Remix)”
Lorde: “Solar Power”
Manchester Orchestra: “Never Ending”
Amber Mark: “Competition”
Save the Clocktower: “This Weight”
serpentwithfeet: “You Don’t Own Me/Canopy”
St. Lenox: “Teenage Eyes”
Laura Stevenson: “State”
Tierra Whack: “76”
(Special thanks to Emma Goad for helping out this week’s list together.)