10 Best Songs of the Last Two Weeks: Courtney Barnett, Hatchie, Snail Mail, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine

10 Best Songs of the Last Two Weeks: Courtney Barnett, Hatchie, Snail Mail, and More

Plus Father John Misty, Jim James, Wooden Shjips, Amber Arcades, and a Wrap-up of the Last Two Weeks’ Other Notable New Tracks

Apr 27, 2018
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We skipped Songs of the Week last week because we were kind of on vacation, so this week's post encompasses songs from the last two weeks. And that's just as well, because this week was light on new tracks, whereas last week was fairly strong (only three of our Top 10 are songs from this week).

Elsewhere on the website in the last two weeks: We posted interviews with musicians Charlotte Gainsbourg, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Son Lux, and Gwenno, as well as with actors Martin Freeman and Clancy Brown. We also reviewed a bunch of albums (including the latest by Iceage, Okkervil River, and Speedy Ortiz).

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last two weeks, we have picked the 10 best the fortnight had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last couple of weeks. Check out the full list below.

1. Courtney Barnett: "City Looks Pretty"

Australian singer/songwriter/guitarist Courtney Barnett is releasing a new album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, on May 18 via Mom + Pop/Marathon Artists/Milk! Records. Last week she shared another song from the album, "City Looks Pretty." The song was released on 12-inch vinyl on Record Store Day (last Saturday).

Don't forget that Barnett is on the cover of our current print issue, the Spring 2018 issue. Pick up a copy now to read an in-depth interview with her about the new album. 

Previously she shared its first single, "Nameless, Faceless," via a video for the song. (It was our #1 Song of the Week.) Then she shared a video for another song from the album, "Need a Little Time," which featured Barnett being sent out to space and was also our #1 Song of the Week. We chose to put her on the cover because we love the new album, so it's little surprise that she's topped our Songs of the Week list for a third time this album.

A previous press release describes the album as such: "In Tell Me How You Really Feel, Barnett has revealed an exhilarating and unexpected shift. From its title (A question? An order?) to the unsettling cover image - a blood-red tinted self-portrait in uncomfortably tight close up - Barnett sets a different tone. There's a new-found directness with this record, a muscularity to the instrumentation, a tenderness in her voice and a boldness to the lyrics. It speaks to Barnett entering a remarkable new phase of her musical evolution. She's saying more, with less. Whereas once she examined the world through the prism of self-analysis, Tell Me How You Really Feel shifts that focus to those she interacts with - the good ones, the bad ones, the loved ones. Those she knows intimately and those who are strangers."

Last year Barnett teamed up with American singer/songwriter/guitarist Kurt Vile for the collaborative album, Lotta Sea Lice, which came out in October via Matador. (It was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017.)

Read our 2017 interview with Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile on Lotta Sea Lice.

Barnett released her debut full-length album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, via Mom + Pop in 2015 and it landed at #6 on Under the Radar's Top 100 Albums of 2015 list.

Also read our joint interview between Barnett and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, from our Best of 2015 issue.

 2. Hatchie: "Sleep"

Hatchie is the project of Australian musician Harriette Pilbeam. She previously played in the bands Babaganouj and Go Violets and on May 25 she is releasing her debut EP under the Hatchie name, Sugar & Spice, via Double Whammy. This week she shared another song from it, "Sleep," via a video for the song. Joe Agius directed the clip, which is a stylish video featuring Pilbeam performing the song with her band, and also has her hanging out in the clouds, amongst cardboard stars and a moon, and lying in bed, perhaps playing off the fact that her music is often described as dream-pop.

Pilbeam had this to say about the song and video in a press release: "'Sleep' is about feeling frustrated with someone who can't communicate their feelings. In this song I'm trying to coax someone into talking to me by any means necessary, even if it means visiting me in dreams. For the 'Sleep' video we decided to play on the idea that I'm trying to get someone to communicate with me in their sleep. We made a bunch of dreamy sets to focus on, like I'm talking to them in their dreams. At some points I'm really serious, at other points I'm almost teasing them because I'm so over trying to get them to talk."

Previously we posted the video for Sugar & Spice's title track (which was one of our Songs of the Week). Hatchie has a shoegazer/dream-pop vibe, so it makes sense that in February Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie remixed previous single "Sure." Hatchie also previously shared videos for "Try" and "Sure."

3. Snail Mail: "Heat Wave"

Snail Mail (aka Lindsey Jordan) is releasing her debut album, Lush, on June 8 via Matador. This week she shared another song from it, "Heat Wave," via a video for the track that features her playing an unfair ice hockey game against several men.

Brandon Herman directed the "Heat Wave" video. Jordan, who used to be on her high school ice hockey team, had this to say about the video in a press release: "I hadn't actually been on skates since I quit the high school team junior year, so immediately jumping into shooting this was equal parts difficult and super fun."

Jordan has been garnering growing attention since her 2016 EP Habit. The Baltimore musician has only recently graduated from high school. Previously she shared Lush's first single, "Pristine" (which was one of our Songs of the Week).

Lush was recorded with producer Jake Aron and engineer Johnny Schenke, and features touring bandmates drummer Ray Brown and bassist Alex Bass.

A previous press release described the album as such: "Lush feels at times like an emotional rollercoaster, only fitting for Jordan's explosive, dynamic personality.... Lush sounds cinematic, yet still perfectly homemade."

4. Father John Misty: "Just Dumb Enough to Try" and "Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All"

Father John Misty (aka Josh Tillman) is releasing a new album God's Favorite Customer, on June 1 via Sub Pop worldwide (except for Europe, where it's on Bella Union). Details of God's Favorite Customer leaked a little early last week and then the next day Tillman officially announced the album and shared two more songs from it, "Just Dumb Enough to Try" and "Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All." We are including both songs in one entry, as they are of fairly equal quality.

Tillman produced God's Favorite Customer, which was recorded with Jonathan Rado, Dave Cerminara, and Trevor Spencer. It was written largely in New York between Summer 2016 and Winter 2017. The album will be available in various formats: CD, digital, cassette, standard black vinyl, and "the limited Loser edition on metallic purple vinyl."

Back in February Father John Misty (aka Josh Tillman) shared a new song, "Mr. Tillman" (it was one of our Songs of the Week). It is also included on the album. This week he also shared a new video for "Mr. Tillman." Jeff Desom and Carlos Lopez Estrada directed the video, which features Tillman checking into a creepy hotel but then getting stuck in a time loop.

Father John Misty released his latest album, Pure Comedy, in April 2017 via Sub Pop (it was Under the Radar's #1 Album of 2017 So Far in our midyear wrap up and #9 in our final Top 100 Albums of 2017 list).

Father John Misty appeared on the cover of Under the Radar's Spring 2017 Issue.

Read our 2017 cover story interview with Father John Misty.

Read our 2017 cover story bonus Q&A with Father John Misty.

5. Jim James: "Just a Fool"

Last week My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James announced a new solo album, Uniform Distortion, and shared a video for its first single, the electric guitar fueled "Just a Fool." Uniform Distortion is due out June 29 via ATO. Ellis Bahl directed the black & white "Just a Fool" video.

The album's cover art is a distorted photo by Duane Michals entitled "The Illuminated Man." James came across it while flipping through The Last Whole Earth Catalogue, a resource from 1971. Michals' turned down James' initial request to use the photo on the cover of Uniform Distortion so James wrote him a personal letter and then Michaels agreed. James has shared the letter to help illuminate Uniform Distortion. Here it is in full (with no capital letters, as written by James):

"hello duane- your piece 'the illuminated man' was used in 'the last whole earth catalogue' in 1971. i wasnt even born yet. i was born in 1978...but i found my copy of 'the last whole earth catalogue' about 6 months ago in a thrift store and it blew my mind. i have been feeling increasingly overwhelmed by the speed of technology and its place in our lives and here was this beautiful book/catalogue from the past showing me all these beautiful things and amazing images to help one learn different ways to look at the world... or 'get off the grid?' funny they had no idea back then just how crazy 'the grid' would get. or did they?

so i am trying to put down my phone... use the computer and social media less... and just focus on real life and the people i love and my art. of course i am not fully 'off the grid' because i am sending you this email in hopes of you changing your mind about letting me use your image as it appeared in 'the last whole earth catalogue' in 1971 because when i saw it on the page there it spoke to me so deeply of how my head feels like it is exploding with the amount of information we are forced to consume on a daily basis and how that information is so DISTORTED there is almost no longer any tangible truth. the name of my new record is 'UNIFORM DISTORTION' because i feel like there is this blanket distortion on society/media and the way we gather our 'news' and important information...and more and more of us are feeling lost and looking for new ways out of this distortion and back to the truth...and finding hope in places like the desert where i write this email to you now...finding hope in the land and in the water and in old books offering new ideas and most importantly in each other and love.

i feel like there was a reason i found 'the last whole earth catalogue' and there was a reason your art spoke to me... and i really think it would speak to others who would see it exploding out at them illuminating from the record store shelf or the glow of their phone or computer screen and feel its organic mind blowing distortion connect with this new music.

i also like the natural 'distortion' that time and the pulp of the paper meeting the ink from 'the last whole earth catalogue' add to your original image and that is why i am asking your permission to use this 'distorted' version of your original beautiful image.

i hope you are well and thanks for listening- jim james"

James released an excellent solo album, the politically-charged Eternally Even, in the fall of 2016 via ATO (it was one of Under the Radar's Top 100 Albums of 2016). Last December James released Tribute To 2, an album of covers that was the sequel to his 2009 George Harrison covers EP Tribute To (which was also reissued last year).

My Morning Jacket released their last album, The Waterfall, in 2015. Read our 2015 interview with Jim James about the album.

6. Wooden Shjips: "Red Line"

Wooden Shjips are releasing their fifth album, fittingly titled V., on May 25 via Thrill Jockey. Previously they shared its first single, the 8-minute long "Staring At the Sun." Last week they shared another song from it, "Red Line."

The band's singer/guitarist Ripley Johnson had this to say about "Red Line" in a press release: "This song is about trying to find equanimity as life continuously pulls you in different directions, emotionally and psychically. The bursts of backwards guitar are the sonic representation of that, being pulled out of your normal forward momentum, as the beat goes on."

7. Amber Arcades: "Simple Song"

This week Amber Arcades, the project of Dutch musician Annelotte de Graaf, announced her sophomore album, European Heartbreak, and shared a video for its first single (and opening track), "Simple Song." European Heartbreak is due out September 28 via Heavenly.

Amber Arcades released her fantastic debut album, Fading Lines, in 2016 via Heavenly. It made our Top 100 Albums of 2016 list. In June 2017 she is released the 5-song Cannonball EP, also via Heavenly.

European Heartbreak was co-produced with Chris Cohen (solo artist and former Deerhoof member) in Los Angeles and with Trey Pollard (Natalie Prass, Bedouine) in Richmond, Virginia, where Pollard oversaw horn and string overdubs from Spacebomb.

A press release says this of the album: "A vast step forward from her critically acclaimed debut album Fading Lines, this selection of songs flit around Europe, from Berlin to Spain to the south of France. It's European not just in lyrical theme but in the sly sophistication of its music: songs that carry with them the air of open-topped cars on clifftop roads, of cocktails on the terrace at sunset. And then the lyrics undercut that sunny mood, artfully and skilfully."

De Graaf had this to say about the album and its title in a press release: "If it were called American Heartbreak, you wouldn't bat an eye. Somehow calling it European Heartbreak feels far less comfortable, almost like a statement in itself. I'm Dutch, hence European. The focus of the record is Europe. As for Heartbreak, for me a heartbreak symbolizes any kind of falling apart of one of these concepts or stories we invent for ourselves, like romantic love, a sense of identity, nationality, an economic system. It's kind of a universal thing in my mind." 

De Graaf commented on "Simple Song" and its video in the press release: "This music video forms part 2 of a trilogy which tells a modern European (love) story, touching on various thoughts and feelings that inspired my new record. Using the medium of film to tell this story ties it to one of the central ideas of the record, which is the essential nature of storytelling in understanding our lives. For me, part 1 focused very much on a feeling of isolation, being trapped in an external surrounding which feels anxious and numb at the same time. Part 2, the music video for 'Simple Song,' translates these feelings into the dynamics of a romantic relationship."

Read our 2016 interview with Amber Arcades and our 2016 Artist Survey interview with her.

8. The Essex Green: "Sloan Ranger"

Indie-pop trio The Essex Green (Sasha Bell, Jeff Baron, and Christopher Ziter) haven't released an album in 12 years, since 2006's Cannibal Sea, but last week they announced a new album, Hardly Electronic, and shared its first single, "Sloan Ranger." Hardly Electronic is due June 29 via Merge. The band also announced some tour dates.

The Essex Green formed in Brooklyn in 1998 and released four albums between 1999 and 2006. A press release explains what they've been up to in the last decade: "Sasha, Jeff, and Christopher were last seen together in the late aughts, waving from their van as they bid farewell to Brooklyn. And then, the unthinkable: The Essex Green went silent. But why? Legal cannabis? Climate change? Bad oysters? Nothing so dramatic. It was a simple promise made among them to chase down their separate dreams: Jeff to build a houseboat and navigate the mighty Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers; Christopher to return to his home state of Vermont and lead local fermentation efforts; and Sasha to decamp to Montana to study elk rutting."

The band reconvened in 2015 and wrote and recorded the album on and off over the next two years.

9. Flasher: "Pressure"

Last week Washington, DC trio Flasher announced their debut album, Constant Image, and shared a video for a new song "Pressure." Constant Image is due out June 8 via Domino. The album includes the previously shared single "Skim Milk."

Flasher features guitarist Taylor Mulitz, bassist Daniel Saperstein, and drummer Emma Baker. Nicolas Vernhes (Animal Collective, Deerhunter, The War on Drugs) produced Constant Image, which was recorded last year at Rare Book Room in Brooklyn, NY.

The band had this to say about the video for "Pressure" in a press release: "'Pressure' is a song that treads the line between queer delight and delirium, and crushing isolation and survival. The video for 'Pressure,' made in collaboration with Weird Life films and featuring designer and Chicago based artist An Authentic Skidmark, is a compliment to the paradox of the song itself and an invitation to that world in between." 

10. Let's Eat Grandma: "It's Not Just Me"

British duo Let's Eat Grandma (Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth) are releasing a new album, I'm All Ears, on June 29 via Transgressive. Previously they shared two songs from it, "Hot Pink" and "Falling Into Me" (which made it to #3 on our Songs of the Week list). Last week they shared another song from the album, "It's Not Just Me," via a video for the song directed by Balan Evans. The song is ultra shiny in an electro-pop way, so it's little surprise that it was produced by SOPHIE.

I'm All Ears is the band's sophomore album and the follow-up to their 2016 debut, I, Gemini. The album features production from David Wrench (The xx, Frank Ocean, Caribou), SOPHIE, and The Horrors' frontman Faris Badwan. 

Other notable new tracks in the last two weeks include: 

Bernice: "Passenger Plane"

Black Moth Super Rainbow: "Backwash"

Leon Bridges: "Beyond"

Chad Valley: "See-Through"

Jenn Champion: "Owner of a Lonely Heart" (Yes Cover)

Deafheaven: "Honeycomb"

Mac DeMarco and Melanie Faye: "Eternally 12" 

Sam Evian: "IDGAF"

FAN: "What a Mistake"

The Flaming Lips: "The Story of Yum Yum and the Dragon"

Eleanor Friedberger: "Everything"

Frog Eyes: "Pray for Fire"

Gang of Four: "Ivanka (Things You Can't Have)"

Girl Talk & Erick the Architect: "Trouble in Paradise"

Ariana Grande: "No Tears Left to Cry"

Jon Hopkins: "Everything Connected"

Hundred Waters: "Mushroom Cloud"

Iceage: "The Day the Music Dies"

Japanese Breakfast: "Dreams" (The Cranberries Cover)

Joan of Arc: "Punk Kid"

Lykke Li: "hard rain" and "deep end"

Lowly: "Wood"

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks: "Refute" (Feat. Kim Gordon)

Mazzy Star: "Quiet, The Winter Harbor"

Melkbelly: "Where's Your Head At" (Basement Jaxx Cover)

Middle Kids: "Bought It"

Mogwai: "Donuts"

Cullen Omori: "Four Years"

Oneohtrix Point Never: "Black Snow" (Feat. ANOHNI)

Retirement Party: "Passion Fruit Tea"

The Rock*A*Teens: "Go Tell Everybody"

She & Him: "He Gives His Love to Me" and "She Gives Her Love to Me"

Simian Mobile Disco: "Defender"

Sons of An Illustrious Father: "When Things Fall Apart"

Ty Segall & Freedom Band: "Fanny Dog (Royal)"

Tancred: "Queen of New York"

Thundercat: "Final Fight"

Tokyo Police Club: "New Blues"

WAVVES: "All Star Goth"

Jack White: "Pablo Picasso" (The Modern Lovers Cover)

Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson: "Bad Dreams"

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