10 Best Songs of the Week: Angel Olsen, HAIM, Elbow, Sleater-Kinney, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, December 6th, 2019  

10 Best Songs of the Week: Angel Olsen, HAIM, Elbow, Sleater-Kinney, and More

Plus Blanck Mass, Cross Record, Girl Ray, Bodywash, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

Aug 02, 2019
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Welcome to another Songs of the Week. As soon as this week's #1 song was shared on Tuesday morning we knew it would be the song to beat this week and it easily held off all challengers. Although, there were strong showings at #2 and #3 too.

Elsewhere on the website this week we posted an interviews with Kirin J Callinan and film composer Cliff Martinez, as well as a My Firsts interview with Stef Chura.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Lust For Youth, Earth, Titus Andronicus, The Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith, and Amyl and the Sniffers. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows).

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

1. Angel Olsen: "All Mirrors"

This week Angel Olsen announced a new album, All Mirrors, and shared a haunting black & white video for its title track. She also announced some new European tour dates. All Mirrors is due out October 4 via Jagjaguwar. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as her upcoming tour dates, here.

"All Mirrors" is simply stunning and is a step up in sonic wizardry from anything Olsen has done before (and we've loved all her previous albums). Ashley Connor directed the "All Mirrors" video, which was conceived by Olsen. It starts with Olsen dressed in white, before she becomes a darker version, dressed in black. It's like a twisted fairy tale and perhaps has some Labyrinth influences.

Olsen purposefully recorded two versions of All Mirrors, starting with a stripped down solo version recorded with producer Michael Harris in Anacortes, Washington. Then she recorded another, full band, version with producer John Congleton (who produced Olsen's 2014 album Burn Your Fire for No Witness), alongside arranger Jherek Bischoff, multi-instrumentalist/arranger/pre-producer Ben Babbitt, and a 14-piece orchestra. Originally Olsen's plan was to release both versions of the album at the same time, but then, as she states in a press release, she decided she "needed to separate these two records and release All Mirrors in its heaviest form.... It was impossible for me to deny how powerful and surprising the songs had become. The truth is that I may have never allowed this much sonic change in the first place had I not already made an account of the same songs in their purest form."  

A limited edition and exclusive All Mirrors bundle from Jagjaguwar has the album on opaque aquamarine vinyl and includes a 7-inch for "All Mirrors" on silver with black splatter vinyl that includes the album version of "All Mirrors" on one side and a solo version titled "We Are All Mirrors" on the other side.

Of the title track and the album title, Olsen had this to say in the press release: "I chose this one as the title because I liked the theme: the theme of how we are all mirrors to and for each other. Even if that is not all of it, there is always an element of projection in what we'd like to see in people and scenarios and in the way we see ourselves in those scenarios, with those people."

Summing up the album in the press release, Olsen had this to say: "In every way - from the making of it, to the words, to how I feel moving forward, this record is about owning up to your darkest side, finding the capacity for new love and trusting change even when you feel like a stranger."

The press release describes the album this way: "On her vulnerable new album, All Mirrors, Olsen takes an introspective deep dive towards internal destinations and revelations. In the process of making this album, she found a new sound and voice, a blast of fury mixed with hard won self-acceptance. All Mirrors gets its claws into you on both micro and macro levels. Of course, there's that singular vibrato, always so very close - seemingly simple, cooed phrases expand into massive ideas about the inability to love and universal loneliness. And then suddenly - huge string arrangements and bellowing synth swells emerge, propelling the apocalyptic tenor."

Olsen's previous full-length album was 2016's MY WOMAN, also via Jagjaguwar. It made it to #3 on Under the Radar's Top 100 Albums of 2016 list. In 2017 she released Phases, a collection of B-sides, rarities, and demos, including some previously unreleased tracks. It was our Album of the Week.

In June Olsen was the guest vocalist on "True Blue," a song on Mark Ronson's new album, Late Night Feelings. Olsen also wrote the song, which was #2 on our Songs of the Week list.

Read our 2016 interview with Olsen.

2. HAIM: "Summer Girl"

This week Los Angeles sister trio HAIM shared a brand new song, "Summer Girl," via a video directed by previous collaborator Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood). Rostam Batmanglij and Ariel Rechtshaid co-produced the song, which is out now via Columbia. The video features the band removing different layers of clothing while walking down various Los Angeles streets, often accompanied by a saxophonist. It was also shot at such iconic LA locations as the New Beverly Cinema (now owned by Quentin Tarantino) and Canter's Deli.

Danielle Haim, whose partner is aforementioned producer Ariel Rechtshaid, had this to say about "Summer Girl" in a press release: "I started the song when I found out my partner had cancer. I was on tour and felt like I was trying to send positive energy his way almost telepathically. Whenever I would come home in between shows I wanted to be his sunshine - his summer when he was feeling dark. His hope when he was feeling hopeless." 

Danielle elaborated in a series of tweets that we've combined: "So excited to start releasing new music as we're working on it - kinda like we did before our first album. We finished this song a couple weeks ago and thought, why don't we shoot something real quick and release it!... This song started out as a garage band demo in my phone with just a bass line, drums, some gibberish and a doot doot doot little melody. I wrote it around the time my partner was diagnosed with cancer a couple years ago while we were making STTY. (He's in the clear now!) So I kept singing these lines - 'I'm your sunny girl/ I'm your fuzzy girl/ I'm your summer girl' -  over the bass line. Summer girl stuck. We were touring on and off at this time and every time we were on the phone with each other or when I would come home in between shows, I wanted to be this light that shined on him when he was feeling very dark. I wanted to be his hope when he was feeling hopeless. Fast forward to a couple months ago - I remembered this demo and pulled it up from my phone. I brought it to my friend Rostam to see if he wanted to work on it. He wrote the sax part within the first couple minutes of working on it and it all clicked. We were kinda joking about how the doot doot doot part reminded us of [Lou Reed's] 'Walk on the Wild Side' and then he put this stand up bass part on top of the electric bass part and It sounded amazing! The palette was there - very inspired by Lou. And we kept it that way. I brought it back to my partner Ariel - where the inspo first started - and he put some finishing touches on it and here we are!"

HAIM's last album, Something to Tell You, was released in 2017 via Columbia. Since then they have collaborated with Twin Shadow and Vampire Weekend, appeared on Jenny Lewis' telethon, and are featured on Charli XCX's upcoming album, Charli.

3. Elbow: "Dexter & Sinister" (Feat. Jesca Hoop)

This week Elbow shared a brand new 7-minute long song "Dexter & Sinister." It's their first release for their new label in North America, Verve. The song features backing vocals from Jesca Hoop and is available digitally and on a one-sided 10-inch, with vinyl etching on the B-side.

The song was recorded in Hamburg at Clouds Hill Studios, which is filled with analogue equipment. The band played "Dexter & Sinister" live in the room.

Keyboardist and producer Craig Potter had this to say about the song in a press release: "We haven't sat around and played like that in a long time. The looseness in the track definitely comes from us playing live in the room and, on the second part, we decided not to play to a click to really allow the tune to breathe."

A press release says "the track takes its title from heraldry where Dexter (Right) and Sinister (Left) represent the two sides of an escutcheon bearing a coat of arms."

In a press release singer/lyricist Guy Garvey says the song in is "a great, big, bewildered question dealing with my feelings on Brexit, the loss of family and friends and the general sense of disaffection you see all around at the moment."

Elbow's last album, their seventh, Little Fictions, was released in 2017, the same year they released a best of compilation, fittingly titled The Best Of.

Read our interview with Elbow's Guy Garvey on Little Fictions.

Also read our 2014 print article on Elbow and our 2014 web-exclusive interview with Garvey on his favorite cities. Plus read our 2016 The End interview with Garvey on endings and death.

4. Sleater-Kinney: "Can I Go On"

Sleater-Kinney are releasing a new album, The Center Won't Hold, on August 16 via Mom + Pop. This week they shared another song from it, "Can I Go On," via a lyric video. It comes accompanied by the band's first new press photo as a duo (Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker) in the wake of drummer Janet Weiss unexpectedly announcing at the start of the month that she was leaving Sleater-Kinney only a month and a half before their new album is to be released.

Brownstein had this to say about "Can I Go On" in a press release: "In this song, a woman's desire is used against her, so she turns it into a sinister infectiousness. The narrator finds herself on the brink of self-annihilation, grappling with the paradox of an internal darkness at odds with the pressure to outwardly perform modes of joy, relatability, and likability."

In a previous press release Brownstein also had this to say about recording the album: "Instead of just going into the studio to document what we'd done, we were going in to explore and to find the essence of something. To dig in deeper. It felt like a really crucial part of the process itself, not just the end game."

The Center Won't Hold finds the band experimenting with a slightly more polished sound, thanks to producer St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark), and on a new label in Mom + Pop. Prior to the announcement of The Center Won't Hold, Sleater-Kinney shared the album's first single "Hurry On Home" via a Miranda July-directed lyric video for the track (it was one of our Songs of the Week). When the album was announced they shared its second single, "The Future Is Here," which was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then they stopped by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to perform "Hurry On Home," in what might be Weiss' last public performance with the band. Then they shared the album's title track, "The Center Won't Hold," which was also one of our Songs of the Week.

5. Blanck Mass: "Love is a Parasite"

Blanck Mass (the solo project of Fuck Buttons' Benjamin John Power) is releasing a new album, Animated Violence Mild, on August 16 via Sacred Bones. This week he shared another song from the album, "Love is a Parasite," via a Craig Murray-directed video for the track. The video is quite horrific.

Power had this to say about the song and video in a press release: "I wanted to speak to Craig Murray about making the '...Parasite' video as his work definitely bridges that gap between the grotesque and the beautiful that I am so keen on. Presenting the darker theme of globalmass consumerism whilst poking fun at the '80s and starring a Drag Queen overseeing chaos wasn't going to be an easy task but he nailed it."
 
Murray had this to say: "It was great to be asked by Ben to work on this which instantly led us to bizarrely mirrored ideas... I decided to set the film in 1983 as a nod to Cronenberg and in order to do that everything from the costumes to the shooting and post production needed to fit. I have a deep nostalgia with this time period and its video formats, so to honor it we shot on a transmission feed which we glitched by plugging and unplugging the cable. I find emulated effects offensive."

Previously Blanck Mass shared the album's first single, "House vs. House" (which was one of our Songs of the Week). Then he shared the album's second single, "No Dice."

Power had this to say about the album in a previous press release: "I believe that many of us have willfully allowed our survival instinct to become engulfed by the snake we birthed. Animated - brought to life by humankind. Violent - insurmountable and wild beyond our control. Mild - delicious."

Animated Violence Mild is the follow-up to 2015's Dumb Flesh and 2017's World Eater. British five-piece Editors also recently released The Blanck Mass Sessions, which was a new version of their 2018 album Violence, a more electronic, version of the album featuring the original production work on the songs done by Blanck Mass.

6. Cross Record: "I Release You"

Cross Record is the project of Emily Cross, who is also the vocalist in Loma. Cross Record is releasing a new self-titled album on August 2 via Ba Da Bing and this week she shared a new song from it, "I Release You," via a self-directed video featuring friends of Cross' dancing to the song.

Cross had this to say about "I Release You" in a press release: "The song is about struggling to let go of an identity you've built up around yourself and trying to see a life beyond it," says Cross. "It's also about moving ahead with intuition, even if you have no idea what the 'right thing to do' is or means. I was in a state of utter confusion, but somewhere in myself I saw the path I needed to travel, and I knew that eventually when I arrived back to Earth, I and (we) would grow under the right conditions. In this video, I was seeking expression of the song through my friends, who hadn't heard the song yet. Thanks to them, who moved beautifully to it." 

Previously Cross shared Cross Record's first single, "PYSOL My Castle." That was followed by its second single, "The Fly" (which was one of our Songs of the Week).

Loma also consists of Shearwater singer Jonathan Meiburg and former Cross Record member Dan Duszynski.

Read our 2018 interview with Loma.

7. Girl Ray: "Show Me More"

This week North London trio Girl Ray announced a new album, Girl, and shared a video for its first single, "Show Me More." Girl is due out November 8 via Moshi Moshi. They've also announced some UK tour dates. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates, here.

Girl Ray features Poppy Hankin (guitar/vocals), Iris McConnell (drums), and Sophie Moss (bass). Girl is their second album, the follow-up to their cleverly titled 2017-released debut album, Earl Grey (it was our Album of the Week and #3 on our Top 15 Debut Albums of 2017 list).

Girl was recorded at Electric Beach Studios in Margate with Ash Workman (Christine and the Queens, Metronomy). Whereas their debut album was a twee-pop gem, Girl is inspired by more modern and electronic pop sounds, in particular Rihanna and Ariana Grande. Crusoe Weston directed the "Show Me More" video, which features the band riding around on bikes.

In a press release the band say "Show Me More" is about "crushing really hard but having to play the long game and wait it out because your boo is playing savage games. It's your classic pop banger. Steamy dance floor. Drinks on me."

Read our Pleased to Meet You interview with Girl Ray and check out our exclusive photo shoot with the band.

8. Bodywash: "With Heat"

This week Montreal-based dream-pop group Bodywash shared the video for their new track, "With Heat," off of their forthcoming album Comforter, due out August 30 via Luminelle Recordings. We were pleased to premiere the song and video.

The video is a gauzy fever dream set in a suburban home that features VHS fuzz and slow zooms to match the tone of the song. The track itself is a gently surging wave set over a steady groove that layers like sediment in a downpour.

On the making of the track, vocalist and guitarist Rosie Long Decter had this to say: "The song comes from a feeling of being trapped - of returning to something you know is bad for you, whether that thing is a relationship or a place or a feeling (for me, it was all three). It gets at the tension between giving into a toxic situation and trying to forgive yourself for it, while still hoping for a way out. With the video, we wanted to convey that tension - to create a sense of claustrophobia, of being enveloped and haunted by something that you can't quite articulate. A woman moves through a house, touching the walls, exploring, looking for something; she might not ever find it, but she keeps looking."

The video was directed by Max Taeuschel and stars Isabelle Buchegger. Comforter marks the group's debut LP, following previously released lead single "Reverie" and standalone single "Eye to Eye" released earlier this year. - By Stephen Axeman

9. Iggy Pop: "James Bond"

Iggy Pop is releasing a new album, Free, on September 6 via Loma Vista. Previously he shared its first single, short title track "Free." This week he shared the album's second single, "James Bond," which seems to be about a woman who wants to be a superspy. The song features additional vocals from Faith Vern of the British band PINS and a notable trumpet solo played by Leron Thomas.

Pop had this to say about the song in a press release: "I don't know what she's up to exactly, but the tables seem to be turning, and she's taking over. Well, why not? I'll try anything once."

Pop adds: "I've never had more fun singing a lyric. Faith's reading is so loaded, and Leron's production and trumpet along with the band swings like crazy."

Free is the follow-up to 2016's Post Pop Depression, which was produced by Josh Homme of Eagles of Death Metal and Queens of the Stone Age, who also co-wrote the album with Pop and played on it. In 2018 Pop also teamed up with the iconic British dance duo Underworld (Karl Hyde and Rick Smith) for the collaborative four-song EP, Teatime Dub Encounters. Free was made with help of Leron Thomas and Noveller. A previous press release called the album a "uniquely somber and contemplative entry in the Iggy Pop canon." 

Pop had this to say about the album in the previous press release: "This is an album in which other artists speak for me, but I lend my voice...
 
"By the end of the tours following Post Pop Depression, I felt sure that I had rid myself of the problem of chronic insecurity that had dogged my life and career for too long.      
 
"But I also felt drained. And I felt like I wanted to put on shades, turn my back, and walk away. I wanted to be free. I know that's an illusion, and that freedom is only something you feel, but I have lived my life thus far in the belief that that feeling is all that is worth pursuing; all that you need - not happiness or love necessarily, but the feeling of being free.  

"So this album just kind of happened to me, and I let it happen."

10. The New Pornographers: "Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile"

Earlier today The New Pornographers announced a new album, In the Morse Code of Brake Lights, and shared its first single, "Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile." In the Morse Code of Brake Lights is due out September 27 via the band's own Collected Work imprint, in partnership with Concord. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as the band's upcoming tour dates, here.

The band's last album was 2017's Whiteout Conditions, also released on Collected Works/Concord. In a press release the band's frontperson and songwriter Carl Newman (who also produced the album) says In the Morse Code of Brake Lights is an accidental concept record.

"I was about two-thirds of the way through the record when I began to notice that lyrically so much of it was pointing toward car songs," he says. "The opening track is 'You'll Need a Backseat Driver,' and that was a metaphor that seemed to be running through other songs, too. Next to the love song, I feel like the car song is one of the most iconic kinds of songs in pop music, from Chuck Berry to the present. There was so much of that throughout it that I started thinking: 'Oh, no, there's too many references to cars on this record!' And then I thought, 'No, that's good-people might think it's a concept album.'"

Of "Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile" Newman had this to say in the press release: "There are so many songs like 'the something of love'-you know, there's 'The Book of Love,' 'The Freeway of Love'...Then I thought of 'falling down the stairs of your love,' and I thought, that kind of works. I think it has that element of how do you deal with the ideas of love and happiness in this world right now? When current events are stressful, that makes a stress on people's relationships, and you're trying to figure out how to be happy in this loving relationship in this world that seems ugly at every turn, which is not as easy as it seems. So I like the metaphor of love as something that you fall down."

Read our 2017 interview with The New Pornographers' Carl Newman on Whiteout Conditions.

Honorable Mentions:

These 6 songs almost made the Top 10.

Devendra Banhart: "Memorial"

Death Cab for Cutie: "Kids in '99"

Mikal Cronin: "Show Me"

Long Beard: "Means to Me"

Part Time: "Lies in the Eyes of Love"

Rapsody: "Ibtihaj" (Feat. GZA and D'Angelo)

Other notable new tracks in the last week include: 

Bibio: "Spruce Tops"

Blushh: "July"

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Bryce Dessner, and Eighth Blackbird: "One With The Birds"

Bonny Light Horseman: "Bonny Light Horseman"

Brockhampton - "I Been Born Again"

Dark Thoughts: "Do You Dream?"

 Elvis Depressedly: "Jane, Don't You Know Me?"

Foals: "Black Bull"

Ariana Grande and Social House: "Boyfriend"

Gryffin: "OMG" (Feat. Carly Rae Jepsen)

Guaxe: "Desafio Do Guaxe"

Juliana Hatfield: "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" (The Police Cover)

The Highwomen: "The Chain" (Fleetwood Mac Cover)

IDLES: "I Dream Guillotine"

Microwave: "Carry" and "DIAWB"

0 Stars: "Round 2"

Pom Pom Squad: "Honeysuckle"

Ra Ra Riot: "Belladonna"

Red Hearse: "Everybody Wants You"

 

Refused: "Blood Red"

Royal Trux: "Suburban Junky Lady (Ariel Pink Remix)"

Snarls: "Walk in the Woods"

Starcrawler: "Bet My Brains"

 Telefon Tel Aviv: "standing at the bottom of the ocean"

Tove Lo: "Bad as the Boys" (Feat. Alma)

Thom Yorke: "Not the News (Extendo Mix by Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich)," "Not the News (Mark Pritchard Remix)," "Not the News (Equiknoxx Remix feat. Time Cow & Gavsborg)," and "Not the News (Clark Remix)"

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