10 Best Songs of the Week: Bat For Lashes, Marika Hackman, Caroline Polakchek, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, October 18th, 2019  

10 Best Songs of the Week: Bat For Lashes, Marika Hackman, Caroline Polakchek, and More

Plus Metronomy, DIIV, Chance The Rapper + Ben Gibbard, Tegan and Sara, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

Jul 26, 2019
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Welcome to another Songs of the Week. It was another strong week for new tracks. There are some repeat offenders (artists who have had previous Songs of the Week in recent months), some newbies, and a surprising collaboration.

Elsewhere on the website this week we posted an interview with Sigur Rós on the 20th anniversary of their beloved second album, 1999's Ágætis byrjun.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Neil Young + Stray Gators, Necking, K. Flay, Purple Mountains, and a Frightened Rabbit tribute album. 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. Bat For Lashes: "Feel For You"

Bat For Lashes (aka Natasha Khan) is releasing a new album, Lost Girls, on September 6 via AWAL Recordings. This week she shared another song from it, "Feel For You," which has a strong '80s vibe. There's not much to the lyrics ("I love ya/I feel for you"), but musically it's a stunner. It almost sounds like a remix of a song with more lyrics. Some of Bat For Lashes songs can be a bit too slow-paced, so it's nice to hear Khan cut loose a bit here.

Previously she shared Lost Girls' first single, "Kids in the Dark" (which was one of our Songs of the Week). Then she shared a video for the track. Khan directed it herself and starred as the album's main character Nikki Pink, in this case as a vampire stalking a lover, backed by a gang of female vampires. Bat For Lashes has also been sharing some intriguing teaser videos on Instagram that tie into the album and the "Kids in the Dark" video. You can watch some of them here and others on her Instagram.

Lost Girls is the follow-up to 2016's concept album The Bride, which came out via Parlophone/Warner Bros. Although in 2018 Khan scored the BBC/Netflix show Requiem, for which she picked up an Ivor Norvello Award.

A previous press release set the scene for Lost Girls this way: "If her last album, The Bride, was melancholy and mournful, a tone poem of loss and regret, Lost Girls is her mischievous younger sister, widescreen in scope and bursting with Technicolour intensity. It's an album for driving in the dark; holding hands at sunset; jumping off bridges with vampires; riding your bike across the moon.... Spanning 10 tracks, Lost Girls sees Khan dreaming up her own fully formed parallel universe, creating an off-kilter coming of age film in which gangs of marauding female bikers roam our streets, teenagers make out on car hoods and a powerful female energy casts spells and leave clues for us to follow. The women of Lost Girls are parallel to one of Khan's previous female protagonists, the tough, darkness-driven Pearl, from her 2009 lauded album Two Suns. Within the women of Lost Girls and the character Nikki Pink, Khan unfolds elements of herself; within these songs, we do the same."  

2. Marika Hackman: "all night"

British singer/songwriter Marika Hackman is releasing a new album, Any Human Friend, on August 9 via Sub Pop. This week she shared another song from the album, the sexually charged "all night." With lyrics like "We go down on one another," "You just took my hand and held it between your thighs," "Our mouths are just for moaning," and "Kissing and fucking," this is not a song to play for your granny (unless you have a really free spirited nana) or while kids are in the room, and those okay.

Hackman had this to say about the song in a press release: "I thought it would be exciting to write a really overtly sexual song about a woman from the perspective of a woman. You don't hear much about sex between women in music, or if you do its usually from a fetishized male perspective, I thought I'd reclaim a bit of that power."

Previously she shared the album's first single "i'm not where you are" (which was one of our Songs of the Week), as well as a video for the song. Then she shared "the one," which made it to #1 on our Songs of the Week list.

Any Human Friend is the follow-up to her 2017-released breakthrough release, sophomore album I'm Not Your Man. Hackman co-produced the album with David Wrench (Frank Ocean, The xx, Let's Eat Grandma).

In a previous press release Hackman summed up the album this way: "This whole record is me diving into myself and peeling back the skin further and further, exposing myself in quite a big way. It can be quite sexual. It's blunt, but not offensive. It's mischievous." 

Hackman added: "I'm a hopeless romantic. I search for love and sexual experience, but also I'm terrified by it."

Hackman is unabashed about tackling these themes, even if her only family is a little less enthused. "I sent 'all night' to my parents and they were quite shocked," she said in the press release. "Why does it sound shocking coming out of my mouth? Women have sex with each other, and it seems to me we aren't as freely allowed to discuss that as men are. But at no point am I disrespecting the women I'm having sex with. It can be fucking sexy without banging people over the head with a frying pan. It's sexy sex."

Read our 2017 interview with Marika Hackman.

3. Caroline Polachek: "Ocean of Tears"

This week Caroline Polachek (formerly of Chairlift) tentatively announced a new solo album, Pang, and shared two songs from it: "Ocean of Tears" and "Parachute." Pang (not to be confused with the recently announced Gruff Rhys album of the same name) is due out this fall via Columbia. Further details, such as the exact release date, tracklist, or cover art, are still forthcoming. "Ocean of Tears" was the stronger of the two tracks (Polachek's vocals are really transcendent in moments) and makes the main list, but "Parachute" is a definite honorable mention below. The album also includes the previously shared single "Door."

For Pang Polachek has collaborated with producer/composer Danny L Harle. "Parachute" was the first song written for the album, with lyrics inspired by a dream Polachek had "in which she accepts her own death only to find herself saved," as a press release puts it.

"It was an incredible moment, realizing that this melody we'd written was unintentionally re-telling a dream I'd been shaken by," says Polachek in the press release. "I went home, re-drafted the words to fit, and came back to the studio at 1am to record the vocal the same day. And that's the take we kept. From that moment on, Dan and I knew we had a lot more work to do together."

Polachek adds: "'Parachute' is about the total trust that only comes with total emergency. Like a mayfly trying its wings for the first time over a large body of water full of hungry fish... and the wings work."

"Ocean of Tears" was the last song written for the album. The song was written by Caroline Polachek, Nate Campany, and Kyle Shearer and produced by Caroline Polachek, Danny L Harle, and Valley Girl, with additional production by A. G. Cook. 

In the press release Polachek says, "'Ocean of Tears' is dedicated to the sharp pain of being in love with someone far away, and the maddening doubt that comes with it."

She adds: "I'd really like someone to figure skate to this at the 2022 Winter Olympics."

Pang will be Polachek's first album released under her own name, although she did release, Arcadia, a solo album as Ramona Lisa, in 2014, as well as an instrumental Ramona Lisa album, Drawing the Target Around the Arrow in 2017. Chairlift announced in 2016 that they were splitting up and they played some final shows in 2017.

4. Metronomy: "Walking in the Dark"

Metronomy are releasing a new album, Metronomy Forever, on September 13 via Because Music. This week they shared another song from the album, "Walking in the Dark," via a colorful video for the track. The song isn't an obvious single, it's a slow-burner that maintains one mood throughout. Like Bat For Lashes' "Feel For You" there's really not much to the lyrics ("Holler if you need me" is repeated a lot, sometimes addressed to a girl, sometimes to a boy), the instrumentation and production is interesting enough and sounds very Metronomy in a way that sounds like few other of their contemporaries.

Frontman Joseph Mount had this to say about the video in a statement: "The 'Walking in the Dark' video is the age old tale of the guru and the fisherman set against a green screen backdrop. Clara (who provided the 3D animation) is someone I became aware of through a collaboration between ourselves and Central St Martins college in London a few years ago. Her style is completely unique and something I was desperate to make part of the video. The song is one of my favorites from the new record and gives a wonderful taste of how eclectic the album is." 

Metronomy Forever includes "Lately," a new song the British band shared via a video in May (it was #1 on our Songs of the Week list). When the album was announced in June they shared a video for another new song from it, "Salted Caramel Ice Cream" (which was also one of our Songs of the Week).

Metronomy Forever is the follow-up to 2016's Summer 08. Since then Mount did production work on Robyn's Honey (Robyn appeared on Summer 08). Mount also moved from Paris to the English countryside, which influenced the album.

Mount had this to say about Metronomy Forever in a previous press release: "What happens is when you're making music and you enter a world where you have achieved some sort of celebrity no matter how large or small you start to think about yourself in terms of legacy and what you're going to leave behind and then you realize that's limited to the interest people have in you. In the end I feel completely comfortable with it. The less importance you place in any art the more interesting it can become in a way...I'm making music, I'm going to do some concerts, I need to feed my children."

The video for "Lately" was Mount's directorial debut and he returned behind the camera for the "Salted Caramel Ice Cream" video.

Read our 2016 interview with Metronomy.

5. DIIV: "Skin Game"

This week DIIV announced a new album, Deceiver, and shared its first single, "Skin Game." They also announced some fall tour dates. Deceiver is due out October 4 via Captured Tracks. With "Skin Game" DIIV gloriously lean even further into their '90s shoegaze influences.

Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates here.

Deceiver is the band's third album and the follow-up to 2016's Is The Is Are. The band's current lineup features Zachary Cole Smith (lead vocals, guitar), Andrew Bailey (guitar), Colin Caulfield (bass), and Ben Newman (drums). The album was recorded in Los Angeles in March 2019 with producer Sonny Diperri (My Bloody Valentine, Nine Inch Nails, Protomartyr), which is the first time the band has used an outside producer. 

Smith had this to say about "Skin Game" in a press release: "It's an imaginary dialogue between two characters, which could either be myself or people I know. I spent six months in several different rehab facilities at the beginning of 2017. I was living with other addicts. Being a recovering addict myself, there are a lot of questions like, 'Who are we? What is this disease?' Our last record was about recovery in general, but I truthfully didn't buy in. I decided to live in my disease instead. 'Skin Game' looks at where the pain comes from. I'm looking at the personal, physical, emotional, and broader political experiences feeding into the cycle of addiction for millions of us."

Read our 2016 interview with DIIV.

6. Chance The Rapper: "Do You Remember" (Feat. Ben Gibbard)

Chance The Rapper finally released his debut album, The Big Day, today. Yes, he's been a big deal for a while, but technically his previous three album-like releases were all mixtapes. The Big Day features a slew of special guests, but of most note to our readers might be the song "Do You Remember," which features guest vocals from Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard and was co-written by Gibbard and a bunch of other people, including Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. The song is a wistful look back at the freedom of childhood and the joy of summer. When the album was unreleased on the world "Ben Gibbard" was trending on Twitter and fans were freaking out that he was on a Chance The Rapper song. On paper it may not work, but Gibbard's distinctive voice blends surprisingly well with Chance's flow and the song's production.

Another indie rock-friendly guest on The Big Day is CocoRosie, on the track "Roo," which you can also stream below in the other notable tracks section. You can stream all of The Big Day here.

Chance The Rapper is a big Death Cab for Cutie fan and the band posted about the collaboration on Instagram. Here's what they had to say:

"It all started with a, well, chance encounter three years ago backstage at Bonnaroo. Turns out that we and @chancetherapper had a bit of a mutual admiration society going on, and we had a very fun hang in our dressing room, in which he revealed a straight-up impressive familiarity with some pretty deep Death Cab catalog cuts, and during which the possibility of a collaboration was briefly mentioned.

"Fast forward to 2019, and we were truly surprised and honored when Chance got back in touch and asked us to be part of a song called 'Do You Remember,' which appears on his debut record, THE BIG DAY, which is out worldwide as of right now. We couldn't be more thrilled."

7. Tegan and Sara: "I'll Be Back Someday"

Tegan and Sara (sisters Tegan and Sara Quin) are releasing a new album, Hey, I'm Just Like You, on September 27 via Sire. This week they shared the album's first single, "I'll Be Back Someday," via a lyric video for the track directed by Sara.

Hey, I'm Just Like You features Tegan and Sara reworking old unreleased songs they originally wrote in high school and were thought lost for over 20 years. It is due out only three days after the release of their first memoir, High School, which is being released on September 24 via MCD, a division of Farrar, Straus & Giroux (and Simon & Schuster in Canada and Virago in the UK). The shows in their upcoming tour will include readings from their memoir. $1.00 from every ticket will be donated to the Tegan and Sara Foundation.

In a press release, Sara had this childhood memory to offer about the period in which "I'll Be Back Someday" was written: "We had been begging for an electric guitar, and on our 16th birthday, we got one. Of course, we had to share it, so it became a weapon that we stole from each other's rooms, barricading ourselves behind locked doors with guitar in hand. Screaming over the small amplifier, we tested our voices by writing punk songs, shredding our thumbs on the strings."

The band discovered 40 songs they wrote in high school, which led to Hey, I'm Just Like You. "While working on our memoir, we discovered lost cassette tapes that had been unheard for over 20 years," said Tegan in a previous press release. "They contained dozens of our first songs, written between the ages of 15 and 17...we immediately recognized the songs as an essential part of our high school story."

"With only minor tweaks to lyrics and structure, we tried to remain true to the original essence of each song," added Sara.

Hey, I'm Just Like You was recorded in Vancouver, Canada in April and May 2019. The previous press release pointed out that it is "the first Tegan and Sara album created with a team of all women." This includes producer Alex Hope (Troye Sivan, Broods), Rachael Findlen (engineer), Beatriz Artola (mixing), Emily Lazar (mastering), Annie Kennedy (assistant engineer), Carla Azar (drums), and Catherine Hiltz (bass).

Tegan and Sara summed up Hey, I'm Just Like You with this previous press release statement: "This is the record we never could have made as teenagers, full of songs we never could have written as adults."

When High School was announced it was dubbed "the origin story of Tegan and Sara." It recounts their high school years, with alternating chapters written by each sister.

Tegan and Sara previously offered this joint statement about the book: "How did you start your band? When did you know that you were gay? What were you like before Tegan and Sara? We have spent 20 years answering those complicated questions with simple answers. Writing High School gives us the opportunity to tell the intricate stories that shaped our relationship as sisters, musicians, and queer girls."

8. Black Belt Eagle Scout: "My Heart Dreams"

Black Belt Eagle Scout (aka Katherine Paul) is releasing a new album, At the Party With My Brown Friends, on August 30 via Saddle Creek. This week she shared another song from it, "My Heart Dreams," via a video for the track. She has also announced some new headlining tour dates. Check out the video and tour dates below.

Angel Two Bulls filmed the "My Heart Dreams" video and co-directed it with Paul. It is set at the Portland Pride parade.

Paul had this to say about the video in a press release: "The idea behind this video was to do something fun while showing the resilience of the Indigenous people, particularly women and girls, which is why I chose to have the Black Belt Eagle Scout band be portrayed by young Indigenous girls. In an age where Missing and Murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) are finally getting the attention they deserve, it's important to make their strength visible. The justice around MMIW is something we should all be paying closer attention to and I hope my platform serves to heighten awareness. The girls and extras in the video are members of the Portland Two Spirit Society, a special group of LGBTQ Indigenous and Native American/Alaska Natives and the Portland All Nations Canoe Family."

Previously Paul shared At the Party With My Brown Friends' first single, album opener "At the Party" (which was one of our Songs of the Week).

Paul is an indigenous queer musician who grew up in a small Indian reservation, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and is based in Portland. Her debut album, Mother of My Children, came out last September via Saddle Creek, so this is a quick turnaround for a sophomore album. Back in April she shared a video for a new song, "Loss & Relax," that was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Alas that song is not on the new album.

A previous press release described the new album as such: "At the Party With My Brown Friends is a profound and understated forward-step. The squalling guitar anthems that shaped its predecessor are replaced by delicate vocals and soft keys, sentiments spoken and unspoken, presenting something shadowy and unsettling; a stirring of the waters. Paul recalls specific memories - an impromptu beach trip with her friend Haley Heynderickx, her eternal love for her mother, and leaving one love and desperately wanting to find another. The end result presents a captivating about-face that redefines Paul's singular artistic vision."

"At the Party" was written in Paul's bedroom and the press release said it "is a reflection on self-navigation and the comfort that comes from a close-knit group of friends."

Paul had this to say about "At the Party" in the press release: "Within my conscious self, there is always a sense of questioning the legitimacy of the world when you grow up on an Indian reservation. We are all at the party (the world), trying to navigate ourselves within a good or bad situation. I happen to be at the party with my brown friends- Indigenous, Black, POC who always have my back while we walk throughout this event called life."

Read our interview with Black Belt Eagle Scout on Mother of My Children.

Read our 2018 politically themed interview with Black Belt Eagle Scout.

Read our review of Mother of My Children.

9. Friendly Fires: "Run the Wild Flowers"

Friendly Fires are releasing a new album, Inflorescent, on August 16 via Casablanca/Polydor. This week they shared another song from it, "Run the Wild Flowers."

Inflorescent includes two singles the band shared last year: "Heaven Let Me In" (which was one of our Songs of the Week) and "Love Like Waves" (which was also one of our Songs of the Week). Then when the album was announced they shared another new song from it, "Silhouettes" (which once again was one of our Songs of the Week).

The band features Ed Macfarlane, Edd Gibson, and Jack Savidge. For Inflorescent the band worked with producers Mark Ralph, James Ford and Disclosure (brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence).

It's been eight long years since Pala, the 2011-released sophomore album by London dance-rock trio, but back in April 2018 they returned with a brand new single, "Love Like Waves" (which was one of our Songs of the Week), which was followed by a video for the song in May 2018. Then in October 2018 they shared "Heaven Let Me In" (it was also one of our Songs of the Week). In November they shared a video for "Heaven Let Me In," which starred British actor Jeremy Irvine.

Friendly Fires made a splash with their 2008-released self-titled debut album, which was fueled by the singles "Paris" and "Jump in the Pool" and was nominated for the Mercury Prize.

Revisit our early 2008 interview with Friendly Fires, back when they were largely unknown.

10. Sheer Mag: "Hardly to Blame"

Philadelphia's Sheer Mag are releasing a new album, A Distant Call, on August 23 via Wilsuns RC. This week they shared another song from the album, "Hardly to Blame," via a video for the song. Jonathan Arturo directed video for "Hardly to Blame," which mixes black & white footage of singer Tina Halladay broken hearted with color images of the band performing the song.

A Distant Call is the follow-up to the band's 2017-released debut album, Need to Feel Your Love. The band also features guitarist/lyricist Matt Palmer, guitarist Kyle Seely, and bassist/produced Hart Seely and previously they shared A Distant Call's first single, "Blood From a Stone."

Palmer had this to say about "Hardly to Blame" in a press release: "In 'Hardly to Blame' we see the psychic landscape of Philadelphia transformed by the collapse of Tina's relationship with her partner. The streets they used to walk together, the bars they used to drink at, and the friends they used to share have all been tainted by the lingering memories of their time together. Closing out side A of A Distant Call, 'Hardly to Blame' shows Tina spiraling further down and down. Unfortunately the worst is yet to come, but 'Hardly to Blame' gives us a glimpse at someone who thinks they've hit bedrock, unaware that the bottom is about to drop out."

Honorable Mentions:

These 6 songs almost made the Top 10. We almost had a Top 12, with Ty Segall and Allah Las rounding out the list.

Allah Las: "In the Air"

Black Country, New Road: "Sunglasses"

Black Marble: "One Eye Open"

Caroline Polachek: "Parachute"

Ty Segall: "Ice Plant"

Shura: "religion (u can lay your hands on me) (Gabe Gurnsey Remix)"

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

The 1975: "The 1975"

Laurie Anderson, Tenzin Choegyal, & Jesse Paris Smith: "Lotus Born, No Need To Fear"

Cartalk: "Noonday Devil"

Chance The Rapper: "Roo" (Feat. CocoRosie)

Cornelius :"Sauna Sukisugi"

Denzel Curry: "Shawshank" (Feat. Tate Kobang)

Betty Davis (Performed by Danielle Maggio): "A Little Bit Hot Tonight" 

Miles Davis: "Paradise" 

DJ Shadow: "Rocket Fuel" (Feat. De La Soul)

DUMP HIM: "Dykes To Watch Out For"

Ecstatic Vision: "Shut Up And Drive"

Florist: "M"

Liam Gallagher: "Once"

The Highwomen: "Crowded Table"

The Hold Steady: "You Did Good Kid"

Norah Jones: "Take It Away" (Feat. Tarriona Tank Ball)

Mark Lanegan Band: "Letter Never Sent"

Let's Eat Grandma: "Overflow," "Glittering," and "Salt Lakes" 

Longwave: "Dreamers Float Away"

Jason Lytle: "Dry Gulched On Rodeo Drive"

Madonna: "Angels With Dirty Faces (Demo)," "Cherish (Demo)," and "Like a Prayer (Demo)"

My Morning Jacket: "John Dyes Her Hair Red"

Oh Sees: "Heartworm"

The Paranoyds: "Carnage Bargain"

Robbie Robertson: "I Hear You Paint Houses" (Feat. Van Morrison)

Ross From Friends: "The Revolution"

Russian Circles: "Kohokia"

Strand of Oaks: "Moon Landing (Alternate Take)"

Taylor Swift: "The Archer"

Third Eye Blind: "Screamer" (Feat. Sleigh Bells' Alexis Krauss)

Twen: "Baptism"

White Reaper: "Real Long Time"

YACHT: "SCATTERHEAD"

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