10 Best Songs of the Week: Beth Gibbons, Sky Ferreira, C Duncan, Foxygen, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, December 12th, 2019  

10 Best Songs of the Week: Beth Gibbons, Sky Ferreira, C Duncan, Foxygen, and More

Plus Cage The Elephant and Beck, Bibio, Bedouine, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

Mar 29, 2019
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This week's Songs of the Week list stars with a 24-minute first movement of a symphony featuring a trip-hop icon, but most of the songs in the Top 10 are by artists that have already made the list in recent weeks with previous songs.

Elsewhere on the website this week we posted a My Firsts interview with C Duncan, as well as an interview with Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein (who did the music for Stranger Things) about their latest score.

We also posted Artist Survey interviews with Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals, DJ Nu-Mark of Jurassic Five and TRDMRK, Sophie Auster, Claire George, and Sunflower Bean.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Lambchop, SASAMI, Tamino, HEALTH, Avey Tare, Self Esteem, Beth Gibbons and the Polish National Orchestra, C Duncan, Apparat, and These New Puritans. Plus we posted reviews of various DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows.

Don't forget that a few weeks ago we announced our new print issue. The issue features Mitski on the front cover and boygenius (Julien Baker + Phoebe Bridgers + Lucy Dacus) on the back cover.

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. Beth Gibbons and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra: "I. Lento - Sostenuto tranquillo ma cantabile" (Henryk Górecki Live Cover Conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki)

On November 29, 2014 Beth Gibbons of Portishead teamed up with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki, to perform Henryk Górecki's acclaimed 1977 symphony, Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs). Now an album and film documenting the performance, simply titled Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs), has been released today by Domino (stream it here).

It's perhaps a bit of a cheat for us to include a whole 24-minute movement of a symphony, one that's a 2014 live version of a 42-year-old symphony, in Songs of the Week, especially as #1. But it's a staggeringly beautiful and moving piece of music and Gibbons' performance is startling, you're easily fooled into thinking that she's a seasoned opera singer. Although, you should really just listen to the complete piece, rather than just one movement.

Read our rave review of Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs).

The film and album were both produced by the National Audiovisual Institute, Poland and directed by Michał Merczyński. Check out an interactive website for the project here.

A previous press release described the project as such: "Following an invitation to collaborate at the concert, Beth Gibbons-the elusive yet iconic frontwoman of Portishead, one of the most important British bands of the last two decades-undertook an intense preparation process, including tackling the challenge of learning the Polish original text (and the emotional weight it carries) without speaking the mother language. The other challenge was the music itself. Beth's voice is, in classical terms, a contralto; Górecki wrote for a soprano, one register higher. While she had ventured into the soprano range before, she hadn't spent a sustained stretch of time there in performance; she sought the help of both English and Polish vocal coaches. Typical to Beth, the challenge was met and exceeded."

Symphony No. 3 was not initially well received outside of Górecki's native Poland, but eventually became considered a classic of 20th century classical music, going on to sell over a million copies. It has also been used in various films, such as Peter Weir's Oscar nominated plane crash drama Fearless, from 1993 and starring Jeff Bridges and Rosie Perez.

Portishead's last album was 2008's Third. In 2002 Gibbons teamed up with Rustin Man (aka Talk Talk's Paul Webb) for the collaborative record Out of Season.

2. Sky Ferreira: "Downhill Lullaby"

This week Sky Ferreira shared a new song, "Downhill Lullaby." The moody string-laden track is the singer's first original song in six years and certainly isn't a throwaway pop song. It is the first taste of her long-awaited sophomore album, Masochism, which is the follow-up to her acclaimed 2013-released debut album, Night Time, My Time. Masochism doesn't have a confirmed release date or tracklist yet, but this is a good start.

Ferreira and Dean Hurley produced "Downhill Lullaby," with co-production by Jorge Elbrecht. Since Night Time, My Time Ferreira has kept busy, guesting on songs by Primal Scream ("Where the Light Gets In" from 2016's Chaosmosis) and The Jesus and Mary Chain ("Black and Blues" from 2017's Damage & Joy, as well as "The Two of Us"). She also covered Til Tuesday's "Voices Carry" and The Commodores' "Easy," the latter for Edgar Wright's hit 2017 film Baby Driver, which Ferreira also acted in (as well as appearing in various other films and David Lynch's Twin Peaks: The Return).

3. C Duncan: "Holiday Home"

Scotland's C Duncan (aka Chris Duncan) released a new album, Health, today via FatCat. Now that the album is out, you can stream the whole thing here. He only released two pre-release singles from the album, so there are lots of other great tracks to choose from for this week's Songs of the Week. Our favorite might be "Holiday Home," so it makes the list (with "Talk Talk Talk" an honorable mention below).

Also today we posted our My Firsts interview with C Duncan and you can read that here.

Also read our positive review of Health.

Previously Duncan shared the album's first single, "Impossible," which was one of our Songs of the Week, as well as a video for the song filmed at Europe's biggest Elvis Presley tribute contest. Then he shared the album's title track, "Health" (which was also one of our Songs of the Week).

Health is Duncan's third album. It was produced by Elbow's Craig Potter. Health follows 2015's Mercury Prize-nominated debut, Architect, and 2016's Twilight Zone-inspired sophomore album, The Midnight Sun. His first two albums were bedroom-recorded affairs, this is the first album recorded with other producers, engineers, and musicians.

"This was the biggest shift in dynamic for me," Duncan said in a previous press release, "having always worked alone, it was a daunting prospect but one I knew I had to explore." 

Duncan also had this to say about the album in the previous press release: "With album three, I wanted to take a more direct approach, adding even more layers but thematically and lyrically laid bare. Having someone else to bounce production ideas off was really eye-opening for me. In the past, I had been very controlling about how everything would sound but Health really showed me the benefit of working with others and made the whole process much less isolating."

4. Foxygen: "Face the Facts"

Foxygen (Jonathan Rado and Sam France) are releasing a new album, Seeing Other People, on April 26 via Jagjaguwar. Previously they shared a video for its first single, "Livin' a Lie" (which was one of our Songs of the Week). This week they shared another song from the album, "Face the Facts."

"Face the Facts" is a funky plea to a lover to come back and features some memorable lines, including: "I want to live in the times when they put cocaine in Coca Cola" and "I'm never gonna dance like James Brown/I'm never gonna be black/And I'm never gonna get you back."

Seeing Other People is the follow-up to 2017's grandiose and theatrical Hang and 2014's ...And Star Power. Foxygen wrote and self-produced Seeing Other People at Sonora Recorders in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles, California. Shawn Everett engineered and mixed the album, which features drummer Jim Keltner.

A previous press release said that Seeing Other People is a "goodbye" record. In the press release, France explained further: "For me Seeing Other People just means goodbye: Goodbye to the drugs, to the partying. Goodbye to my twenties now. Goodbye to my Saint Laurent-model-body. Goodbye to the touring circus - that's right, no more shows or tours for a while. Goodbye, hopefully, to the anxiety attacks. Goodbye to beating myself up because I didn't fit into those leather pants anymore. Fuck it. Goodbye to the facilities. And goodbye the leeches in my life. I know a lot of gritty stories about a lot of players in this business but you'll have to read between the lines." 

You can read a longer statement from France about the album here. In it France also says he's written a memoir entitled Sam Francisco: Confessions of an Indie Rock Star (it's unclear if he's being serious or not).

Read our 2017 interview with Foxygen about Hang.

5. Cage The Elephant: "Night Running" (Feat. Beck)

This week Beck and Cage The Elephant teamed up for a new song "Night Running." It's a new single from Cage The Elephant's upcoming new album, Social Cues, which is their fifth and is due out on April 19 via RCA. "Night Running" almost sounds like something from the first two Gorillaz albums and we dig it. Also, as previously announced, Beck and Cage The Elephant are going on a co-headlining tour this summer, dubbed "The Night Running Tour." Check out the tour dates here.

The tour will feature support from Spoon. Other support acts include Sunflower Bean, Wild Belle, and Starcrawler. They have partnered up with PLUS1, in which "$1 from every ticket sold will be donated back into each city they are playing in, supporting local food security initiatives as they work towards ending hunger in their communities."

6. Bibio: "Old Graffiti"

Bibio (aka British electronic music producer Stephen Wilkinson) is releasing a new album, Ribbons, on April 12 via Warp. Previously he shared its first single "Curls," as well as a trailer for the album and a video for "Curls." This week he shared another song from the album, "Old Graffiti," which has a timeless feel (as if it's a forgotten French or Brazilian pop song from the 1960s).

In a press release Wilkinson says he writes many of his songs on guitar, but "Old Graffiti" started on percussion. The press release says he "was inspired by listening to old Batucada and Capoeira recordings."

Wilkinson had this to say about the song in the press release: "Like many of my tracks, the influences are mixed and come from quite unrelated sources, but I think that's true of a lot of modern music, on the surface it might seem like it's referencing a specific era, but it's actually referencing several, and doing so from a more distant perspective, a perspective that might not have been as wide several decades ago. Rather than relying on sampling old records to get 'that sound,' I like to get to the bare bones and create the parts from scratch, there's more freedom in doing that, also the challenge of getting the instruments to take on the appropriate timbre and quality is satisfying to get right. I use a mixture of new and vintage gear and instruments to achieve this and processes that I've developed myself since my bedroom studio days." 

A previous press release described the album as such: "Following his ambient atmospheric project, Phantom Brickworks, Stephen Wilkinson returns to the path of structured songwriting last explored on 2016's A Mineral LoveRibbons yields folkloric charm with an organic palette, incorporating a mostly acoustic-led approach exploring '60s and '70s psychedelia, soul, ambient, electronic, and field recordings.

7. Bedouine: "Bird"

This week Bedouine, the project of singer/songwriter Azniv Korkejian, announced a new album, Bird Songs of a Killjoy, and shared a video for a new song from it, another timeless sounding track, "Bird." Bird Songs of a Killjoy is due out May 31 via Spacebomb. It includes "When You're Gone," a new song she shared earlier this month via a video (it was one of our Songs of the Week). Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as Bedouine's upcoming tour dates, here.

Bedouine released her self-titled debut album in 2017 via Matthew E. White's Spacebomb label. It was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017 and one of our Top 15 Debut Albums of 2017. Gus Seyffert (Beck, Norah Jones, Michael Kiwanuka) produced Bird Songs of a Killjoy in his LA studio. 

When Korkejian recorded and released her debut album she was an unknown and even some close to her weren't aware of her talent. "After I released the first record and got a little press, all my friends said: I didn't know you played music!" she says in a press release for the album. 

After all the attention, glowing press, tours, and late night appearances associated to the first album, Korkejian had to face up to the pressure of recording a satisfying follow-up. "The stakes do feel higher," Korkejian admits in the bio. "The fact there are stakes to begin with! When I recorded my first record I had no idea if it would come out, and I was OK with that. It was just thoughts I needed to put down - a personal project. There's something so beautiful in that. With the second record that feels a little compromised. I try not to get too wrapped up in how people will receive it but, whether I want to or not, that's the reality."

Still, with Bird Songs of a Killjoy she hasn't radically reinvented or expanded her sound. "I don't wanna call this a sequel," Korkejian says. "It's not necessarily a continuation but it's not a departure either. There's just so much there that I am still proud of that I didn't want to put aside just because it came from the same time." 

Korkejian was born in Aleppo, Syria to Armenian parents, but spent her childhood in Saudi Arabia and then moved to America when her family won a Green Card lottery. She's lived all over the U.S., including Boston, Houston, Lexington, Austin, Savannah, and Los Angeles. Musically she's got a '60s/'70s singer/songwriter vibe akin to First Aid Kit or Laura Marling, with some hints of Natalie Prass too.

Read our 2017 interview with Bedouine.

8. Drugdealer: "Honey" (Featuring Weyes Blood)

Drugdealer (the project of Michael Collins) are releasing a new album, Raw Honey, on April 19 via Mexican Summer. Previously they shared a video for its first single, the '70s rock sounding "Fools" (which was one of our Songs of the Week). This week they shared another song from the album, "Honey," which features the guest vocals of Natalie Mering (aka Weyes Blood). We didn't like it as much as "Fools," but it easily gets by on the charm of Mering's distinctive voice.

Raw Honey was engineered by Mac DeMarco. Drugdealer's core lineup is Collins, Sasha Winn (vocals), and Shags Chamberlain (bass, production). Raw Honey also features contributions from Josh Da Costa (drums), Jackson MacIntosh (guitar), Danny Garcia (guitar), Michael Long (lead guitar), and Benjamin Schwab (backing vocals, guitar, organ, piano, wurlitzer), as well as guest vocalists Dougie Poole ("Wild Motion"), and Harley Hill-Richmond ("Lonely"). The album is Drugdealer's second, the follow-up to 2016's The End of Comedy.

Weyes Blood is also releasing a new album, Titanic Rising, on April 5 via Sub Pop, her first album for the label.

9. Kevin Morby: "Nothing Sacred / All Things Wild"

Kevin Morby is releasing a new album, Oh My God, on April 26 via Dead Oceans. Previously he shared a video for its first single, "No Halo" (which was one of our Songs of the Week). This week he shared another song from the album, "Nothing Sacred / All Things Wild," also via a video. As with "No Halo," Chris Good directed the strange video for "Nothing Sacred / All Things Wild," which features images of elementary school children and football players, mixed with those of Morby (sometimes black & white stills) and seemingly has an environmental message. A press release says the video "is a beautifully constructed exploration of oscillating time."

Morby had this to say about the song in a press release: "'Nothing Sacred' was the moment that [producer] Sam [Cohen] and I stumbled into what would become the sonic landscape of Oh My God by breaking the songs down to their parts and doing away with a conventional band. Rather than I play the song on guitar as originally intended, Sam suggested I only sing while he play organ and Nick [Kinsey], who is the drummer of my live band, play congas. Within moments of the first take it became clear what the record was to become, and how we wanted to represent the songs. What you're hearing here is a first take and the sound of us walking into a new discovery."

Oh My God is billed as Morby's "first true concept-album" and tackles religion. Morby released two excellent albums in back-to-back years: Singing Saw in 2016 and City Music in 2017, both via Dead Oceans, but then took a break from releasing a new album in 2018. Previous collaborator Sam Cohen produced the album in his Brooklyn studio. It started as a four-day recording session, but soon blossomed into something more ambitious than just making another album like his last two.

"Sam suggested that we make songs that sound like sonic pop-art that only have a few colors, like a Keith Haring piece," Morby said in a  previous press release. "My other records had tons of colors, so we decided to keep this stark, like a painting that's black-and-white with one vibrant blue."

The press release described the album like this: "Throughout his past work, Morby has noticed the ubiquity of an apparent religious theme. Though not identifying as 'religious' in the slightest, Morby recognizes in himself a somewhat spiritual being with a secular attitude towards the soulful. And so, in an effort to tackle that notion head-on and once-and-for-all, he sat down in his form of church-on planes and in beds-and wrote what would become his first true concept-album. If Singing Saw was Kevin's LA record, and City Music was his ode to New York City, then Oh My God lives in the sky, above the weather, both nowhere and everywhere at once."

Morby further elaborated in the press release: "Religion is around all of us. It's a universal language and there is profound beauty in it. I've found it a useful tool within songwriting, as it's something everyone can relate to on some level. There are religious themes or imagery in a lot of what I've done, so I wanted to get all of that out and speak only that language for a whole record. It's not a born-again thing; it's more that 'oh my god' is such a profound statement we all use multiple times a day and means so many different things. It's not about an actual god but a perceived one, and it's an outsider's view of the human experience in terms of religion."

Summing up the experience of recording Oh My God, Morby said: "This one feels full circle, my most realized record yet. It's a cohesive piece; all the songs fit under the umbrella of this religious theme. I was able to write and record the album I wanted to make. It's one of those marks of a life: this is why I slept on floors for seven years. I've now gotten the keys to my own little kingdom, and I'm devoting so much of my life to music that I just want to keep it interesting. At the end of the day, the only thing I don't want is to be bored. If someone wants to get in my face about writing a non-religious religious record? Thank god. That's all I gotta say."

Read our 2017 interview with Kevin Morby on City Music.

Also read our 2017 Track-by-Track interview with Morby on City Music.

Read our review of Singing Saw and check out our 2016 interview with Morby about Singing Saw.

10. HÆLOS: "End of World Party"

London-based band HÆLOS are releasing a new album, Any Random Kindness, on May 10 via Infectious. This week they shared another song from it, "End of World Party," which a press release says "is a satirical look at disregarding the apocalyptic aspects of humanity and focusing on the now."

The band's Arthur Delaney had this to say about the song in a press release: "'End of World Party' went through a few different versions, and then we took things from other songs and these new melodies materialized that we ran with. There's a lot of fun production in it."
 
The band's Lotti Benardout had this to add: "It's a bit more tongue-in-cheek than some of the other tracks on the record. We're all humans in the end-you often need to turn yourself off from the news and enjoy the moment."

Any Random Kindness is the band's second album, the follow-up to 2016's debut full-length, Full Circle, which was released via Matador. The album includes "Buried in the Sand," a new song the band shared back in October via a video (it was one of our Songs of the Week), and "Kyoto," a new song shared in January via a video for it (it was also one of our Songs of the Week). Then they shared another new song from the album, "Boy / Girl."

HÆLOS were originally a trio (Arthur Delaney, Dom Goldsmith, and Lotti Benardout), but have now added touring member Daniel Vildósola. On their debut the band pulled from '90s trip-hop sounds originated by Massive Attack and Portishead for inspiration.

Orlando Leopard produced the album, which was recorded at Baltic Studios in East London and at their home studio. Matt Wiggins (Glass Animals) and Marta Salongi (The xx) mixed the album.

A press release points out: "The latter part of the recording was especially tense, with many near breakups. However, this process led to a new, optimistic perception of each other, and music that explored the push and pull of relationships. A new, increasingly dance-floor oriented direction to their sound emerged."

Read our 2015 article on HÆLOS.

Honorable Mentions: 

These eight songs almost made the Top 10.

Christelle Bofale: "U Ouchea"

Mikal Cronin: "Undertow"

The Dodos: "The Surface"

C Duncan: "Talk Talk Talk" 

Interpol: "The Weekend"

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: "Boogieman Sam"

Lowly: "Stephen" 

Maps: "Both Sides (Thematic Variation)"

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Apex Manor: "Asked & Answered"

Bad Religion: "Do The Paranoid Style"

Black Midi: "Crow's Perch"

Ciara: "Thinkin Bout You"

Club Night: "Path" 

Control Top: "Covert Contracts"

Diane Coffee: "Like a Child Does"

Doe Paoro: "Silver Springs" (Fleetwood Mac Cover) 

Editors: "Barricades" 

Billie Eilish: "Bad Guy" 

Elle Fanning: "Wildflowers" 

Perry Farrell: "Pirate Punk Politician"

Craig Finn: "Something to Hope For"

Filthy Friends: "November Man"

 

Flaural: "1616"

Frankie Cosmos: "String" and "Eternal"

Georgia: "About Work the Dancefloor"

Jenn Grant: "Raven"

Greys: "Arc Light"

Lost Under Heaven: "The Breath of Light (Chris Liebing Remix)" 

Middle Kids: "Real Thing"

Modest Mouse: "Poison the Well"

Partner: "Angel's Wings" 

Patio: "Vile Bodies"

Pure Bathing Culture: "Ad Victoriam"

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Sad Planets: "Yesterday Girls"

Sebadoh: "Stunned"

Sigur Rós: "Flugufrelsarinn (Live at Íslenska Óperan)"

Laura Stevenson: "Dermatillomania"

Tacocat: "Hologram"

The Tallest Man on Earth: "I'm a Stranger Now"

Twen: "Waste"

Warren Dunes: "What Are We Waiting For"

Jane Weaver: "Slow Motion (LOOPS Variation)"

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