10 Best Songs of the Week: Cate Le Bon, Kevin Morby, Fat White Family, C Dunan, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019  

10 Best Songs of the Week: Cate Le Bon, Kevin Morby, Fat White Family, C Dunan, and More

Plus Heather Woods Broderick, Wand, The Soft Cavalry, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

Apr 19, 2019
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Welcome to another Songs of the Week. It was slim pickings this week for truly inspiring new tracks, but there were enough to recommend to put together this week's list. We also realized their were two songs we should've included on recent Songs of the Week lists but neglected to, so we've given them special mention here.

Elsewhere on the website this week we posted interviews with Nils Frahm, Nilüfer Yanya, Michael Chambers (the star of the classic 1980s film Breakin'), The Goon Sax, a My Firsts interview with James Yorkston, and a The End interview with John Grant.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by PUP, Cage The Elephant, American Football, Fontaines D.C., Damien Jurado, and Benjamin Francis Leftwich. Plus we posted reviews of various DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows.

Don't forget that last month 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.

Two Tracks We Should've Included in Recent Weeks:

There are two songs in retrospect we should've included in Songs of the Week in recent weeks and wanted to highlight them here.

Earthquake Lights: "Were You Listening"

New York City's Earthquake Lights self-released their new album, Distress Signals, on April 12. You can read our rave review of it here. The whole album is worth a listen, but seven-minute long album closer "Were You Listening" might be our favorite track on it (at one point it builds to a moment that brings to mind Mew's "Comforting Sounds") and had we paid better attention it would have gone on last week's Songs of the Week list.

Prins Thomas: "Sakral" 

Similarly, "Sakral" is the seven-minute closing track to the new album by Prins Thomas, Ambitions. It's a wonderful slow-burner of a record ender. Prins Thomas is the project of Norwegian producer/DJ Thomas Moen Hermansen and Ambitions is his sixth album. It came out April 5 via Smalltown Supersound, so "Sakral" should've been on the Songs of the Week list two weeks ago.

This Week's Top 10:

1. Cate Le Bon: "Home to You"

Welsh singer/songwriter/guitarist Cate Le Bon is releasing a new album, Reward, on May 24 via Mexican Summer. Previously she shared its first single, "Daylight Matters," which was one of our Songs of the Week, as well as a video for "Daylight Matters." This week she shared another new song from the album, "Home to You," via a video for the track. Le Bon doesn't feature in the video directed by Phil Collins (no, not that Phil Collins). It was filmed in Lunik IX neighborhood of Košice (Eastern Slovakia), which houses a Roma community who, as a press release states, "due to successive governmental and municipal policies, often live in slums and on isolated, dilapidated estates." The video also features a local community or school band performing the opening and closing to the song, although the album version doesn't include those sections.

Collins had this to say about the song in the press release: "In an age of discord, in which the politics of division and xenophobia - from Brexit to Trump - tears communities apart across nations and continents, it is crucial to stand in solidarity everywhere with those subjected to routine discrimination and denied a sense of belonging. With its invocation of yearning, absence and loss, Cate's hypnotic canon expresses this conviction with the lithe, acute awareness found in the best of critical pop, and speaks to its moment just like 'Ghost Town' or 'Private Armies' spoke to theirs."

The press release goes into further detail: "Historically, and again in recent years, Roma communities across Europe have been targets of persecution and systemic neglect, from housing and access to basic services, such as electricity and water, to employment and health. These attitudes are reflected in the hostility and casual racism of the general population. Working closely with a number of local protagonists, Collins finds moments of dignity and joy amidst everyday hardships."

In terms of her solo work, Reward is the follow-up to 2016's Crab Day, although last year she released Hippo Lite, her second album with DRINKS, a collaboration with Tim Presley of White Fence. Le Bon also produced Deerhunter's recent album.

Le Bon spent a year living in isolation in the Lake District in the UK, by day making wood furniture and by night playing piano and writing songs. "There's a strange romanticism to going a little bit crazy and playing the piano to yourself and singing into the night," Le Bon said in a previous press release.

Of the album title, Le Bon said: "People hear the word 'reward' and they think that it's a positive word, and to me it's quite a sinister word in that it depends on the relationship between the giver and the receiver. I feel like it's really indicative of the times we're living in where words are used as slogans, and everything is slowly losing its meaning." 

The album features Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint, H. Hawkline, and Samur Khouja. The latter co-produced Reward with Le Bon.

2. Kevin Morby: "OMG Rock n Roll"

Kevin Morby is releasing a new album, Oh My God, on April 26 via Dead Oceans. This week he shared a video for another new song from it, "OMG Rock n Roll." Morby says it's a song about gun violence. The song borrows lyrics from Morby's 2016 single "Beautiful Strangers." Christopher Good directed the video, which includes shots of vinyl records being put into a blender, as well as Morby performing the song. What sells the song is the backing choir towards the end.

Morby had this to say about the song in a press release: "It's meant to be playful, despite the morbid subject matter, and sing sonic praise to rock n roll as a religious experience. More than anything - it's [a song] about gun violence in America. Sutherland Springs, Vegas, Parkland...the list gets longer each year, filled with more cities, more innocent victims and yet nothings fundamentally changed. It's a sad, scary and ultimately incredibly frustrating affair. We've all made peace with the fact that every time we leave the house we could be senselessly murdered at the hands of someone who should never have been given that power. The song is meant to mirror a public tragedy with its hard pan to the choir almost two minutes in. It's rolling along, living it's best life, when suddenly, with a gasp, reality has been turned upside down and all there's left to do is pray to god you don't die." 

Previously he shared a video for its first single, "No Halo" (which was one of our Songs of the Week). Then he shared another song from the album, "Nothing Sacred / All Things Wild," also via a video (it was also one of our Songs of the Week).

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."

3. Fat White Family: "When I Leave"

England's Fat White Family have released a new album, Serfs Up!, today via Domino, their first for the label (and third album overall). Earlier this week they shared one last pre-release song from the album, "When I Leave," via a strange video for the track. Fiona Godivier directed the clip, which features a weird parade through a forest.

The band issued this statement about the video: "Here's the 3rd tune from Serfs Up! (which is out Friday) it's called 'When I Leave.' Video directed by the wonderfully talented, tolerant and visionary Fiona Godivier. A massive thank you to Ben Edge for his art direction/pagan wisdom and to everyone else that made it down to the woods and froze their arses off all day in order to make this masterpiece possible, the ones who looked like they'd been snorting cue chalk all weekend especially...deep method."

When the album was announced, Fat White Family shared the string-backed "Feet," which was our #1 Song of the Week. Then they shared another new track, "Tastes Good With the Money," via a crazy and bloody video directed by fellow musician Róisín Murphy that had a bit of a Monty Python vibe to it. The song features Baxter Dury, who also appeared in the video. "Tastes Good With the Money" was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Serfs Up is the follow-up to 2016's Songs For Our Mothers and was recorded in Sheffield, England.

4. C Duncan: "Impossible (UTR Alt Version)"

Scotland's C Duncan (aka Chris Duncan) released a new album, Health, last month via FatCat. This week we were honored to premiere a new version of the album's first single, "Impossible," which Duncan has recorded exclusively for Under the Radar to debut. The new version is slower, rawer, and more electronic in nature. Whereas the original might have been well suited to a spring afternoon country drive with the windows down, the rework would work better for a midnight cruise through neon-lit empty streets of the city. Even though it's not a brand new song exactly, we felt like the new version also deserved a place on this list.

Duncan had this to say about the new version in a statement to Under the Radar: "Throughout the process of writing this song I tried out lots of different moods and tempos, and eventually stuck with a more upbeat version for the album. However, there was something about the slower speed that I wanted to play around with as it sounded weightier and more melancholic, so I decided to re-record this alternative version. I also wanted to create something for Under the Radar to premiere as they have always been a great, and much appreciated, supporter of my music."

"Impossible" is about the challenges Duncan had making a long distance relationship with an ex-boyfriend work. Duncan explained more in the press release announcing the album: "At one point he was working night shifts, so it was very hard to communicate with each other because our schedules were completely out of sync. I wanted to see him all of the time, but it was impossible to do at that point in time." 

Read our recent My Firsts interview with C Duncan, where he talks about his first broken heart (which was quite recent), his first job, his inaugural email address (which he can still be reached at), and the actor he still has a crush on nearly two decades later.

Also read our positive review of Health.

Previously Duncan shared Health's aforementioned 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). Just before the album's release he shared its opening track "Talk Talk Talk" (which was an honorable mention on our Songs of the Week list, only because another song of his made the main list). When Health was released, album track "Holiday Home" 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." 

5. Heather Woods Broderick: "I Try"

Heather Woods Broderick has released a new album, Invitation, today via Western Vinyl. Earlier this week she shared the third and last pre-release single from it, the lush "I Try," via a video for the track. Devin Febbroiello directed the video, which features lots of double exposed images of Broderick singing the song.

Febbroiello had this to say about the video in a press release: "In the video for 'I Try' we enter the waves and echoes of the dream landscape and follow Heather as she journeys through doorways and portals both within and without, trying to make sense of the paradoxical nature of the realm she has entered. With a nod to the twists of a fairy tale and the revelations available to those brave enough to enter the rabbit hole. The video was conceived along the Oregon coast, in studio, and combined with textural footage created with analog special effects techniques by Tracy Maurice." 

Broderick is Sharon Van Etten's longtime collaborator and bandmate and she has also plated in Efterklang and Horse Feathers, among others. Invitation is the follow-up to 2015's Glider.

6. Wand: "Jennifer's Gone"

Los Angeles-based psych-rockers Wand have released a new album, Laughing Matter, today via Drag City. Several of its best songs were already released as singles, but understated album closer "Jennifer's Gone" is worthy of notice too. It foregoes most of the band's psych-rock trademarks and instead frontman Cory Hanson's vocals sound like something from a Lou Reed album from the 1970s.

Previously Wand shared a video for Laughing Matter's first single, "Scarecrow," which was our #1 Song of the Week. Then they shared another song from the album, "Thin Air," which was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared another song from the album, "Walkie Talkie," via a video for the song. Then they shared another song from the album, "Rio Grande," via a video for the song (it was also one of our Songs of the Week).

Laughing Matter is the follow-up to 2017's Plum and is the band's fifth full-length. The band consists of Sofia Arreguin (keys, vocals), Cory Hanson (guitar, vocals), Robert Cody (guitar), Lee Landey (bass), and Evan Burrows (drums).  

A previous press release described the album as such: "Laughing Matter is a record about love in a time of terror; it calls you down from panic room labyrinths, to work the deep tissue of unraveling trauma we all carry so dear. The 15 songs on this record face their energy outward, to take with you through a common world that can't suffer its human abusers much longer. Laughing Matter encourages you to shake hands with your old demons, to lay your pathologies to rest, to hold your spirit close, and let your body do what's next." 

 

7. The Soft Cavalry: "Dive"

The Soft Cavalry are a new duo featuring Rachel Goswell of legendary '90s shoegazers Slowdive alongside her husband Steve Clarke. This week they announced their self-titled debut album and shared its first single, dream pop track "Dive." The Soft Cavalry is due out July 5 via Bella Union. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art here.

Slowdive released a new album, a self-titled affair and their first full-length in 22 years, in 2017 via Dead Oceans. It was our Album of the Week and one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017.

Clarke has been a musician since the late '90s, playing bass and singing backup vocals with various bands live and in the studio. But The Soft Cavalry is the first album he's been in creative control of. He's also been a tour manager, which is how he met Goswell, managing one of Slowdive's reunion tours in 2014. He had been divorced since 2011 when he met her.

In a press release Clarke sets the scene for when he first met Goswell: "I was hung-over in the back of my van trying to work out how I was going to fit all the band's gear into this confined space whilst I still had all of mine from the show that I'd played in London the night before. The second of two sold-out shows at Hammersmith Apollo with David Brent!"

A year later, Clarke and Goswell were living together. They got married in 2018. In the press release Clarke says that Goswell inspired him to focus more on his own music.

"I'd always had ideas but never felt that anything I had to say was worthy of anyone's attention, let alone my own," he says. "I wish that I could have done this 15 years ago but, in reality, I simply couldn't have. But I'm not one to overly wallow. I'd rather plough the various levels of confusion into songs."

Of the theme of the album, Clarke says: "It's recovery versus new doubt. I'm there, in the middle. The word that kept coming back to me was 'resilience.' With the right mentality and people around you, especially family, we get through, and find a level of hope."

Clarke's brother Michael Clarke produced the album, which also features keyboardist Jesse Chandler (Mercury Rev, Midlake), guitarist Tom Livermore, and drummer Stuart Wilkinson. 

Read our 2017 interview with Goswell about the making of Slowdive.

 

8. The Flaming Lips: "All For the Life of the City"

This past Saturday was Record Store Day and one of the more notable releases was a brand new album by The Flaming Lips, King's Mouth. And while the complete album remains a Record Store Day exclusive for now, one of its songs, "All For the Life of the City," was officially released online.

King's Mouth had a limited gold vinyl pressing of 4,000 copies, but will be getting a wider release in July. It features spoken word vocals by Mick Jones of The Clash.

Read our recent interview with The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne on King's Mouth.

9. Tacocat: "The Joke of Life"

This week Seattle-based indie punk quartet Tacocat shared a video for the new song "The Joke of Life," the latest single off of their upcoming Sub Pop debut This Mess Is a Place, and we were pleased to premiere it. The video is a touching homage to friendship composed of home shot footage of the group messing around from over the years. The track itself is an ode to the absurdity of forging meaning and the bittersweet quest for stability anchored by a rockabilly surf lick and replete with doo-wop style backing vocals. This Mess Is a Place is due out May 3.

On the making of the video lead singer Emily Nokes had this to say: "I love how this song turned out. The backing vocal harmonies especially. And the music is so fun! Those drums! This is also one of my favorite concepts on the album - the joke is that the joke is already a joke. You know when something is so unbelievable, in a bad way, that it can't even be satirized because irony falls short of the real thing? Like we've entered a twilight zone of perpetual horror and now we're just... adapting to it. Because what else are you going to do?"

This Mess Is a Place marks Tacocat's debut for Sub Pop, following their 2016 album Lost Time which came out on Hardly Art, an independent subsidiary of Sub Pop. A previous press release said the album "finds the band waking up the morning after the 2016 election and figuring out how to respond to a new reality where evil isn't hiding under the surface at all-it's front and center, with new tragedies and civil rights assaults filling up the scroll of the newsfeed every day."

Previously they shared a video for its first single "Grains of Salt." Then they shared another song from it, album opener "Hologram." By Stephen Axeman 

10. Foxygen: "Work"

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). That was followed by another song from the album, "Face the Facts" (which was also one of our Songs of the Week). This week they have shared a third single from the album, "Work." And while we didn't like "Work" as much as the album's previous singles, it has skated in at the bottom of this week's list. The track features legendary session drummer Jim Keltner, who has worked with John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Harry Nilsson, The Traveling Wilburys, and more.

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.

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." 

Honorable Mentions:

These two songs almost made the Top 10.

Will Fox: "Waiting"

Sad Planets: "Just Landed" (Feat. J Mascis)

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Lydia Ainsworth: "Diamonds Cutting Diamonds"

Beck: "Saw Lightning" (Feat. Pharrell Williams)

Colatura: "Machine"

The Dream Syndicate: "The Way In"

Fitz and The Tantrums: "Don't Ever Let Em"

Flying Lotus: "Fire Is Coming"

Four Tet: "Teenage Birdsong"

HEALTH x GHOSTEMANE: "JUDGEMENT NIGHT"

Honeyblood: "She's a Nightmare"

Carly Rae Jepsen: "Julien"

Madonna: "Medellín" (Feat. Maluma)

Modest Mouse: "I'm Still Here"

 

Night Moves: "Strands Align"

Nots: "Floating Hand"

Pixx: "Bitch"

Ryan Pollie: "Get Better Soon"

Sebadoh: "Raging River"

SOAK: "Country Air"

 

Mavis Staples: "Anytime"

SZA, The Weeknd, and Travis Scott: "Power Is Power"

Kurt Vile: "No Expectations" (The Rolling Stones Cover)

Josephine Wiggs: "The Weeping of the Rain"

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