10 Best Songs of the Week: I Break Horses, Perfume Genius, Waxahatchee, The Radio Dept., and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, May 30th, 2020  

10 Best Songs of the Week: I Break Horses, Perfume Genius, Waxahatchee, The Radio Dept., and More

Plus Margaret Glaspy, Shura, Moaning, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Mar 20, 2020
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Welcome to the eleventh Songs of the Week of 2020. How’s everyone doing out there? It’s definitely scary times. We know we should stop watching the news, but we can’t stop watching the news. The COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread and not everyone is taking it seriously enough. Please, stay at home as much as you can. Social distance yourself as much as possible. This is the real deal. We’re all living in history right now, a time to tell our kids or grandkids about (if we all get through it). Our president even briefly seemed presidential at the start of the week, but then he was soon back to his old tricks making racist and false statements and insulting reporters at press briefings.

As the crisis began it seemed like we were all in act one of a post-apocalyptic movie, where you get to know all the characters while ever more worrying news reports play on TV screens in the background. Now it seems like we are speeding our way towards act two, where things get a lot worse. Let’s hope we don’t make it to act three.

Now onto much needed distractions.

This week we posted My Favorite Album interviews with Zola Jesus, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Rachel Goswell of Slowdive and The Soft Cavalry, Temples, and Miki Berenyi of Piroshka (and formerly of Lush).

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Shabaka and the Ancestors, Yumi Zouma, Oh Wonder, Baxter Dury, and The Slow Readers Club. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows).

This week we also posted the latest episode of our Why Not Both podcast, this one featuring comedian/author/actor/musician Lane Moore.

Finally, our Politics Editor Steve King laid out who Joe Biden’s vice president pick might be, should he secure the nomination.

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. I Break Horses: “Neon Lights”

Sweden’s I Break Horses (the project of Maria Lindén) is releasing a new album, Warnings, on May 8 via Bella Union. On Wednesday she shared the album’s third single, “Neon Lights,” via a colorful lyric video for the new song. This is the third #1 Song of the Week for I Break Horses for Warnings. Yeah, that album’s going to good.

Lindén had this to say about the song in a press release: “An anthem for all of us who have ever felt like we didn't fit in. It is trying to give a glimpse of hope to all outsiders who feel like they can't find their way and to show the world that being a ‘misfit’ is a beautiful thing, not something to be pushed aside.” 

Previously Lindén shared Warnings’ first single, “Death Engine,” via a video it. It was our #1 Song of the Week last week. Then Lindén shared the album’s second single, “I’ll Be the Death of You,” also via a video for it. “I’ll Be the Death of You” was also our #1 Song of the Week.

Warnings is I Break Horses’ first new album in six years, the follow-up to 2014’s Chiaroscuro. “It has been some time in the making,” Lindén acknowledged in the previous press release announcing the album. “About six years, involving several studios, collaborations that didn’t work out, a crashed hard drive with about two years of work, writing new material again instead of trying to repair it. New studio recordings, erasing everything, then recording most of the album myself at home.”

For a while Lindén was working on instrumental tracks. “It wasn’t until I felt an urge to add vocals and lyrics,” she said, “that I realized I was making a new I Break Horses album.”

Eventually she got producer/mixing engineer Chris Coady (Beach House, TV on the Radio) involved to mix the album. “Before reaching out to Chris I read an interview where he said, ‘I like to slow things down. Almost every time I love the sound of something slowed down by half, but sometimes 500% you can get interesting shapes and textures,’” Lindén said. “And I just knew he’d be the right person for this album.”

As its title suggests, Lindén said Warnings deals partly with our troubled era. “It’s not a political album,” she said, “though it relates to the alarmist times we live in. Each song is a subtle warning of something not being quite right.”  

As for “Death Engine,” Lindén said: “The song, which was written in connection to a close friend's suicide attempt, also reflects upon the increasing reports that suicide is the second leading cause of death among Generation Z, with this age group having more mental health issues than any other generation.”

Summing up Warnings and the delay between albums, Lindén said: “Nowadays, the attention span equals nothing when it comes to how most people consume music. And it feels like songs are getting shorter, more ‘efficient’. I felt an urge to go against that and create an album journey from start to finish that takes time and patience to listen to. Like, slow the fuck down!”

2. Perfume Genius: “On the Floor”

Perfume Genius (aka Mike Hadreas) is releasing a new album, Set My Heart On Fire Immediately, on May 15 via Matador. On Monday he shared another song from it, “On the Floor,” via a self-directed video for the song.

Hadreas had this to say about “On the Floor” in a press release: “A crush can really live on its own, separate from you and the person you are pining for. The fantasy feels like its own world, obsession can turn the person you are longing for in to a monument that has less and less to do with them and more to do with the idea of love itself and what it can do, what it can soothe or quiet or light on fire. I wanted to show that maddening, solitary part of desire but keep the core which is a real warmth and belief that you have something crucial to share with each other.”

Previously Hadreas shared the album’s first single, “Describe,” via a self-directed video for the track. “Describe” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Set My Heart On Fire Immediately is Perfume Genius’ fifth studio album, the follow-up to 2017’s No Shape (also on Matador). Although last year Hadreas did the music for the immersive dance project The Sun Still Burns Here.

Set My Heart On Fire Immediately finds Hadreas re-teaming with producer Blake Mills. It was recorded in Los Angeles, where Hadreas currently lives with longtime partner and musical collaborator Alan Wyffels. The album also features musicians Jim Keltner, Pino Palladino, Matt Chamberlin, and Rob Moose.

According to a previous press release, on Set My Heart On Fire Immediately Hadreas “plays with themes of love, sex, memory and the body, channeling popular music mythologies while irreverently authoring its own.”

Hadreas explained further in the press release: “I wanted to feel more open, more free and spiritually wild, and I'm in a place now where those feelings are very close – but it can border on being unhinged. I wrote these songs as a way to be more patient, more considered—to pull at all these chaotic threads hovering around me and weave them in to something warm, thoughtful and comforting.”

Read our 2017 interview with Perfume Genius on No Shape.

3. Waxahatchee: “Can’t Do Much”

Waxahatchee (aka Katie Crutchfield) is releasing a new album, Saint Cloud, on March 27 via Merge. On Monday she shared another song from the album, “Can’t Do Much,” via a video for the track. Anna Powell Teeter directed the clip, which features Crutchfield and her band performing in a studio.

Crutchfield says “Can’t Do Much” was the first song she wrote for the album and had this to say about it in a press release: “It's meant to be an extremely unsentimental love song, a love song with a strong dose of reality. It was written early on in a relationship, where the feelings were super intense, but also fear or apprehension were sort of keeping me from totally relaxing in it yet. Sort of like ‘it's annoying that I love you so much’—totally unromantic, which sort of makes it really romantic to me.”

Crutchfield previously shared Saint Cloud’s first single, “Fire,” via a video for the track. It was one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared another song from the album, “Lilacs,” via a video for the track that solely featured dancer Marlee Grace dancing to the song in an empty warehouse/performance space. “Lilacs” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Saint Cloud is the follow-up to 2017’s Out in the Storm (which was our Album of the Week). Brad Cook produced Saint Cloud, which was recorded in the summer of 2019 at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, TX, and Long Pond in Stuyvesant, NY. Crutchfield’s backing band on the album was Bobby Colombo and Bill Lennox of the Detroit-based band Bonny Doon and that band will also be backing her on her 2020 tour dates. The album also features Josh Kaufman (Hiss Golden Messenger, Bonny Light Horseman) on guitar and keyboards and Nick Kinsey (Kevin Morby, Elvis Perkins) on drums and percussion. Saint Cloud was written right after Crutchfield decided to get sober.

“I think all of my records are turbulent and emotional, but this one feels like it has a little dose of enlightenment,” Crutchfield said in a previous press release announcing the album. “It feels a little more calm and less reckless.”

Read our 2017 The End interview with Waxahatchee where she answered our questions about endings and death.

4. The Radio Dept.: “You Fear the Wrong Thing Baby”

Today Sweden’s The Radio Dept. shared a new song, “You Fear the Wrong Thing Baby.” The band have also announced that their spring North American tour dates previously planned for April and May have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The song is out now via the band’s own Just So! label.

“You Fear the Wrong Thing Baby” starts with the lyrics “In the end time/To end all end times/Still can’t keep everyone down,” but the band say the song predates the current coronavirus crisis. “Yes, it’s a weird coincidence,” they say in a joint press release statement. “When we recorded the song we had no idea what was coming. The text is against conservatism and a tribute to youth as a progressive force.”

The band had this to say about the cancelled tour dates: “We were looking forward to go on tour again but we have to cancel due to the current situation. We really hope to reschedule as soon as this is over but at this point all shows are canceled. Please take care of each other out there.”

“You Fear the Wrong Thing Baby” follows “The Absence of Birds,” a new song they shared in February. They previously announced a vinyl reissue of their 2006-released second album, Pet Grief, and promised that 10 more new songs will be released in 2020.

The Radio Dept. released their last album, Running Out of Love, their fourth, in 2016 via Labrador.

Read our 2017 interview with The Radio Dept.

5. Margaret Glaspy: “Devotion”

Margaret Glaspy is releasing a new album, Devotion, on March 27 via ATO. On Monday shared another song from it, title track “Devotion.” She also shared a live performance video for the song.

The live video was filmed in the same studio where the album was recorded, Atomic Studios in Brooklyn’s Red Hook. It features Glaspy, her keyboardist Eric Lane, and drummer Tim Kuhl.

Glaspy had this to say about the song and video in a press release: “When we were in the studio making the record, the vibe for this song had a life of its own. Tim started to drum along on his lap in the control room and that felt like it was exactly what it needed, something that wasn't a kit but felt just as percussive. We ended up going in that direction and wanted to recreate it in this video. I grew up playing music this way—without any amplification so you really had to listen to one another and get close.”  

Previously Glaspy shared Devotion’s first single, “Killing What Keeps Us Alive” via a video for the track. It was one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared another song from it, “Stay With Me.” It was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Devotion is the follow-up to Glaspy’s 2016-released debut album, Emotions and Math. Glaspy co-produced the album with Tyler Chester and recorded it at Atomic Sound in Red Hook, Brooklyn. “Tyler and I proved to be a very good match in the studio,” said Glaspy in a previous press release. “I love being very hands-on with my records and he was a force of nature without restricting my sense of what the record should be. His instincts and ability are truly inspiring.” 

Glaspy said Devotion is “about letting love in even when you don't know what will happen when you do. It's about devoting your heart to someone or something, against all odds.”

Comparing Devotion to Emotions and Math, the singer/songwriter/guitarist said: “This record is very different from the last. It’s not about being righteous or all-knowing, it's about letting love in even when you don't know what will happen when you do. It's about devoting your heart to someone or something, against all odds.”

At the end of the previous press release Glaspy reflected on how she has grown between the two albums. “I’m learning that life is painful but you take the bad with the good; that love is hard but if you love someone, you make yourself available; that life is short and it’s okay to be sincere,” she said. “I’m starting to be able to write about these things and it’s a feat for myself as an artist and growth for me as a person.”

6. Shura: “Elevator Girl” (Feat. Ivy Sole) 

On Monday Shura (aka Alexandra Lilah Denton) shared a new song, “Elevator Girl.” It features guest vocals from Philadelphia rapper Ivy Sole. It’s the first new single since her 2019-released sophomore album, forevher, which came out via Secretly Canadian. “Elevator Girl” is out now via the label.

Denton had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Elevator Girl’ is partly inspired by the time I had to get an elevator to my hotel room on the 22nd floor with a first date who I’d only just met in the lobby. When we entered there were other people already in the elevator so we stayed silent because it felt weird to address the awkwardness in front of strangers. But it's also about the elation of a first date—the fact that it can make you feel kind of high without drugs. I'm stoked to have Ivy Sole contribute a verse because I’ve been a big fan ever since I first heard ‘Dream Girl.’ I reached out over Instagram, we linked up in Brooklyn over coffee at The Lot Radio, and decided it would be fun to work on this together.” 

Forevher was the follow-up to her 2016 debut, Nothing’s Real. Denton is British, but is based in New York. Denton co-produced the album with Joel Pott. Forevher featured Jona Ma (from Jagwar Ma), Will Miller (Whitney), and T-E-E-D, with additional vocals from Rosie Lowe, Kerry Leatham, and Reva from Nimmo. 

7. Moaning: “Connect the Dots”

Los Angeles shoegazers/post-punkers Moaning released a new album, Uneasy Laughter, today via Sub Pop. On Thursday they shared one last pre-release single from it, “Connect the Dots,” via a strange sci-fi themed computer animated video for the track (directed by Campbell Logan). 

The band’s vocalist/guitarist Sean Solomon had this to say about “Connect the Dots” in a press release: “The song is about realizing you need help and being brave enough to ask for it. It's a misconception that asking for help is a sign of weakness. In reality it's one of the hardest things you can do.”

Video director Campbell Logan had this to say: “I created this video with the intention of inspiring self-forgiveness, something I think we should all practice. Making it gave me the opportunity to practice an approach that I like to call Filmmaking Simulation, which is a process of doing film production using virtual cinematography, set design and performance. The result is photorealistic and mimics live action. We had an extremely quick turnaround on the video, but were able to complete it in a little over a month, and despite these hurdles I'm so proud of it!”

Uneasy Laughter is the follow-up to the trio’s self-titled debut album, released in 2018 also via Sub Pop. Moaning consists of vocalist/guitarist Sean Solomon, bassist/keyboardist Pascal Stevenson, and drummer Andrew MacKelvie. The band worked with producer/engineer Alex Newport (At The Drive-In, Bloc Party, Melvins) on Uneasy Laughter.

Previously Moaning shared Uneasy Laughter’s first single, “Ego,” via a video for the track. “Ego” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared another song from it, “Fall In Love,” via an animated video for the track. “Fall In Love” was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then Moaning shared another song from Uneasy Laughter, “Make It Stop,” via a lyric video for the track.

Solomon celebrated a year of sobriety during the ​sessions for the album and in a previous press release announcing the album said he wanted to be more open with Uneasy Laughter: “Men are conditioned not to be vulnerable or admit they’re wrong. But I wanted to talk openly about my feelings and mistakes I’ve made.”

8. Badly Drawn Boy: “Banana Skin Shoes”

Today Badly Drawn Boy (aka British singer/songwriter Damon Gough) announced a new album, Banana Skin Shoes, and shared its title track, “Banana Skin Shoes,” via a Broken Antler-directed video for the new song. Banana Skin Shoes is due out May 22 via AWAL and is Gough’s first regular new studio album in 10 years, since, 2010’s It's What I'm Thinking Pt.1 – Photographing Snowflakes. Although in 2012 he did put out the soundtrack to the film Being Flynn. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here

Banana Skin Shoes features “Is This a Dream?,” a new song Gough shared in January that was one of our Songs of the Week.

Most of the album was recorded at Eve Studios in Stockport last year. Gethin Pearson (Kele Okereke, JAWS) produced and mixed the album, after some original production by Youth (The Verve, Paul McCartney) at his studio in London, Keir Stewart (ex-Durutti Column) at Inch Studios, and Seadna McPhail at Airtight Studios. 

Badly Drawn Boy burst onto the scene with his 2000-released critically acclaimed debut album, The Hour of the Bewilderbeast, which won the Mercury Prize. That was followed by 2002’s well-received soundtrack to the Hugh Grant film About a Boy, which featured new songs and incidental music from Gough. Since those early twin peaks, he hasn’t reached quite the same critical heights. But it’s very nice to have Badly Drawn Boy back. 

9. Ellis: “March 13”

Ellis (aka Hamilton, Ontario dream pop artist Linnea Siggelkow) is releasing her debut album, Born Again, on April 3 via Fat Possum. Today she shared another song from it, “March 13.” The piano-backed song is only 1:51 long, but still has a haunted quality to it.

Siggelkow had this to say about “March 13” in a press release: “‘March 13’ plays right after the last single ‘Embarrassing’ on the track listing, and is a reflection on a night that I did embarrass myself. I acted badly and put someone I cared about in an unnecessary and uncomfortable situation, but refused to admit at the time that I was out of line.” 

Previously Ellis shared Born Again’s first single, “Fall Apart,” via a video for the track. “Fall Apart” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared another song from it, “Embarrassing,” via a video for the short track.

Jake Aron (Snail Mail, Solange, Grizzly Bear) produced the album, which was partly recorded at his Brooklyn studio. Born Again follows Ellis’s debut EP The Fuzz, which she self-produced and self-released in 2018.

As Born Again’s title suggests, the album partly deals with questions of faith. Siggelkow is the daughter of a traveling book salesman and a piano teacher. “I grew up Christian and was quite devoted to faith up through my late teens, but I started challenging that once I got to university,” said Siggelkow in a previous press release announcing the album. “Since then I’ve been trying to redefine who I am and where I stand and what I think about these things on my own, and that journey very much played into the songwriting on this record.”

10. Thundercat: “Fair Chance” (Featuring Ty Dolla $ign and Lil B) 

Thundercat (aka Stephen Lee Bruner) is releasing a new album, It Is What It Is, on April 3 via Brainfeeder. On Tuesday he shared another song from the album, “Fair Chance,” which features Ty Dolla $ign and Lil B and is inspired by the late Mac Miller.

Bruner had this to say about “Fair Chance” in a press release: “This song is about Mac… when he passed it shook the ground for the artist community. Ty’s a strong dude and when he heard the song he knew exactly what it should be. I was there when he recorded it. We talked about what it was, and he did what he felt was right to it, and I love what he did.”

Previously Thundercat shared the album’s first single, “Black Qualls,” which features Steve Lacy of The Internet and funk icon Steve Arrington. “Black Qualls” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then Thundercat shared another song from the album, “Dragonball Durag,” which was inspired by the Japanese anime series Dragon Ball Z and was also one of our Songs of the Week.

It Is What It Is also features Childish Gambino, Kamasi Washington, BADBADNOTGOOD, Louis Cole, Zack Fox, and Flying Lotus (who executive produced the album with Thundercat).

Bruner had this to say about It Is What It Is in a previous press release: “This album is about love, loss, life and the ups and downs that come with that. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but at different points in life you come across places that you don’t necessarily understand… some things just aren’t meant to be understood.”

Honorable Mentions:

These four songs almost made the Top 10.

The Avalanches: “Running Red Lights” (Feat. Rivers Cuomo and Pink Siifu)

Half Waif: “In August” 

Purity Ring: “peacefall”

Hayley Williams: “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris” (Feat. boygenius)

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Big Black Delta: “Summoner”

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers: “Quick Trick” 

Control Top: “One Good Day”

Dirty Projectors: “Isolation” (John Lennon Cover)

Duffy: “Something Beautiful”

Gouge Away: “Wave of Mutilation” (Pixies Cover)

JPEGMAFIA: “Covered In Money!”

Lily & Horn Horse: “Balloon”

MGMT: “As You Move Through the World”

Blake Mills: “Vanishing Twin”

The Pretenders: “The Buzz”

Purity Ring: “pink lightning”

Laura Stevenson: “Time Bandits”

Warm Digits: “Everyone Nervous” (Feat. Rozi Plain)

Paul Weller: “Earth Beat” (Feat. Col3trane)

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