10 Best Songs of the Week: JARV IS…, John Prine, Dirty Projectors, Shamir, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, October 19th, 2020  

10 Best Songs of the Week: JARV IS…, John Prine, Dirty Projectors, Shamir, and More

Plus Leon Bridges, Plants and Animals, Michael Stipe, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Jun 12, 2020
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Welcome to the 23rd Songs of the Week of 2020. It was a bit more of a chill week than last week. Black Lives Matter protests continued across the world, but generally remained peaceful. Well, protesters dramatically pulled down some racist statues, which led to much debate about the dangers of rewriting history, an argument that completely misses the point. Many of these statues have been up for almost 100 years or more. They’ve had their time. Robert E. Lee has been honored for long enough. Now is the time to remove these painful reminders of slavery and the men who fought for it.

But, really, taking down statues is the least we can do. We have to go much further than that and make big changes to our economic systems and the systemic racism in police departments and inherent within the prison-industrial complex. We can argue the semantics of the phrase “defund the police” and what that actually means, the same with the term “Black Lives Matter,” but slightly adjusting police training isn’t going to cut it this time. However, after year upon year of inaction on meaningful gun control legislation, even after the murder of 20 kids at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, it’s certainly easy to be cynical and think not much will change. It’s definitely hard to imagine anything improving while Trump is in office. So you know what to do on November 3.

Onto this week’s songs. Last week our list was topped by three protest songs. This week, our choices were less obvious or relevant, but a few gems are still highlighted below.

This week we posted COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In interviews with IAN SWEET, Everything Everything, Girl Friday, and Madeline Kenney.

We also posted an in-depth interview with Muzz, the new band featuring Paul Banks of Interpol, Josh Kaufman of Bonny Light Horseman, and Matt Barrick of The Walkmen.

For his Keeping Score series, Charles Steinberg spoke to Ben Salisbury and Bob Locke about their score for the FX/Hulu show Devs.

And Sondre Lerche answered our The End questions about endings and death.

This week we also posted the latest episode of Why Not Both, the podcast we present, featuring an interview with Jehnny Beth.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Run the Jewels, Jehnny Beth, Ohmme, Dan Reeder, Nick Hakim, Jerry Paper, Spirit Fest, and Hinds. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows).

Three weeks ago we launched our brand new podcast, simply titled Under the Radar, with an interview with Black Belt Eagle Scout.

We’ve also been posting our long out of print and sold out Issue 8 to our Patreon page, one article at a time.

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. JARV IS…: “Save the Whale”

Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker has a newish band JARV IS… and their debut album, Beyond the Pale, is due out July 17 via Rough Trade. On Thursday they shared another song from the album, album opener “Save the Whale,” via a video for it featuring live photos of the band taken by fans. Cocker made the video at home while under lockdown. The song finds Cocker perhaps leaning into a bit of a Leonard Cohen influence. The opening lyric of “Take your foot off the gas/Because it’s all downhill from here” perhaps sums up the progression of 2020.

Cocker had this to say about “Save the Whale” in a press release: “The title popped into my head as I was leaving the cinema after having seen Nick Broomfield’s Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love documentary. The ‘Smooth World, Wrinkly World’ section came from a childhood memory of being ill: I would hear the murmuring of a large crowd accompanied by a visual image of a line-drawing (rather like a Patrick Caulfield painting, I’ve since realized) in which all the objects switched rapidly between being smooth and bulbous and then thin and wrinkly. It used to absolutely terrify me. Weirdly enough, Jason (our electronics wizard) said he had a similar childhood experience except he used to see a teapot surrounded by psychedelic outlines of itself. Emma (our violinist and backing vocalist) found herself singing ‘Smooth World, Wrinkly World’ as a lullaby to her 18 month-old daughter the other night. Pass it on.”

Beyond the Pale was initially due out May 1, but was pushed back to September 4 due to the pandemic, but has since been moved forward to July 17.

Beyond the Pale includes “Must I Evolve?,” the group’s first single, shared May 2019 (it was #1 on our Songs of the Week list). When the album was announced, JARV IS… shared another new song from it, “House Music All Night Long,” via a video for the track (which was #2 on our Songs of the Week list).

JARV IS… features Cocker (vocals, guitar, percussion), Serafina Steer (harp, keyboards, vocals), Emma Smith (violin, guitar vocals), Andrew McKinney (bass, vocals), Jason Buckle (synthesizer and electronic treatments), and Adam Betts (drums, percussion, vocals). The project started as a live band in 2017 and they began recording their shows. Then they took the live recordings to Narcissus Studios in Neasden, London, where overdubs and vocals were added. Additional post-production work was done at Jason Buckle’s Place du Big Boss studio in Raynes Park, London. Craig Silvey mixed the album at Toast Studios in West London.

A previous press release said: “JARV IS… an ongoing live experience because life is an ongoing live experience. Or, to put it another way: THIS IS NOT A LIVE ALBUM – it’s an ALIVE ALBUM.”

It’s been 11 years since 2009’s Further Complications, Cocker’s last solo album (which followed Jarvis, his 2006 solo debut). Although in 2017 he teamed up with Chilly Gonzales for a collaborative concept album, Room 29, inspired by room 29 in the iconic Hollywood hotel Château Marmont, which has had many famous guests (the hotel opened in 1929). In 2017 Cocker also guested on “Century,” the standout track on Feist’s last album, Pleasure, and teamed up with Iggy Pop to cover the Nick Cave classic “Red Right Hand” for the TV show Peaky Blinders

Read our 2017 print magazine article on Cocker and Gonzales’ Room 29.

Read our 2017 extended Q&A with Cocker on Room 29.

Read our 2009 cover story interview with Cocker on Further Complications.

Read our 2007 interview with Cocker on Jarvis.

As a bonus, a couple of weeks ago JARV IS… shared a great extended version of “House Music All Night Long” that we somehow missed and just discovered. It’s about three minutes longer than the original and features Chilly Gonzales.

2. John Prine: “I Remember Everything” 

The final song recorded by John Prine before his untimely death was released this week. It’s entitled “I Remember Everything” and was shared in conjunction with Picture Show: A Tribute Celebrating John Prine, a tribute show featuring Jason Isbell, Bill Murray, Kurt Vile, Kacey Musgraves, Kevin Bacon, Jim James, and more. Prine died of complications from COVID-19 in April at age 73. 

“I Remember Everything” shares much in common with the spare “Summer’s End” from 2018’s Tree of Forgiveness album. The song recounts Prine’s endless days on the road and time apart from his wife of 24 years, Fiona Whelan Prine. In part the song recaps: “I remember every town/And every hotel room/And every song I ever sang/On a guitar out of tune.”  

Of course Picture Show included appearances and performances by those closest to him including Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, Kacey Musgraves, and Bonnie Raitt. The most touching moments though came towards the end of the show with some not as expected faces that hinted at the breadth of impact that Prine has had. A rendition of “In Spite of Ourselves” by Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick was both endearingly ragged as it was utterly charming. Of the more produced segments, Kurt Vile’s appropriately spacey take on “Crazy As a Loon” captured Prine’s humor as well as his warmth. Vile was backed Zoom style by a cast of supporting characters including Jim James (My Morning Jacket), John Paul White (Civil Wars), Courtney Marie Andrews, and long time Prine sideman Pat McLaughlin. Bill Murray’s story of joining Prine on stage with no notice at the Grand Ole Opry was a great recollection of a classic Prine moment of inclusiveness. Murray’s sombrero and not quite full bottle of Tito’s Vodka helped to set the stage. Moments with Prine’s wife (Fiona Whelan Prine), kids, and tour crew were heartrending, but also spoke to the great admiration with which they all held Prine and their pride in getting to share him with the world. Check out Picture Show here. By Mark Moody 

Read our tribute to John Prine.

3. Dirty Projectors: “Inner World”

Dirty Projectors (the project led by Dave Longstreth) are releasing five EPs this year and on Thursday they shared, “Inner World,” another new song from one of them, via a video for the track. “Inner World” features lead vocals from keyboardist/percussionist Felicia Douglass and is taken from their next EP, Flight Tower, which is due out June 26 via Domino. Longstreth directed the video himself.

Douglass had this to say about the song in a press release: “Today we're happy to share ‘Inner World,’ the next song from Flight Tower. We hope it can bring you serenity and solace during this tumultuous moment in history. The past few weeks have felt like an eternity, but now is not the time for silence or defeat. There's always more to learn if you're willing and that's an incredible gift. Keep sharing information, asking questions, and using your eyes and your voice so we can work together towards a future that benefits everyone.”

Previously the band shared Flight Tower song “Lose Your Love,” via a video for the track. “Lose Your Love” also featured lead vocals from Douglass. Flight Tower is actually the second EP in the series, the first one, Windows Open, was released in March.

Each EP will highlight a different vocalist from the band. Maia Friedman took the lead on Windows Open and Douglas takes the lead on every song on Flight Tower. The band’s current lineup also features Kristin Slipp and Mike Johnson.

Previously we shared two songs from Windows Open: “Overlord,” a new song the band shared in February via a video for the track, and “Search For Life,” shared via a lyric video in March. All five EPs will be later collected in one box set.

Dirty Projector’s last album was 2018’s Lamp Lit Prose.

 

4. Shamir: “On My Own” 

This week Shamir shared a new song, “On My Own,” released via a video for the single. It is said to be the first taste from a forthcoming album due out later this year (details are all still TBA). Everything in the video is 100 percent Shamir’s vision: the recycled clothes, the set (his own home) and even the direction. The single follows Shamir’s Bandcamp Day track “Something That’s Worth My Praises,” which was only available for 24 hours, with all proceeds going to orgs such as Black Lives Matter Philly and the Philadelphia Bail Fund. 

Produced by Kyle Pulley (Adult Mom, Kississippi), the track was written post-breakup, but has slowly become an anthem for isolation in quarantine: “I don’t mind to live all on my own/and I never did,” Shamir sings. With Pixies-like guitar and pummeling drums, the song is a wonderfully gorgeous pop track, and the colorful video is just as pleasing. 

A press release says the new album—which currently has no set release date—takes ’90s pop and rock to create one of Shamir’s “most accessible albums” since his 2015 debut, Ratchet. He’s meddled with dance R&B and even a little country-twang with last year's Be the Yee, Here Comes the Haw, but he wants to return to his indie rock roots with the new album—he even plans on doing it without going through a label. If the album is anything like “On My Own,” it’s sure to be well received. By Samantha Small 

Check out our COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In interview with Shamir 

5. Leon Bridges: “Sweeter” (Feat. Terrace Martin) 

Leon Bridges is hoping for a “life more sweeter.” In light of current events, Grammy Award winning R&B songwriter has teamed up with Terrace Martin to release single “Sweeter,” a song about a black man taking his last breath. The track was originally recorded for a future album, but the duo felt that the world needed to hear it now, more than ever. It was shared on Monday. 

“Growing up in Texas I have personally experienced racism, my friends have experienced racism.” Bridgers says in a press statement. “From adolescence we are taught how to conduct ourselves when we encounter police to avoid the consequences of being racially profiled. I have been numb for too long, calloused when it came to the issues of police brutality. The death of George Floyd was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. It was the first time I wept for a man I never met. I am George Floyd, my brothers are George Floyd, and my sisters are George Floyd. I cannot and will not be silent any longer. Just as Abel’s blood was crying out to God, George Floyd is crying out to me. So, I present to you ‘Sweeter.’” 

The track has a slow groove, with a midi-drum track tumbling over resonant keys and Bridges’ gentle timbre. With simple instrumentation, Bridges wants to make the message clear: black lives matter. “Because you stole from me /My chance to be,” he sings. 

“It is always an honor to share a platform with my dear brother Leon Bridges,” Martin adds. “This is meditation music; it is not music for the ears but rather music for the heart. I truly believe that eyes have been deceiving us for so long but the heart always tells the truth. The heart needs to be repaired. Black folk have been deceived so many years, the only thing that can turn it around is a heart full of love.” 

Leon Bridges’ last album, Good Thing, came out in 2018 via Columbia. Last week Terrace Martin released the new protest song “PIG FEET,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. By Samantha Small

6. Plants and Animals: “Sacrifice” 

On Thursday Montreal trio Plants and Animals released the virile, pulsating single “Sacrifice.” The track is from a forthcoming album set to be released within the year (details of which are still forthcoming). 

With rapid strumming, eerie bells ringing and some frantic drums the song swells with energy until it hits the low-tempo, sparse chorus: I gave you the best years of my life/volunteered on your behalf/sacrifice it doesn't matter/for dopamine and lots of laughs.” But after that, the song picks up right where it left off, cranking up the rhythm yet again.  

“This is a song about what people are willing to do for feelings of acceptance and quick tastes of happiness,” the band collectively say in a press release. “The goal was to have two contrasting sections pushed up against each other with abrupt transitions between them. First, there's this rhythmic cycle that's hypnotic and intense, with a vocal line floating through it all, dreamy and unanchored. Then, pow, the clouds part and there's a chorus that's straight up easy. It's the clarity of hindsight. Relishing it. And maybe a bit cocky because then we go back to the crazy again. We love playing with tension and release. It comes with its own rush.” 

It has been almost four years since we’ve heard anything from Plants and Animals. Their most recent release was back in 2016 with Waltzed In From the Rumbling. By Samantha Small

7. Michael Stipe and Big Red Machine: “No Time for Love Like Now”

Back in March former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe shared a video of him performing from home a new demo song “No Time for Love Like Now” and then he also performed it again from home for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. On Thursday he shared the studio version of the song, via a video. It’s a collaboration with the collective Big Red Machine, in particular The National’s Aaron and Bryce Dessner. Aaron co-wrote the song with Stipe and produced it, Bryce did the orchestrations, and Stipe wrote the lyrics. The single is out now via 37d03d. Michael Brown directed the video.

Stipe had this to say about the song in a press release: “I’m super excited to work with Aaron Dessner. And I’m thrilled with how the song and lyrics landed. The title says it all.”

“No Time for Love Like Now” also features Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) on guitar, Brad Cook (Hiss Golden Messenger, The War on Drugs) on synth, JT Bates (Lizzo, Poliça) on drums, Thomas Bartlett aka Doveman, (Nico Muhly, Sufjan Stevens) on keys, Clarice Jensen (Bjork, Nick Cave), and Yuki Numata Resnick (Beirut, Blonde Redhead) on violin/viola.

In October 2019 Stipe shared his first ever solo song, “Your Capricious Soul,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. Proceeds from that song were donated to the climate change organization Extinction Rebellion. Then in January he shared another new solo song, “Drive to the Ocean,” via a self-directed video for the track. Proceeds from the song benefitted Pathway to Paris, which is asking for cities to sign onto the Paris climate change agreement. In March Stipe shared a PSA video with tips for dealing with the COVID-19 coronavirus.

8. Helvetia: “Reaktor” 

Jason Albertini is a busy guy. Not only is he one third of Duster and was the bassist for Built to Spill up until 2019, he is the core member of Helvetia. On Monday, the Seattle-based band shared their new song “Reaktor” with an accompanying video. In addition, they announced the release of their forthcoming album This Devastating Map, out August 7 via Joyful Noise Recordings. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here. 

The video goes through the day-to-day of Albertini, which seems to include making breakfast for his family, dancing with his daughter, wearing a tremendously tangled wig, and of course, a lot of jamming. The song itself is a sunny, drum-heavy tune. With slithering riffs and Albertini’s chilled tone, “Reaktor” is a good indicator for just how lovely the album is sure to be. 

Albertini has been in Helvetia since the band’s inception in 2005. From then on, he’s included a rotating cast of band members and collaborators, including newest members Steve Gere and Samantha Stidham. With 10 albums under Helvetia’s belt, This Devastating Map finds the band “decidedly more earthbound.” According to a press release, “Helvetia ditches conventional song structure in favor of bouts of repetition in which Albertini rewards the listener with unlikely hooks, juxtaposing memorable figures with odd shapes that desire repeated listens.” By Samantha Small

 

9. Bully: “Where to Start” 

On Thursday Bully (aka Alicia Bognanno) announced her third album, SUGAREGG, and shared its lead single, “Where to Start,” via a video for it. SUGAREGG is due out August 21 via Sub Pop. Bognanno co-directed the “Where to Start” video with Alan Del Rio Ortiz. According to Bognano, the song was inspired by the hilarious hit “Tubthumping” by Chubawumba. Watch the video below. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here. 

Bognanno is not holding back on the track. With frustrated growls and raucous guitars she shows her angered confusion over a hot and cold relationship. She’s dancing around and spitting up blood—arguably the two ends of a very long spectrum. She’s just not sure what to do, as she states “I don’t know where to start/I don’t know where to start with you.” 

SUGAREGG was produced and mixed by John Congleton and Bognanno, with additional production and mixing by Graham Walsh. It was also recorded at Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, and Palace Sound in Toronto, Ontario, and mastered by Heba Kadry. 

Overall, the album itself is decidedly the most explosive collection of songs from Bognanno’s discography. 

“This is me longing to see the bigger picture, motivated and eager for contentment in the best way,” she says in a press release. “I hope the happy go lucky/fuck-it-all attitude shines through some of these songs because I really did feel like I was reentering a place I hadn’t been to in a while and was excited to be back there.” 

Bully’s last album was 2017’s Losing. Read our interview with Bully on Losing. By Samantha Small

10. Travis: “A Ghost”

Scottish rockers Travis made a splash in the late 1990s with a pair of well-received albums—1997’s Good Feeling and 1999’s Nigel Godrich-produced sophomore album, The Man Who—but they never really went away, releasing six more albums this century. This week they announced another new one, the accurately titled 10 Songs (wouldn’t it be funny if it actually had nine songs on it), and shared its first single, “A Ghost,” via a video for the track created while under quarantine by frontman Fran Healy and his 14-year-old son Clay. 10 Songs is due out October 9 via BMG. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

10 Songs is the band’s first album in four years, the follow-up to 2016’s Everything At Once, and is also the band’s ninth studio album. Healy co-produced the album with Robin Baynton (Coldplay, Florence & The Machine) and it was recorded at RAK Studios in late 2019 and early 2020. The album features synth work from Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, lap steel from Greg Leisz (Beck, Bruce Springsteen), and guest vocals from Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles on “The Only Thing.”

A press release describes the album as such: “10 Songs is an album about the way life comes at love and what love does to weather those challenges. It’s grown-up. There’s sizzling synergy in abundance, and many of it’s songs benefit from the almost psychic sense of mutual attunement that comes from being in a band whose line-up hasn’t changed in its entire collective lifetime.”

Healy had this to say about the video for “A Ghost” in the press release: The video for ‘A Ghost’ started out as a mocked up picture of me and three ghosts playing the last chorus of the song in a deserted alleyway. It looked cool so I took that image and back engineered a story out of it. Just when everything was ready to shoot, the world went into lockdown, so we had this great song with no way to make a video. Frustrated and in an act of desperation, I decided to draw it. I did a test to calculate how long it might take me. 16 hours for each, 10 seconds of footage. It worked out that it would take around 30 days which landed exactly on the deadline date. So I drew and drew and drew and drew. 2,500 drawings later, it was done…. One day, I was watching a sequence back and when it got to the end of what I had drawn, it flashed and went into live action. It looked great. This was the moment I realized I could shoot the mock up picture of me playing with my band of ghosts in the alleyway. This helped in three ways. 1. Filming the last 47 seconds would save me 10 days of drawing. 2. I could recruit my 14-year-old son, Clay as the cameraman. He has a drone camera so could shoot it remotely and could use it as part of his school video project 3. Most importantly, we could film it socially distant. It was the most bizarre video shoot I have ever worked on. You realize how important proximity is to getting things done when it's taken out of the equation. But we did it and it turned out great. Clay has to wait till we release the song to hand in his video project.”

The band’s full lineup is Fran Healy (guitar/vox), Andy Dunlop (guitar), Dougie Payne (bass), and Neil Primrose (drums).

Honorable Mentions: 

These five songs almost made the Top 10. 

Gordi: “Unready”

Spillage Village, EARTHGANG, and JID: “End of Daze” (Feat. Jurdan Bryant, Mereba, Hollywood JB)

Tricky: “Fall Please” (Feat. Marta) 

Twin Peaks: “What’s The Matter”

 

Yung: “Progress” 

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

6ix9ine and Nicki Minaj: “TROLLZ”

 

Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin: “The Bastard Wind”

Bibio: “Oakmoss” 

Constantines: “Call Me Out”

Creed Bratton: “Chan Chu Toad” 

Matthew Dear: “Universal Truth” 

Delicate Steve: “Some Hope” 

Fontaines D.C. : I Don’t Belong

Gorillaz: “Friday 13th” (Feat. Octavian)

Hockey Dad: “Good Eye” 

 

Inter Arma: “March of the Pigs” (Nine Inch Nails Cover) 

Juicy J: “Hella Fuckin’ Trauma”

Bettye LaVette: “Strange Fruit” (Billie Holiday Cover)

Ruston Kelly: “Rubber”

Lil Baby: “The Bigger Picture”

Little Kid: “All Night (Golden Ring)”

Naeem: “Stone Harbor” 

Margo Price: “Letting Me Down” (Feat. Sturgill Simpson) 

Anika Pyle: “Prayer For Lonely People”

Roosevelt: “Sign”

Spank Nitti James and Freddie Gibbs: “Disappear”

TOBACCO: “Hungry Eyes” (Eric Carmen Cover)

TORRES: “Too Big for the Glory Hole”

Rufus Wainwright: “You Ain’t Big”

Year of the Knife: “Virtual Narcotic” 

Young Ejecta: “Call My Name”

Neil Young: “Vacancy”

(Special thanks to Lily Guthrie for also helping to put this week’s list together.)

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