10 Best Songs of the Week: Jessie Ware, Dinner Party, Lianne La Havas, Oceanator, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020  

10 Best Songs of the Week: Jessie Ware, Dinner Party, Lianne La Havas, Oceanator, and More

Plus Cults, Hoops, Flock of Dimes, Silverbacks, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Jun 26, 2020
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Welcome to the 25th Songs of the Week of 2020. We’re almost halfway through this trying year! Yay? Thanks in part to ineffective leadership at the top, coronavirus cases have skyrocketed across the land. All we can say to that is: wear a mask!!! If you’re indoors with people you don’t live with, wear a mask! If you’re outdoors in a city or otherwise around other people, wear a mask! And also wash your hands, social distance, still take COVID-19 seriously, and for the sake of all of us, just don’t be an idiot. The other day I was in a Walmart and I saw several families where the wife and two kids were wearing masks, but the husband wasn’t because I guess he thought he too macho and real men don’t wear face masks? I mean, if President Trump doesn’t wear a mask then why should they?

Anyway, onto this week’s songs. There were many strong contenders this week. So much so that we have 13 honorable mentions and almost considered making the main list longer than a Top 10.

This week we posted My Favorite Album interviews with Fred Armisen and Palehound, a COVID-19 Quarantine Check In interview with Jessy Lanza, and an interview with The Black Tones.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by HAIM, Flock of Dimes, Bad Moves, Ennio Morricone, John Carpenter, Vinyl Williams, Owen, and Manic Street Preachers. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows).

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 10 best the last seven days had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last week. Check out the full list below.

1. Jessie Ware: “Remember Where You Are”

Jessie Ware released a new album, What’s Your Pleasure?, today via PMR/Friends Keep Secrets/Interscope (stream it here). While all of its pre-release singles have made our Songs of the Week lists, perhaps our favorite track was saved for the album, closing track “Remember Where You Are.” The simply gorgeous, goosebump-inducing track sounds like a lost Minnie Ripperton classic from early 1970s (think “Les Fleurs”). 

What’s Your Pleasure? is Ware’s fourth album and the follow-up to 2017’s Glasshouse. The album features an array of collaborators, including Kindness, Danny Parker, Shungudzo Kuyimba, Clarence Coffee Jr., Benji B, Midland, Morgan Geist (Storm Queen), Matthew Tavares, Metronomy’s Joseph Mount, and James Ford (who was the primary collaborator on the album).

The album includes two songs Ware shared last year. “Adore You,” which was produced by Metronomy’s Joseph Mount and mixed by James Ford (who’s also in Simian Mobile Disco), came out in February 2019. “Mirage (Don’t Stop),” which was produced and co-written by Benji B and Matthew Tavares (and featured additional production by James Ford and was co-written by Clarence ‘Coffee’ Jr.), came out in November 2019 and was one of our Songs of the Week. In October 2018 she also shared “Overtime,” another new song that was one of our Songs of the Week, but it doesn’t appear on the tracklist to the new album. 

When the album was announced she shared another new song from it, “Spotlight,” via a video for the track. “Spotlight” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared another song from the album, “Ooh La La,” via a lyric video. “Ooh La La” was again one of our Songs of the Week. Then in May she shared one more advance single from the album, “Save a Kiss,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Ware had this to say about What’s Your Pleasure? in a previous press release: “It feels so amazing to be back making music, so much has happened recently. Some crazy exciting things but I feel so happy to be back to my first love. Music was the first scene that truly embraced me!! 

“I feel like these last few years I’ve had to do some exploration to figure out what I wanted to write about musically again and learn new things about myself. I’ve been yearning for that escapism, groove and maybe it’s time to say goodbye to the melancholy Jessie.

“I’ve spent the last year in the studio with an old friend of mine James Ford, working with a handful of great friends to create a record I’m truly proud of. I’m happy to share with you my brand new single ‘Spotlight’ taken from my fourth album. It’s melodramatic, it's romantic, it’s everything that I love and it’s got a bit of a beat. This is the first taste of my brand new album What’s Your Pleasure? which will be out 5th June.

“I can’t wait to get back on the road and see you all...It’s been far too long but for now let's have some fun and hope you enjoy the music! x” 

Read our 2017 Self-Portrait interview with Jessie Ware.

2. Dinner Party (aka Kamasi Washington, Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, 9th Wonder): “Freeze Tag” (Feat. Phoelix)

Terrace Martin, Kamasi Washington, 9th Wonder, and Robert Glasper have joined forces to form the new jazz/hip-hop/soul supergroup Dinner Party. On Thursday they announced their self-titled debut album and shared its first single, “Freeze Tag” (which features guest vocals from Phoelix), via a video for the track that features footage of the band recording in the studio. Dinner Party is due out July 10 via Sounds of Crenshaw/Empire. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here

The project was hatched while Martin and Glasper were on tour together, but the two have known each other much longer than that, first meeting in 1996 at a jazz band camp. Martin has known Washington even longer than that, having met in 1992 in a high school jazz band. The album was recorded at Chalice studios in Los Angeles at the end of 2019. Washington’s sister, Amani Washington, did the album’s cover art. 

While “Freeze Tag” coasts on a smooth and relaxed groove, its lyrics are culturally relevant, with Phoelix singing: “They told me put my hands up behind my head/I think they got the wrong one/I'm sick and tired of runnin'/I've been searching where the love went.../They tell me if I move they gonna shoot me dead.”  

Terrace Martin also recently released the new protest song “PIG FEET,” which was one of our Songs of the Week and featured Kamasi Washington. He also appeared on Leon Bridges’ recent protest song, “Sweeter” (which was also one of our Songs of the Week), and he and Robert Glasper joined Bridges to perform the song on The Late Late Show with James Corden

Washington released an acclaimed double album, Heaven and Earth, in 2018. It was our #1 album of 2018. Read our 2018 cover story interview with Washington.

3. Lianne La Havas: “Weird Fishes” (Radiohead Cover)

We don’t usually include cover songs in the Top 10 of our Songs of the Week, but covers aren’t usually this revelatory. British singer/songwriter Lianne La Havas is releasing a new self-titled album on July 17 via Nonesuch. This week she shared another song from it, which is actually a cover of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes” (from their In Rainbows album). At the very start, when the beat suddenly changes, you know you in for something different. And when the whole band joins in around the 3:30 mark the cover really flies.

Funnily enough, La Havas isn’t the only notable artist to cover “Weird Fishes” on their new album this year. Inner Song, the new album from British electronic music artist/producer Kelly Lee Owens, opens with an instrumental cover of the song. Owens took to Twitter this week to praise La Havas’ version.

La Havas and her band have been covering the song live for years and when performing at Glastonbury in 2019 her and her band decided they should record a studio version of the cover. Doing that sparked off how to record the new album.

La Havas explains further in a press release: “I had the most wonderful, nourishing experience recording that. And that’s where I decided: the rest of the album needs to be like this. It’s got to be my band, and I’ve got to do it in London, whenever people have time.” 

“This song is very close to my heart, and in the story of the record the lyrics express perfectly where I was,” she continues. “At the same time, it felt very appropriate to use it as a kind of test song to record with my live band, to see if we’d work as well in the studio as we do onstage—I’d always wanted to play live in the studio like in the ’70s. Everything felt right that day. I knew: This is my direction, this is my album, this is my story.  

“Thom Yorke’s lyrics suggest finding a way out, and he’s used the imagery of the bottom of the sea and the unusual creatures that you might find there. For me, the deep means the unknown, when you get out of something so familiar. It can be scary, but he also says, ‘I hit the bottom and escape.’” 

Lianne La Havas includes the previously shared singles “Paper Thin,” “Bittersweet,” and “Can’t Fight.” On July 15 she is doing a one-off ticketed livestream concert from London’s Roundhouse. Get tickets here.

4. Oceanator: “A Crack in the World” 

On Thursday Oceanator, aka Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter/guitarist Elise Okusami, announced her debut album, Things I Never Said, and shared a new song from it, “A Crack in the World.” Things I Never Said is due out August 28 on her own Plastic Miracles label. Check out the album’s cover art here.

“There’s a crack in the world/And we’re all hanging on, hanging on trying not to fall through the void/Sometimes there’s only so much you can do,” Okusami sings at the start of “A Crack in the World,” successfully reflecting on these confusing and history making times that we live in. Late she’s a cautious optimistic, declaring at the song’s guitar-driven climax: “I’m still trying my best/You know it keeps getting harder and harder everyday/When you see the news on the TV, on the radio/But I keep trying to keep the skies blue anyway.” 

Things I Never Said was originally due to come out on Tiny Engines, but then that label pretty much imploded after it was revealed that it was having difficulty making royalty payments to its artists, so Okusami is putting out the album on her own label instead.

5. Cults: “Spit You Out”

On Wednesday Cults (the duo of Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion) shared a new song, “Spit You Out,” via an amusing video in which Follin eats and then spits out a whole lot of food in front of Zoom backgrounds. Right now it’s just a standalone single on Sinderlyn, but perhaps it’s a preview of something larger. Tron Cole directed the video. 

Cults co-produced the song with Shane Stoneback and it was mixed by John Congleton and mastered by Heba Kadry. “Spit You Out” finds Follin exerting a bit more creative control than before, as it’s the first Cults track to be “entirely co-written/performed/sung/co-produced from Follin.”

“In the past, I’d never brought my own music to the table because I was just too shy,” Follin says in a press release.

Cults also collectively had this to say about the song: “On this single we tried on some of our more left field influences from the exotica sounds of Esquivel to Nine Inch Nails style heaviness. It focuses on parasitic relationships and breaking away from toxic patterns of interaction. We never imagined it would relate to a worldwide pandemic.” 

The band’s last regular studio album was 2017’s Offering. Although in 2018 Cults also released another album where they covered The Motels’ classic 1979 debut album Motels in its entirety as part of Turntable Kitchen’s Sounds Delicious Series.

Read our 2017 interview with Cults on Offering.

6. Hoops: “The Fall” 

On Wednesday Indiana trio Hoops announced a new album, Halo, and shared a new song from it, “The Fall.” Halo is due out October 2 via Fat Possum. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here

Halo is the band’s sophomore album, the follow-up to their 2017 debut, Routines. Later in 2017 the band announced they were going on an indefinite hiatus to focus on other projects outside of the band. But then last November they returned with the new song “They Say,” which is featured on Halo. “They Say” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Hoops is Drew Auscherman (vox, guitar), Kevin Krauter (vox, bass), and Keagan Beresford (vox, keys, guitar). 

“I think we had lost a lot of steam,” says Krauter of their hiatus in a press release. “Hoops wasn’t moving forward organically. It was being dragged along.”

“I had to rediscover why I wanted to be in a band and make songs and perform,” says Beresford. “I had been having a lot of anxiety when I was onstage. I wasn’t even thinking about playing. I was just thinking about getting through the set without falling on my face. It’s crazy to think about all the shows we did where I wasn’t really present.” 

After taking a break to focus on other projects, Hoops’ members felt drawn back together as they individually wrote songs that felt well suited to the band’s sound. So after sending songs back and forth to each other they reconvened at Bloomington’s Russian Studio to record Halo.

“This record is a more honest representation of our influences and interests as musicians,” says Auscherman. “We’ve grown a lot in four years, as people and as listeners. We’re starting to sound more like ourselves.”

7. Flock of Dimes: “Like So Much Desire” 

On Tuesday Flock of Dimes, the solo project of Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak, surprise released a new EP, Like So Much Desire, via Sub Pop. The five-song EP is her first release for the iconic Seattle label, which also announced her signing this week. The highlight is probably the title track, “Like So Much Desire.” Read our full review of the EP here.

Wasner released her debut full-length album under her Flock of Dimes solo project, If You See Me, Say Yes, in 2016 via Partisan. This is the follow-up release. Wasner wrote and produced the EP in her home in isolation and it was mixed by Ari Picker and mastered by Ryan Pickett. Drummer JT Bates recorded his parts from Minneapolis and the strings were recorded in New York by Paul Wiancko, Michi Wiancko, and Ayane Kozasa.

Wasner will be performing a Flock of Dimes livestream concert on Tuesday, June 30 at 7 p.m. ET. Tickets are available here.

Wye Oak (Wasner and Andy Stack) released a new album, The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs, back in April 2018 via Merge. (It was our Album of the Week.) 

Read our 2018 interview with Wye Oak on The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs.

8. Silverbacks: “Up the Nurses”

Promising new Dublin five-piece Silverbacks are releasing their debut album, Fad, on July 17 via Central Tones. Today they shared another song from it, “Up the Nurses,” via a video for the track. The band self-directed the video, which features lots of tinfoil and computers.

Bassist/vocalist Emma Hanlon had this to say about the song in a press release: “I love Blondie and Kilian [O’Kelly] overheard me singing along to them one night. A few days later he surprised me with our very own new wave jam ‘Up the Nurses.’ The song talks about ‘amour fou’ (‘mad love’) and the unwanted adoration someone receives for the care they're giving someone.”

Vocalist/guitarist Daniel O'Kelly had this to say about the video: “With everyone in isolation we set ourselves the challenge of building our own weird world. In the video two amateur radio enthusiasts help an astronaut return to his galaxy queen. We all had a basic tin foil spec and story to work from and everyone then shot their individual parts. It's loosely inspired by Be Kind Rewind and their resourcefulness.”

When Fad was announced the band shared a new song from it, “Muted Gold,” via an amusing video for the track. “Muted Gold” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list.

Girl Band bassist Daniel Fox produced Fad.  The band features Daniel O'Kelly (vocals/guitar), Kilian O’Kelly (guitar/vocals), Emma Hanlon (bass/vocals), Peadar Kearney (guitar), and Gary Wickham (drums).

A previous press release further described the album and its themes: “Debut album Fad represents the sound of a band trying to make sense of a noisy and disjointed world—one that competes for your attention at every turn. For them, it has come to be a symbol of what it feels like to try and absorb the world through both fleeting moments in front of screens, and prolonged obsessive periods filled with focus. They pull apart pop-culture in search of new meaning, whether it’s a nod to The Simpsons (‘Fad 95’), imagining a lost John Hughes film (Klub Silberrücken), spiralling downwards into youtube deep-dives (‘Pink Tide’), or making sense of youth culture through The Urban Dictionary (‘Grinning At the Lid’). Much in the same way that modern life can be defined by its unpredictability, Silverbacks colorful, vivid and exuberant songs dismantle their source material and end up in places that you don’t think they will.”

9. Kelly Lee Owens: “On” 

British electronic music artist/producer Kelly Lee Owens is releasing a new album, Inner Song, on August 28 via Smalltown Supersound. On Wednesday she shared another song from it, “On,” via a video for the track. Kasper Häggström directed the video, which was filmed on the Norwegian coastline and features a man and his dog (Owens isn’t in the video). Häggström previously directed Owens’ “Throwing Lines” video from her first album. 

Owens had this to say about the song in a press release: “This is perhaps the most intimate and personal song I've written so far—the two halves of the track reflect upon sad acceptances of the truth and then the joyous aftermath of liberation that can come from that. This can definitely be heard in the production and arrangement of the track—the first half sonically connecting to the inner revelations and the second half, the liberation in action, the forward motion.”

Inner Song was due out May 1, but has since been pushed back due to COVID-19. Previously Owens shared its first single, “Melt!,” via a video for the new song. Then she shared its second single, the hypnotic “Night,” which was on of our Songs of the Week

Inner Song is the follow-up to Owens’ self-titled debut album, released in 2017 via Smalltown Supersound (it was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017). In May 2019 Owens shared two new songs, “Let It Go” and “Omen,” with “Let It Go” making our Songs of the Week list. Neither song is on the new album. In December 2019 Owens teamed up with Jon Hopkins for the seven-minute long new song, “Luminous Spaces.” It was originally intended to be an Owens remix of Hopkins’ “Luminous Beings” but morphed into its own thing once the pair got into the studio together. “Luminous Spaces” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list and is also not featured on Inner Song

Inner Song opens with a cover of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi,” from 2007’s In Rainbows, but Owens’ version is just titled “Arpeggi.” One song on the album features vocals from John Cale. 

In a previous press release, Owens said creating Inner Song was “the hardest three years of my life…my creative life and everything I'd worked for up to that point was deeply impacted. I wasn't sure if I could make anything anymore, and it took quite a lot of courage to get to a point where I could create again.” 

The album’s title is borrowed from Alan Silva’s free jazz album of the same name from 1972. Owens said the title “really reflects what it felt like to make this record. I did a lot of inner work in the past few years, and this is a true reflection of that.” 

“Melt!” is inspired by the climate change crisis. “I wanted to create something that sounded hard but with organic samples,” Owens said. “I felt those were great representations of what's happening in the world, that every moment you're breathing and sleeping, this is ​taking place.” 

Read our 2017 interview with Kelly Lee Owens.

10. Jónsi: “Swill”

On Wednesday Jónsi of Iceland’s Sigur Rós announced his first solo album in 10 years, Shiver, and shared a new song from it, “Swill,” via a video for the track. Shiver features guest vocals from Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser and Robyn and was co-produced by A. G. Cook (of PC Music). The album is due out October 2 via Krunk. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Shiver includes “Exhale,” a new song Jónsi shared in April via a video for the track he co-directed with actor/director Giovanni Ribisi. Barnaby Roper directed the “Swill” video, which was animated by Pandagunda.

It’s been 10 years since Jónsi’s last solo album, 2010’s debut solo album Go. Since then he’s kept busy, including contributing songs to the How to Train Your Dragon films and teaming up with Stockholm-based visual artist/electro-acoustic composer Carl Michael von Hausswolff as Dark Morph (the ambient project released a second album in May). Sigur Rós has also released two albums in that period, 2012’s Valtari and 2013’s Kveikur.

Honorable Mentions:

These 13 songs almost made the Top 10.

Bright Eyes: “Mariana Trench” 

Cut Copy: “Cold Water” 

Dent May: “I Could Use a Miracle”

Deradoorian: “Corsican Shores”

The Flaming Lips: “My Religion Is You”

Girl Friday: "This Is Not the Indie Rock I Signed Up For"

I LIKE TRAINS: “Dig In” 

JPEGMAFIA: “THE BENDS!”

Thurston Moore: “Hashish”

Plants and Animals: “House on Fire”

Secret Machines: “Talos’ Corpse”

Jess Williamson: “Pictures of Flowers” (Feat. Hand Habits) 

Widowspeak: “Money”

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Bad Moves: “Working For Free”

Bent Arcana: “Misanthrope Gets Lunch”

Beyoncé: “Black Parade” 

Big Boi and Sleepy Brown: “Can’t Sleep” 

Bing & Ruth: “The Pressure of This Water”

Bonny Light Horseman: “Green Rocky Road” 

Boris: “Loveless”

Burna Boy: “Wonderful”

The Chicks: “March March” 

George Clanton and Nick Hexum: “Topanga State of Mind” 

Jess Cornelius: “Body Memory”

Counterparts: “Purer Form of Pain” and “Strings of Seperation” 

CRICKETS: “ELASTIC” 

Katie Dey: “Dancing” 

Ben Folds: “2020”

Gordi: “Extraordinary Life” 

Guapdad 4000: “Lil Scammer That Could” (Feat. Denzel Curry)

HÆLOS: “Unknown Melody”

Inter Arma: “Purple Rain” (Prince Cover)

Jesu: “Because of You”

Kesha: “Children of the Revolution” (T. Rex Cover)

Kllo: “Somehow” 

Land of Talk: “Footnotes” 

Fenne Lily: “Alapathy” 

Cass McCombs and Steve Gunn: “Sweet Lucy” and “Wild Mountain Thyme” 

H.C. McEntire: “Time, On Fire”

MIKE: “Allstar” (Feat. Earl Sweatshirt) 

Old 97’s: “Turn Off the TV”

Tom Petty: “You Don’t Know How It Feels (Demo)”

Prince: “Witness 4 The Prosecution (Version 1)” 

The Psychedelic Furs: “Come All Ye Faithful” 

Pure Bathing Culture: “Something Silver”

Samia: “Fit N Full”

Semisonic: “You’re Not Alone” 

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: “Lagoon”

Sprain: “Worship House”

Sun Ra Arkestra: “Seductive Fantasy”

Tigers Jaw: “Warn Me”

Tourist, The Range: “Last”

Uniform: “Delco”

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

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