10 Best Songs of the Week: Julia Holter, Thom Yorke, Frontperson, Metric, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, January 15th, 2021  

10 Best Songs of the Week: Julia Holter, Thom Yorke, Frontperson, Metric, and More

Plus Men I Trust, Okkervil River, Phosphorescent, The Twilight Sad, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

Sep 07, 2018
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Last week's Songs of the Week was sparse, with only a Top 8 (and two of those songs were from the same artist), probably due to it building up a three-day weekend. There wasn't much to write about at the start of this week, due to the Labor Day holiday on Monday, but labels, bands, and publicists more than made up for it with plenty of new songs the rest of the week. We almost couldn't narrow it down to a Top 10 this week.

Elsewhere on the website in the last week we posted a My Firsts interview with New Zealand's The Beths, as well as an interview with Northern Ireland's Snow Patrol. Spiritualized's And Nothing Hurt was our Album of the Week. We also briefly honored the 20th anniversary today of Belle and Sebastian's The Boy With the Arab Strap.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Chilly Gonzales, Glenn Jones, Eric Bachmann, Neil & Liam Finn, Ovlov, Joey Dosik, Cullen Omori, and Mass Gothic. Plus we posted reviews of various DVDs, Blu-rays, and films.

Don't forget that last week we officially announced our new print issue, which features Kamasi Washington on the cover and is out now.

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. Julia Holter: "I Shall Love 2"

This week Julia Holter announced a new album, Aviary, and shared a video for its first single, the breathtaking "I Shall Love 2." We dare you not to get chills as the song builds and the vocals get more and more layered.

Aviary is due out October 26 via Domino. She also announced some tour dates, which are here.

The Los Angeles-based artist released her fantastic fourth full-length album, Have You in My Wilderness, in 2015 via Domino (it made it to #4 on our Top 100 Albums of 2015 list). Since then she released the 2016 score for boxing drama Bleed For This, 2017's In the Same Room, featuring her previous songs re-recorded live in the studio, and in January shared a new song, "So Humble the Afternoon," as part of the Adult Swim Singles Program (it isn't featured on the new album, but was one of our Songs of the Week).

Aviary was initially inspired by a line from a 2009 short story by writer Etel Adnan: "I found myself in an aviary full of shrieking birds." A press release points out that it's a good metaphor for the daily bad news cycle we currently find ourselves in, especially in the modern political climate. "Amidst all the internal and external babble we experience daily, it's hard to find one's foundation," Holter elaborates in the press release. "I think this album is reflecting that feeling of cacophony and how one responds to it as a person - how one behaves, how one looks for love, for solace. Maybe it's a matter of listening to and gathering the seeming madness, of forming something out of it and envisioning a future."

Holter later adds: "In a lot of the songs, when I mention love, it's about a seeking for compassion and humility in a world where it feels like empathy is always being tested."

Cole MGN executive produced Aviary, which was produced by Holter and Kenny Gilmore. The album also features Corey Fogel (percussion), Devin Hoff (bass), Dina Maccabee (violin, viola, vocals), Sarah Belle Reid (trumpet), Andrew Tholl (violin), and Tashi Wada (synth, bagpipes). Dicky Bahto directed the "I Shall Love 2" video and took Holter's press photos. When describing Aviary, the press release says the album "combines Holter's slyly theatrical vocals and Blade Runner-inspired synth work with an enveloping palette of strings and percussion that reveals itself, and the boundless scope of her vision, over the course of fifteen songs."

Read our 2015 interview with Holter.

2. Thom Yorke: "Suspirium"

It was announced last year that Thom Yorke of Radiohead is scoring his first feature film, Suspiria. It's a remake of Dario Argento's 1977 Italian horror film of the same name. This week Yorke announced details of the album's soundtrack and shared a song from it, "Suspirium," which features vocals from Yorke. Suspiria (Music for the Luca Guadagnino Film) is due out October 26 via XL. It includes 25 original compositions by Yorke, including instrumental tracks and ones that are more traditionally song-like and feature vocals. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as Yorke's upcoming tour dates here.

"Suspirium" is one of Yorke's more Radiohead sounding solo songs of late and that's certainly a good thing.

Yorke wrote and arranged the score, which was recorded and produced by Yorke and Sam Petts-Davies. The score also features the London Contemporary Orchestra and Choir, as well as Yorke's son Noah Yorke on drums on "Has Ended" and "Volk," and Pasha Mansurov on solo flute on "Suspirium."  

Suspiria's first teaser trailer debuted in June and last month a new, longer trailer for the film was shared. Luca Guadgnino (Call Me By Your Name) has directed the new version, which stars Dakota Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, and Jessica Harper (the star of the 1977 original). It's due out nationwide November 2 via Amazon Studios, with New York and Los Angeles showings starting October 26.

Guadgnino had this to say about Yorke in a previous press release last year: "Thom's art transcends the contemporary. To have the privilege of his music and sound for Suspiria is a dream come true. The depth of his creation and artistic vision is so unique that our Suspiria will sound groundbreaking and will deeply resonate with viewers. Our goal is to make a movie that will be a disturbing and transforming experience: for this ambition, we could not find a better partner than Thom."

Producers Marco Morabito and Brad Fischer also had this to say: "Thom Yorke has composed and performed some of the most iconic and transformative music in modern culture. To have him lend his talent to Suspiria is an extraordinary gift, both to us as filmmakers and to audiences, who have a remarkable, terrifying and emotionally stirring experience in store for them."

A previous press release described the plot of Suspiria as such: "Susie Bannion, a young American woman, travels to the prestigious Markos Tanz Company in Berlin in the year 1977. She arrives just as one of the Company's members, Patricia, has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. As Susie makes extraordinary progress under the guidance of Madame Blanc, the Company's revolutionary artistic director, she befriends another dancer, Sara, who shares her suspicions that the Matrons, and the Company itself, may be harboring a dark and menacing secret." 

3. Frontperson: "Young Love"

Frontperson is a new duo that features Kathryn Calder of The New Pornographers (and also a solo artist and formerly of Immaculate Machine) and Mark Andrew Hamilton (who has released six albums as Woodpigeon). They are releasing their debut album, Frontrunner, on September 21 via Calder's own label, Oscar St. Previously they shared a video for its first single, "Tick - Tock (Frontrunner)" (which was one of our Songs of the Week). This week they shared another song from the album, "Young Love," via a video for it. Lorenz Tröbinger directed the video, which features him and his boyfriend around the time they mutually decided to end their relationship, as Tröbinger was moving.

We've heard all of Frontrunner and it's really great. We're worried the album is getting a bit slept on, but hopefully some of our readers will take more notice now.

Calder had this to say about the song in a press release: "'Young Love' was one of the last things we finished. It was kind of tricky to get right because it is a delicate song. Lyrically, I was trying to capture the feeling of meeting someone and those first days when everything is kind of unsettled but yet you also know it's the right thing. I remember the final glue to the song - when it felt like we had figured it out - was when Mark and I played our guitars together into one microphone, inspired by an early Leonard Cohen kind of sound. There was something kind of lo-fi about playing the song that way that really worked."

Tröbinger had this to say about the video in the press release: "Before I even listened to 'Young Love' I had this thought in my head about how songs are often so very personal, sometimes specific to the musician's life and past and how at the same time music videos usually aren't. At least not in the same way as songs are as they don't usually reflect on the filmmaker's life as a song might reflect on the musician's. So it was clear to me that the film I wanted to make in response to Mark's and Kathryn's music would come from such a personal place. The film is about me and my boyfriend James in London and our relationship that we decided to end when I left the city. About the sadness that came with knowing that the other person would soon be far away (we shot the video a week before I left) but at the same time about the beauty of making the most of the time we had together and separating on the best of terms - knowing that we would always have a very special friend in the other one. I feel that this kind of separation, when life is taking you in different directions, is somehow more typical for the first couple of relationships in a person's life, typical of young love. If we had been ten years older, perhaps we would have decided differently, who knows, but for now, it was the right decision. The film is a document of and a tribute to the year that we got to spend together and to the love between us - love that hasn't ended but that is going to take on a different shape now."

4. Metric: "Now or Never Now"

Metric are releasing a new album, which is now titled Art of Doubt after previously not having a title, on September 21 via MMI/Crystal Math Music. Previously they shared its first single, "Dark Saturday," as well as a black & white video for the song featuring four split screens and shot on an iPhone. Then they shared another video for another new song from the album, "Dressed to Suppress" (which was one of our Songs of the Week). This week they shared a third single from the album, "Now or Never Now." The six-minute long driving track is the surely the best single from the album thus far and one of the better Metric tracks of recent albums.

Metric haven't released a new album in almost three years, since 2015's Pagans in Vegas. Guitarist Jimmy Shaw did not co-produce the new album, despite doing so with the band's last three albums. Instead, Justin Meldal-Johnsen (M83, Beck) produced the album, which was recorded at Metric's own Giant Studio in Toronto and mixed by Tony Hoffer (Phoenix, Depeche Mode).

In a previous press release Shaw had this to say about working with Meldal-Johnsen: "Justin was just what we needed in a producer for this album. He really saw every band member eye to eye and was able to capture what we each do best. It was something I realized I couldn't do at this stage, having been in the band for so long. We were finally able to focus on just playing again, as we did at the start. Making this album brought us together in a way we hadn't been for quite some time and I think you can hear it in the music."

Last year frontwoman Emily Haines released a new solo album, Choir of the Mind, under the name Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton. She also appeared on Hug of Thunder, Broken Social Scene's excellent 2017 album.

Read our 2017 The End interview with Emily Haines about endings and death.

5. Men I Trust: "Seven"

Montreal dream pop/indie pop trio Men I Trust haven't released a full-length studio album since 2015's Headroom (which quickly followed their 2014-released self-titled debut). While working on their third album, the band has continued to tour (including opening for the likes of Belle and Sebastian and Wild Nothing) and release various singles, including "Show Me How" back in February. This week they returned with another new song, "Seven." In was accompanied by a self-directed music video that featured three women who had appeared separately in previous videos by the band (one YouTube commenter said it was a more epic crossover than Avengers: Infinity War, although we're not sure we'd go that far). "Seven" is relaxed, with a bit of a Connan Mockasin vibe, and features a sublime guitar solo towards the end.

6. Okkervil River: "Skiptracer" (Plus "New Blood")

Okkervil River (the project of Will Sheff and backing band) released a new album, In the Rainbow Rain, back in April via ATO. Today they shared two new songs, "New Blood" and "Skiptracer." Both are album outtakes and are being released in conjunction with their September tour dates. The well-paced "New Blood" has a bit of a '70s vibe and features an effective use of backing vocals. At seven-minutes long, "Skiptracer" is more of a slow builder, a song to get lost in. It was close, but "Skiptracer" is the one that makes the Top 10, with "New Blood" a close honorable mention. Check out the tour dates here.

Sheff had this to say about the songs in a press release: "I wrote a ton of songs for the album.... Some of these songs that didn't end up on the record were very dear to me, and I was excited to get a chance to come back and put on the finishing touches."

Read our somewhat recent The End interview on endings and death with Okkervil River's Will Sheff.


7. Parcels: "Lightenup"

Parcels are an Australian five-piece, although they are based in Berlin and have French connections. This week they announced their self-titled debut album and shared a video for a new song from it, the flute-inflected "Lightenup." Parcels is due out October 12 via Kitsuné/Because Music. Their 2017 single "Overnight" was co-written and co-produced by Daft Punk, although the song isn't on the album. Check out the band's upcoming tour dates here.

The band features Louie Swain (synth), Patrick Hetherington (synth), Noah Hill (bass), Anatole Serret (drums), and Jules Crommelin (guitar), who are all schoolmates from Byron Bay. A press release compares Parcels to The Beach Boys, Chic, and Steely Dan, filtered through modern pop music. The band might appeal to fans of Phoenix, for example.

In the press release Parcels collectively say "Lightenup" pulls from "disco and funk and classic grooving music. And it was an important song to us because the lyrics come from the voice of the band. Usually the lyrics are personal. But these ones are really coming from the band. That's the most representative of us." 

8. Guerilla Toss: "Come Up With Me" 

New York five-piece Guerilla Toss are releasing a new album, Twisted Crystal, on September 14 via DFA. This week they shared its third single, the fuzzy New Wave-inspired "Come Up With Me." The press release compared the song to Devo and Debbie Harry, neither of which are ridiculous reference points. 

9. Phosphorescent: "Christmas Down Under"

Phosphorescent (aka Matthew Houck) is releasing a new album, C'est La Vie, on October 5 via Dead Oceans. Previously he shared its first single, "New Birth in New England" (which was one of our Songs of the Week). This week he shared another song from the album, "Christmas Down Under." It's a mix of Auto-Tune, slide guitar, and backing vocals.

Pick up Under the Radar's current print issue (Issue 64) to read our exclusive joint interview between Phosphorescent and Ethan Hawke.

Phosphorescent's last album was 2013's Muchacho. In the five years since, Houck fell in love, had kids, and moved from New York to Nashville. Once there he built is own studio from scratch, Spirit Sounds Studio. C'est La Vie was recorded there and was produced by Houck. Houck mixed the album with Vance Powell (Jack White, Chris Stapleton, Arctic Monkeys). 

A previous press release described the album as such: "With a focus on translating these profound experiences to music as intuitively as he could, Houck pushes the boundaries of what a Phosphorescent record can sound like, balancing the earthy and the incandescent, the troubled and the serene, creating his own musical cosmos in the process."

10. The Twilight Sad: "Videograms"

This week Scotland's The Twilight Sad announced a new album, IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME, and shared a new song from it, album closer "Videograms." IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME isn't due out until next year, January 18, 2019, via Mogwai's label, Rock Action. Check out the band's upcoming tour dates here.

Frontman James Alexander Graham had this to say about the single in a press release: "'Videograms' was the first song written for the album but the last song finished before we went in to record. It's one of the most melodic things we've done. Since writing the song I've heard the phrase 'don't you start on me' whilst walking down the street, in the supermarket, in the pub. It must have been something that I'd heard a lot that stuck with me and came out in this song.

"I quite like that it's the first official single yet it's the last song on the album. There's sometimes pressure to front load an album with the singles as it's assumed that people don't have the attention span to listen to a full record, but people that know us and like our music know that we make albums that should be listened to all the way through as every song is a chapter in the overall story of it. It's also why I love Rock Action as there was no pressure from them, they let us do what we wanted with the track list." 

IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME includes "I/m Not Here [missing face]," a new song they shared back in July (it was one of our Songs of the Week). Work on the album began during the band's recent tours with The Cure. Guitarist Andy MacFarlane worked on demos in his London home. Six months later the band got together last November in a remote rehearsal space on Loch Fyne and then recorded the album in January of this year at Devon's Middle Farm Studios with live engineer Andy Bush. This the first album that sees long-time touring members Brendan Smith (The Blue Nile, The Unwinding Hours) and Johnny Docherty (Take a Worm For a Walk Week, RUNGS) officially join the band.

Graham had this to say about recording the album: "I've always seen Brendan and Johnny as part of the band and it's time to say that aloud. From the actual coming together of the demos to recording the final versions of these songs has probably been one of my favorite experiences of being in the band. All four of us were throwing ideas in, whereas before Andy had mapped it all out. Once he got past the point of making the demos his point of view was 'we need to make these even better. These need to take a step up from where they are.' He opened the floor to everybody.

"The results speak for themselves: an exhilarating listen, by turns cinematic and claustrophobic in its scope, the band dug deep to produce IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME, and it's perhaps their most raw and dynamic record to date. 

"It's a dark record but I think there are some uplifting moments to be had too. There are so many extremes here - there are moments that are harsh, then others that are quite melodic and others that are stripped right down. This album definitely comes with the extremes of every side of the band, I think. There's a certain direct openness and candor now but at the same time I want to keep some mystery. We don't like to throw things in people's faces and spell it out for them."  

Honorable Mentions:

These seven songs almost made the Top 10. There were lots of strong honorable mentions this week, with Black Belt Eagle Scout, HAERTS, and Bill Ryder-Jones all in and out of the Top 10 at various points as we put the list together.

Black Belt Eagle Scout: "Indians Never Die"

David Bowie: "Beat of Your Drum (2018 Version)"

Charles Bradley: "I Feel a Change"

HAERTS: "No Love for the Wild"

Harmony Rockets with Special Guest Peter Walker: "Atropos"

Prince: "17 Days (Piano Demo)"

Bill Ryder-Jones: "And Then There's You"

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Nicholas Allbrook: "St Pete" (Feat. Halo Maud)

Antarctigo Vespucci: "White Noise" 

Meg Baird and Mary Lattimore: "Painter of Tygers"

Devendra Banhart: "25th"

Cursive: "Under the Rainbow"

DAWN: "jealousy"

Death Cab for Cutie: "My Backwards Walk" (Frightened Rabbit Cover)

Dilly Dally: "Doom"

Dizzee Rascal: "Money Right" (Feat. Skepta)

Father John Misty: "Fallin' Rain" (Link Wray Cover)  

Ryan Hemsworth: "Special Girl" (Feat. SK & Tomggg)

The Hold Steady: "Confusion in the Marketplace" and "T​-​Shirt Tux"

Laibach: "The Sound of Music" (Richard Rogers, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Julie Andrews Cover)

 Mothers: "Beauty Routine"

Marissa Nadler: "I Can't Listen to Gene Clark Anymore" (Feat. Sharon Van Etten)

Steve Perry: "No More Cryin'"

Nile Rodgers & Chic: "Sober" (Feat. Craig David & Stefflon Don)

Irmin Schmidt: "Klavierstück III"

Ty Segall: "I'm a Man" (Spencer Davis Group Cover)

 Semisonic: "Closing Time (Early Live Demo)"

ShadowParty: "Reverse the Curse (A Certain Ratio Rework)" and "Reverse the Curse (The Other Two Remix)"

Silk City: "Electricity" (Feat. Dua Lipa)

Skylar Spence: "Cry Wolf"

Speedy Ortiz: "Blood Keeper" (Liz Phair Cover)

Strange Ranger: "New Hair"

Sure Sure: "Lie Lie Lie"

Swearin': "Future Hell"

Tokyo Police Club: "Simple Dude"

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