10 Best Songs of the Week: Lael Neale, Baio, Dry Cleaning, The Weather Station, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, November 23rd, 2020  

10 Best Songs of the Week: Lael Neale, Baio, Dry Cleaning, The Weather Station, and More

Plus Bleachers and Bruce Springsteen, Hannah’s Little Sister, Speed Stick, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Nov 20, 2020
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Welcome to the 43rd Songs of the Week of 2020. Whereas last week’s Songs of the Week covered three weeks’ worth of songs, this week we’re back to just covering the last seven days. In the last week, President Trump has still refused to concede the election and coronavirus cases continued to skyrocket, with the president more interested in furthering baseless election fraud claims and doomed legal challenges than helping combat COVID-19. So it’s up to us, dear reader, as we head into next week’s Thanksgiving holiday—wear a mask, social distance, don’t go to bars or indoor restaurants, don’t travel to other cities or states unless you really have to, and don’t host a huge Thanksgiving dinner (just celebrate with those in your household or do something remotely if you live alone). Trump may not be leading by example, but it doesn’t mean we can’t all do the right thing, even if you’re young and healthy. 

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Marika Hackman, Goo Goo Dolls, FUZZ, 45 Grave, Elvis Costello, Better Person, Drew Citron, Bee Bee Sea, Spectres, and William Shatner. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows). 

Remember that we recently announced our long-awaited new print issue, with Phoebe Bridgers and Moses Sumney on the two covers. Find all the info here and buy a copy directly from us here

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. (FYI: We won’t do a Songs of the Week next week because of Thanksgiving.) 

1. Lael Neale: “For No One For Now” 

On Thursday up-and-coming artist Lael Neale, who has just signed with Sub Pop last month, shared a video for her new single “For No One For Now.” The impressionistic self-directed video was filmed back in Neale’s family farm in Virginia on her old Sony Handycam she had from high school. “For No One For Now” is deceptively simple and strangely haunting and hypnotic. 

Though she is from Virginia, Neale has been living in Los Angeles for over a decade now. The city is a huge source of inspiration for Neale, and “For No One For Now” was partially inspired by driving along the freeway amidst the view of the San Fernando Valley. Neale states in a press release: “I’ve always loved these stretches of road where the magic of the city seems hemmed in by the mundane.” 

Neale has worked with many artists and producers during her time in L.A., but the moment that provided the catalyst for her artistic awakening was when she discovered the Omnichord, an instrument which she began using frequently. In order to achieve the sound she desired for her recordings, she enlisted fellow artist Guy Blakeslee of the band Entrance for assistance. “Guy Blakeslee who had been an advocate for years facilitated the process,” Neale states. “He set up a cassette 4-track in my bedroom and provided empathic guidance, subtle yet affecting accompaniment, and engineering prowess.” 

In April 2020, Neale returned to her family farm in Virginia. Restrictions due to lockdown provided the inspiration for Neale to pick up her old Handycam and begin filming videos for her songs. Neale states: “I am enjoying the strong contrast between the songs I wrote and recorded in California and the videos I am making for them in Virginia. It offers something unexpected.” 

Neale’s debut single, “Every Star Shivers in the Dark,” was released last month on Sub Pop. By Joey Arnone

2. Baio: “Endless Me, Endlessly” 

On Wednesday Baio (Vampire Weekend’s Chris Baio) announced his third solo album, Dead Hand Control, and shared its first two singles, “Endless Me, Endlessly” and “What Do You Say When I’m Not There?,” via videos for the new songs. Dead Hand Control is due out January 29, 2021 via Glassnote. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here

We liked both singles, but “Endless Me, Endlessly,” with its backwards video, makes the main list, and the other single is an honorable mention below. 

Baio released his debut solo album, The Names, in 2015 via Glassnote, and released his sophomore album, Man of the World, in 2017, also via Glassnote. 

Dead Hand Control was recorded at Damon Albarn’s 13 Studios in London and Baio’s C+C Music Factory studio in Los Angeles (founded with Vampire Weekend bandmate Chris Tomson). Baio wrote all the songs on the album himself, except for the near 10-minute long closing track, “O.M.W.,” which was written with his Vampire Weekend bandmate Ezra Koenig. According to a press release, the album’s title comes from two sources: “Dead Hand” is the name “a rumored Soviet missile system designed to obliterate America” and “Dead Hand Control” is “a legal strategy for attempting to control the beneficiaries of your will after you die.” 

“I was looking at the past five years of American life and obsessing about topics like death, wills, and nuclear war,” Baio says. “But at its heart, it’s about how the only thing you can control is the way you treat the people in your life.”  

Baio says that “Endless Me, Endlessly” is “a simple song about being there in every possible capacity for someone else. Through hard times just as much as good times. In a way, it’s a bit of a fantasy—a single person cannot be everything to someone else. Lately, though, I have found fantasy to be a thing of comfort.”

He adds that “What Do You Say When I’m Not There?” is “the polar opposite emotionally. It’s an ode to insecurity and the fact that you can never truly know what is going on in someone else’s mind. With this song I tried to strike a pointed contrast between melancholy lyrics and an upbeat, sunny energy.”  

Also, read our 2015 interview with Baio about The Names.

 

3. Dry Cleaning: “Scratchcard Lanyard” 

On Thursday London-based post-punk band Dry Cleaning released a video for a new single titled “Scratchcard Lanyard.” This is their first music release since signing with 4AD earlier this year. The video for “Scratchcard Lanyard” marks the directorial debut of artist duo Rottingdean Bazaar (James Theseus Buck and Luke Brooks). 

The inspiration for the video can be found in what the band had to say about the song in a press release: “In the search for your true calling in life, it’s easy to try so many things that you end up confused. It can lead to an enormous build-up of frustration. You may fantasize about exacting revenge upon your real or imagined enemies. Ephemeral things and small-scale escapist experiences can provide some relief!”

The band has just finished up recording their debut album, with more information to come soon.

Dry Cleaning consists of Nick Buxton (drums), Tom Dowse (guitar), Lewis Maynard (bass), and Florence Shaw (vocals). Last year, we interviewed them after the release of their two EPs Sweet Princess and Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks. You can check it out here. By Joey Arnone

4. The Weather Station: “Tried to Tell You” 

On Wednesday The Weather Station (the project of Toronto-based singer/songwriter Tamara Linderman) announced a new album, Ignorance, and shared a new song from it, “Tried to Tell You,” via a self-directed video for the track. Ignorance is due out February 5, 2021 via Fat Possum, her first for the label. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here

Ignorance includes “Robber,” a new song The Weather Station shared in October via a self-directed video for it in her directorial debut. “Robber,” an atmospheric horn- and string-backed track, was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Ignorance is the follow-up to The Weather Station’s acclaimed self-titled and self-produced fourth album, released in 2017 by Paradise of Bachelors.

In a press release, Linderman says the album was built on rhythm. “I saw how the less emotion there was in the rhythm, the more room there was for emotion in the rest of the music, the more freedom I had vocally,” she says. 

Linderman, who plays guitar and piano on the album, was aided in this cause by drummer Kieran Adams (DIANA), bassist Ben Whiteley, percussionist Philippe Melanson (Bernice), saxophonist Brodie West (The Ex), flutist Ryan Driver (Eric Chenaux), keyboardist Johnny Spence (Tegan and Sara), and guitarist Christine Bougie (Bahamas). Linderman co-produced Ignorance with Marcus Paquin, who also mixed the album. 

Linderman says the new single “Tried to Tell You” is about “reaching out to someone; a specific person, or maybe every person, who is tamping down their wildest and most passionate self in service of some self (and world?) destructive order.”

Of the video, she says: “The video portrays a person who is beset by miracles and visions of beauty, which emanate from inside of and all around him, but rather than reacting with awe or joy, he reacts with annoyance, indifference, and mistrust. We are taught not to see the natural world that we still live in, preferring instead to dwell on the artificial, which is so often a poor substitute for the vibrant real. Flowers really do rise up from mud, and many of us are full of treasures and beauty, but we often discount these things or throw them away.” 

Read our review of The Weather Station.

5. Bleachers: “chinatown” (Feat. Bruce Springsteen) 

Jack Antonoff has been producing a lot of notable artists of late and hasn’t released an album under his Bleachers name in over three years, since 2017’s Gone Now, but on Monday Bleachers returned with two new songs, “chinatown” and “45.” “Chinatown” features a guest appearance from none other than Bruce Springsteen and “45” is its B-side. “Chinatown” is accompanied by a Carlotta Kohl-directed video and was our favorite of the two tracks (“45” is an honorable mention below). 

A press release says the third Bleachers album is expected in 2021. Springsteen released a new album, Letter to You, last month via Columbia. 

Antonoff had this to say about the songs in the press release: “‘Chinatown’ starts in NYC and travels to New Jersey. That pull back to the place I am from mixed with terror of falling in love again. Having to show your cards to someone and the shock when you see them for yourself. Thinking you know yourself and where you are from…. having to see yourself through somebody who you want to stay… I started to write this song with these ideas ringing in my head. To further understand who you are pushes you to further understand where you are from and what that looks and sounds like. There are pieces in that that are worth carrying forever and pieces worth letting die. ‘Chinatown’ and ‘45’ are both the story of this—‘chinatown’ through someone else, ‘45’ through the mirror. As for Bruce, it’s the honor of a lifetime to be joined by him. He is the artist who showed me that the sound of the place I am from has value and that there is a spirit here that needs to be taken all over the world.”

6. Hannah’s Little Sister: “Anywhere” 

The amusingly named Hannah’s Little Sister are a promising new band from Liverpool. The art-rock five-piece have released their debut EP, the confusingly named EP.mp3, today via Heist or Hit. The EP features “Anywhere,” its closing track, which was just shared earlier this week.

Singer Meg Grooters had this to say about “Anywhere” in a press release: “I wrote this song just before I took a year out from uni, it was a weird time for me where I was discovering who I was, with my self-esteem at its lowest. I was lonely, I didn’t feel like I was enough for my friends, and I felt like I had to be someone else, and act a certain way to be accepted by them. 

“But it was also a time where I was in a really loving relationship, and in contrast to the situation with my peers I was just happy to be with that person, and live my life with them comfortably, wanting them around always. This was the good side of caring I hadn’t really experienced before. I guess that sort of created two meanings, because adoring people can be a toxic thing or it can be a really fun and even fulfilling thing. But, if you’re desperate to fit in or be liked and are wanting someone for the wrong reasons, it’s easy to slip into molding yourself to do so.”  

The band’s full lineup is Meg Grooters (Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards, the color Green), Will Brown (Drums, Ciggies), Nina Himmelreich (Bass, Vocals, German), and Ashley Snook (Guitar, Vocals, Gossip). Saam Jafarzadeh produced the EP.

7. Speed Stick: “Knots”

This week North Carolina-based supergroup Speed Stick announced their debut album, Volume One, and shared the album’s lead single, “Knots.” Volume One will be out on January 22, 2021 via Don Giovanni. Speed Stick is a collaborative group project consisting of several musicians, and it was founded by Laura King, drummer for rock groups Flesh Wounds and Bat Fangs. The group distributed nine studio tracks and one live track to select musicians, and Volume One is the result of all these individual collaborations. Check out the cover art and track list for Volume One here.

“Knots” features contributions from the musical duo R. Ring, comprised of Kelley Deal (also in rock group The Breeders) and Mike Montgomery. King describes hearing the duo’s contribution to the song in a press release: “We got the track ‘Knots’ back from Kelley and Mike on the night of a show we were playing, so we all jammed in my car outside the venue and I hit play. Eyes widened and our jaws dropped, then we all laughed. It was a perfect moment to sit in. Nervous laughter and excitement. Time really did stand still, and knowing me I probably even teared up. It was perfect.”

Speed Stick consists of King, in addition to Ash Bowie (Polvo), Charles Chace (The Paul Swest), and Thomas Simpson (The Love Language). The inspiration for the group came about when King toured with Minutemen bassist Mike Watt and Ed Crawford (aka ed fROMOHIO). King speaks about the inspiration for her group that occurred as a result of seeing Watt and Crawford perform together every night: “That really sealed the deal on me realizing I could probably do whatever the fuck I wanted to do...just took some years, courage, experience, and getting to know and play with some really talented musicians.”

Volume One features additional contributions by Mac McCaughan (Superchunk), Stuart McLamb (The Love Language), Ben Felton, and many more. By Joey Arnone

8. Classixx and Local Natives: “Weekends”

Los Angeles indie rockers Local Natives and LA electronic duo Classixx have teamed up for a new song, “Weekends,” shared today. They’ve also announced that a second new single from the collaboration, “Francesca,” is due out December 3 via Innovative Leisure. “Weekends” is an effervescent slice of dance-pop akin to Chromeo.

Classixx collectively had this to say about the song in a press release: “These two songs were made as a collaboration in the true sense of the word. We met the Local Natives guys at a wedding in Mexico and immediately connected. They're such a vibrant live band and it was important to us that their musicianship and vocal harmony came through. The tunes were a group effort and it was a privilege to work on them together, it felt like being a part of a small community.” 

Local Natives’ most recent album was Violet Street, which was released back in April 2019 on Loma Vista, but they put out a new EP, Sour Lemon, in October. One of Sour Lemon’s singles, “Lemon,” featured guest vocals from Sharon Van Etten. There was also a video for the song that also features Van Etten. In April Local Natives traded remixes with Foals. Earlier this week, Local Natives’ vocalist/instrumentalist Kelcey Ayer shared a new song under his Jaws of Love. moniker titled “m&m.” 

Classixx’s last album, Faraway Reach, came out in 2016 via Innovative Leisure. Earlier this year they released another new single, “One More Song,” which featured Roosevelt.

9. Lost Horizons: “One For Regret” (Feat. Porridge Radio)

Lost Horizons are releasing a new two-part double album, In Quiet Moments, in December and February, and on Tuesday they shared another song from it, the short “One For Regret,” which features Porridge Radio. It was shared via a video featuring Porridge Radio’s Dana Margolin. Rachel Winton directed the video. 

Previously Lost Horizons shared the album’s atmospheric single, “Cordelia,” which featured guest vocals from John Grant and was one of our Songs of the Week. The album also includes “I Woke Up With An Open Heart,” which features The Hempolics and was released in September via a video.

In Quiet Moments also features C Duncan, Marissa Nadler, Penelope Isles, Tim Smith of Midlake, and more. Lost Horizons is a duo featuring former Cocteau Twins member (and Bella Union label head) Simon Raymonde and drummer Richie Thomas (who has played with Dif Juz, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Felt, and Cocteau Twins). In Quiet Moments is due out in two parts via Bella Union, with part 1 being released on December 4 and part 2 coming out on February 26.

Margolin had this to say about “One For Regret” in a press release: “The process of collaborating on ‘One For Regret’ was really fun for me. Simon sent me an instrumental to write lyrics and vocal melodies for, which isn't a way I've written in the past and helped me think about songwriting in new ways. It was really cool to be a part of this, and I'm excited to share this song.” 

Raymonde also had this to say about “One For Regret” in a press release: “I was clearing out my cupboards earlier this year and found the old drum machine and pedals I used in some of my early Cocteau Twins days and dusted them down and started messing about with them. The sonics that came out of my improvisation felt like they represented both elements of my past and my future. I’d wanted to work with Dana since I heard Porridge Radio a few years ago and we met at The Great Escape here in Brighton and I thought she might like the vibe of this piece. Once Richie added real drums to it, it felt dark and exciting and Dana really got inside the skin of it all and captured those feelings I had with her intensity and words.”  

In Quiet Moments is the follow-up to Lost Horizons’ 2017-released debut album, Ojalá, also on Bella Union. Ojalá was also filled with guest vocalists, including Sharon Van Etten, Marissa Nadler, Horse Thief’s Cameron Neal, Liela Moss of The Duke Spirit, Hilang Child, and Tim Smith of Midlake.

 

10. Shame: “Water in the Well” 

On Wednesday London five-piece Shame announced a new album, Drunk Tank Pink, and shared a new song from it, “Water in the Well,” via a video for it. Drunk Tank Pink is due out January 15, 2021 via Dead Oceans. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Drunk Tank Pink is the band’s second album, the follow-up to their 2018-released debut album, Songs of Praise, via Dead Oceans. James Ford produced Drunk Tank Pink, which a press release says is bigger, bolder, and more adventurous than their debut. The album’s opening track, “Alphabet,” was shared in September via a video (watch it below as well). 

For Drunk Tank Pink guitarist Sean Coyle-Smith was inspired by Talking Heads, Nigerian High Life, ESG, and Talk Talk. “For this album I was so bored of playing guitar,” he says in the press release, “the thought of even playing it was mind-numbing. So I started to write and experiment in all these alternative tunings and not write or play in a conventional ‘rock’ way.” 

Read our interview with Shame from 2018.

Honorable Mentions:

These seven songs almost made the Top 10. 

Baio: “What Do You Say When I’m Not There?”

Matt Berninger: “One More Second” (Future Islands Remix)

Bleachers: “45”

CARM: “Tapp” (Feat. Shara Nova)

HAERTS: “It’s Too Late”

Katy Kirby: “Traffic!”

Routine: “Calm And Collected”

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Julien Baker: “A Dreamer’s Holiday” (Perry Como Cover)

James Blake: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (Roberta Flack Cover)

Black Coffee: “10 Missed Calls” (Feat. Pharrell Williams and Jozzy)

Bonny Light Horseman: “Clementine” (Elliott Smith Cover)

Calexico: “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” (John Lennon & Yoko Ono Cover)

Bill Callahan and Bonnie “Prince” Billy: “Deacon Blues” (Steely Dan Cover) (Feat. Bill MacKay)

CARM: “Soft Night”

Clearbody: “Too Far Gone”

Cloud Nothings: “The Spirit Of”

Miley Cyrus: “Prisoner” (Feat. Dua Lipa)

dad sports: “gf haircut”

The Dears: “Christmas Love” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem” (Phillips Brooks and Lewis Redner Cover)

Lana Del Rey: “Summertime” (George Gershwin Cover)

Dirty Projectors: “My Possession”

Dezron Douglas and Brandee Younger: “The Creator Has a Master Plan” (Pharoah Sanders and Leon Thomas Cover)

Steve Earle: “Harlem River Blues” (Justin Townes Earle Cover)

Estoy Listo: “Can’t Go Back” (Feat. Bartees Strange)

Hannah Georgas: “Pray It Away” (Feat. Matt Berninger)

Martin Gore: “Mandrill”

Lande Hekt: “Undone”

Jaws of Love.: “m&m”

Buck Meek: “Pareidolia”

Shameika: “Shameika Said” (Feat. Fiona Apple)

Andy Shauf: “You Slipped Away”

slowthai: “nhs”

The Smashing Pumpkins: “Dulcet In E” and “Purple Blood”

Spring Silver: “Plead Insanity” (Feat. Sad13 and Bartees Strange)

Steady Holiday: “Tangerine”

Wolfgang Van Halen: “Distance”

Tierra Whack: “Peppers and Onions” and “feel good”

Wild Pink: “You Can Have It Back” (Feat. Ratboys’ Julia Steiner)

(Thanks to Joey Arnone for helping to put this week’s list together.) 

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