10 Best Songs of the Week: Oceanator, Doves, Ela Minus, Clipping, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, October 26th, 2020  

10 Best Songs of the Week: Oceanator, Doves, Ela Minus, Clipping, and More

Plus Tim Heidecker, Tunng, Travis, The Flaming Lips, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Aug 28, 2020
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Welcome to the 34th Songs of the Week of 2020. The Republican National Convention was this week, in which President Trump and his party attempted to convince the country that if Joe Biden and the Democrats take over it will be a lawless land with a defunded police and riots in every city (um…no, that won’t happen). In a nomination acceptance speech on the White House lawn (which was a breach of protocol), complete with fireworks and an opera singer, Trump tried to pull one over on America that he has handled the coronavirus well (um…no, that hasn’t happened). And this was to a live audience of 1,500 who weren’t wearing masks, weren’t social distancing, and weren’t tested beforehand. In other words, you know what to do on November 3.

As for this week’s songs, there were a lot of repeat contenders in the Top 10, artists who have recently made our Songs of the Week list.

This week on our website we also posted interviews with actor Mark Dacascos, Girl Friday, and Human Love. Plus we spoke to Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter about the long-awaited Bill and Ted Face the Music.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Angel Olsen, Kelly Lee Owens, Oceantor, Tanya Donelly and the Parkington Sisters, Jessy Lanza, and Bully. 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. Oceanator: “The Sky is Falling”

Oceanator, aka Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter/guitarist Elise Okusami, released her debut album, Things I Never Said, today via her own Plastic Miracles label. We were pleased to premiere a stream of the whole album one day early yesterday. All of its advance singles made our Songs of the Week list, but now that Things I Never Said is out, we can share an album track from it we also adore, penultimate song “The Sky is Falling,” which sounds more like an epic album closer than the second to last song.

Yesterday we also posted our rave review of Things I Never Said and you can read that here.

In a statement to Under the Radar Elise commented on finally releasing her debut album, but also putting it out in a middle of a pandemic: “I’m super excited for the album to be coming out, but it definitely feels weird to just be in my apartment talking about it on the internet instead of out touring and playing shows and getting to interact with people. I'm still pumped though and can't wait for people to hear the whole thing!”

Here’s an excerpt from Caleb Campbell’s review of Things I Never Said:

“The apocalypse is often foretold in biblical terms, with falling skies and cracked earth playing common imagery. But for NYC multi-instrumentalist Elise Okusami—better known as Oceanator—the end of the world has been far more mundane, marked by sleepless nights, bottled up anxieties, and weary consumption of the latest news. On Things I Never Said, Oceanator marries the hyperbolic imagery of apocalypse with the anxious undercurrents and looming depression that characterize so much of today’s turbulent early adulthood. It is all soundtracked to a distinctive swirl of grunge-tinged guitar pop that lifts Oceanator’s debut above its contemporaries.”

Read the full review here.

Things I Never Said includes “A Crack in the World,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. Then we premiered the album’s next single, the more synth-poppy “I Would Find You,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared a new song from it, “Heartbeat,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared a video for “Heartbeat.”

2. Doves: “Cathedrals of the Mind”

Manchester-based trio Doves are releasing their long-awaited fifth album, The Universal Want, out September 11 on Imperial. It’s their first album in 11 years and on Thursday they shared the album’s third single, Cathedrals of the Mind,” via a trippy video for it. It’s a mid-tempo track that takes some interesting twists and turns in its five-minute running time. Doves cite Talk Talk and David Bowie as influences on the song and also say that Bowie’s death inspired the song. David Kitson directed the video.

The band’s Jez Williams (who handles guitars, backing vocals, and programming on the song) had this to say in a press release: “The song stems from a single hook, which developed to evoke this expansive internal monologue, this never-ending chasm of thought. Subconsciously, through words thrown against it and made to fit, it came to be about someone always being on your mind. The listener can form their own ideas. For me, it was about the loss of Bowie.”
 
Frontman Jimi Goodwin had this to say: “It’s a prayer to sonics. We still love production and sonic detail. The album more than meets our expectations and, for once, we were unanimous in the track listing. We’re ready to let the whole world in and then gently close the doors. We’ll leave the listener to work out what we meant by it all.”

In June the band (which also features Jez’s brother, Andy Williams) shared the album’s first single, “Carousels,” which was their first new song in 11 years. “Carousels” made it to #1 on our Songs of the Week list. When the album was announced they shared its second single, “Prisoners,” via a music video for it.  “Prisoners” was #2 on our Songs of the Week list. Then they shared a remix of “Carousels” done by The Comet Is Coming, the London based Nu Jazz trio. Then Doves shared the sheet music and lyrics from the album’s closing track, “Forest House,” with the intention that fans and other musicians alike would try and play the song and then post it online using #doveleaks.

Doves’ last album was 2009’s Kingdom of Rust, which was their fourth. The band went on an “indefinite pause” in 2010, but announced their reunion in 2018 and played their first reunion show in March 2019, to benefit Teenage Cancer Trust. Other live shows followed, along with promises of new music. Of the album as a whole, Jez Williams had this to say: “It’s definitely got the stamp of ‘the time’ all over it. Everything on the album is an echo. It’s an echo of what we were going through at the time. Getting back together, the Royal Albert Hall and everything else.”

3. Ela Minus: “el cielo no es de nadie”

On Wednesday Colombian-born and Brooklyn-based singer Gabriela Jimeno (aka Ela Minus) announced her debut album, acts of rebellion, and shared a new song from it, “el cielo no es de nadie,” another thumping art-dance track from Jimeno. Acts of rebellion is due out October 23 via Domino. Jimeno co-directed the accompanying “el cielo no es de nadie” video with Pepi Ginsberg. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here. 

“‘El cielo no es de nadie’ is about all the love I see in small, everyday acts. It’s an invitation to appreciate unheroic, but constant and meaningful actions,” says Jimeno in a press release. “The song’s title, ‘el cielo no es de nadie,’ refers to the phrase ‘I’ll give you the sky,’ a  common expression used in Spanish when in love. In the song, I defy it: 'you can't give me the sky'/it isn’t yours to give.”

Jimeno did the whole album herself—producing it, recording it, and playing everything on it. After growing up in Colombia and moving to the U.S, where she attended Berklee College of Music, Jimeno found power and the ability to demand change in the DIY scene.

“I deeply identify with club culture, and want to make music to dance to,” she says. “I also want to make songs in the more traditional sense, with melodies, lyrics, and singing. I want to make songs that stay with people through the years.”

The album includes “they told us it was hard, but they were wrong,” her debut song for Domino that was shared back in April. “They told us it was hard, but they were wrong” made our Songs of the Week list. Then in July she shared another song from the album, “megapunk,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week.

4. Cipping: "Say the Name"

This week experimental hip-hop trio Clipping (rapper Daveed Diggs, and producers Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson) announced a new album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, and shared its first single “Say the Name.” Visions of Bodies Being Burned is the second in the band’s horrorcore series, with songs inspired by classic horror films, “Say the Name” takes its inspiration from the 1992 film Candyman, which was directed by Bernard Rose and starred Tony Todd as the ghost of a son of a slave who was murdered by a lynch mob, who can be summoned by saying his name five times into a mirror. A direct sequel to Candyman (also titled Candyman) has been written by Jordan Peele and directed by Nia DaCosta and is due out later this year.

“Say the Name” also reworks Scarface’s lyric from “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”—“Candlesticks in the dark, visions of bodies being burned.” Musically, it almost has a Nine Inch Nails vibe.

Visions of Bodies Being Burned is the follow-up to 2019’s There Existed an Addiction to Blood.

 

5. Tim Heidecker: “Nothing” (Feat. Weyes Blood)

Actor/comedian/musician Tim Heidecker (of Tim & Eric and Heidecker & Wood) is releasing a new album, Fear of Death, on September 25 via Spacebomb. On Wednesday he shared another song from it, “Nothing,” that was co-written by Natalie Mering (aka Weyes Blood), who also sings backing vocals on the song. Befitting the theme of the album, the ’70s sounding piano ballad is about the finality of death for those who don’t believe in an afterlife. “Nothing, that’s what it amounts to, they say,” sing Heidecker and Mering. “A black void waiting down the road for us one day.”

“I wanted to write a religious sounding song about agnosticism,” says Heidecker in a press release. “I wrote it a little poppier/jauntier, but working with Natalie and Drew (Erickson), we smoothed it out into something more haunting and (in my opinion ) beautiful. We crammed the session into the end of an overdub day/night, just the three of us doing it live with Natalie adding those incredible angel harmonies over the bridge. Drew and (Jonathan) Rado later added all sorts of goodness to it. The second verse is a very literal description of my experience at the SXSW premiere of Us. I’m pretty proud of this one in general. I hope it delivers some goosebumps.”

Previously Heidecker shared the album’s title track, “Fear of Death,” via a video for the song, which was one of our Songs of the Week and also featured Weyes Blood. 

As well as Weyes Blood’s Natalie Mering, Heidecker’s backing band on the album features Drew Erickson (Jonathan Wilson, Dawes), The Lemon Twigs’ Brian and Michael D’Addario, Jonathan Rado (Foxygen), and string arrangements by Spacebomb’s Trey Pollard (Foxygen, Bedouine). 

“I didn’t know that this record was going to be so focused on death when I was writing it,” Heidecker said in a previous press release. “It took a minute for me to stand back and look at what I was talking about to realize that, yes, I am now a middle-aged man and my subconscious is screaming at me: ‘You are getting old, dude! You are not going to live forever! Put down that cheeseburger!’” 

Heindecker previously released the fake break-up album What The Brokenhearted Do... back in June of last year. It was created after alt-right trolls spread a rumor that Heidecker's wife had left him. But, according to a press release, Heindecker is leaving satire in the wind and shooting straight for the scarily morbid: the inevitability of death.

“This record is a dream come true for me,” said Heidecker. “I got to work with some of the best, and nicest, musicians in town who helped me take some shabby, simple tunes and turn them into something I’m really proud of.”

6. Tunng: “A Million Colours”

On Tuesday Tunng announced a big new project called DEAD CLUB that will be an album, a podcast, and a conversation on death and grief. On Tuesday they also shared their first single from the project, “A Million Colours,” accompanied by an animated video directed by Sam Steer.

DEAD CLUB the album will be released November 6 via Full Time Hobby, while DEAD CLUB the podcast will be available September 1 with the first episode featuring Max Porter. According to the band in a press release, his novel Grief is The Thing with Feathers “was the catalyst for the entire project.”

Tunng says in a press release: “The inspiration for the DEAD CLUB project started around the time of [our] sixth album, 2018’s Songs You Make at Night, when Genders found Porter’s novel Grief is The Thing with Feathers, and was struck by its power. He shared this with the rest of the band and for the next six months they discussed the subject at length. ‘And somehow we ended up talking about it, and it became an idea,’ he says. ‘We thought maybe we could make this into a project.’ ‘And it is a project,’ says the band’s Mike Lindsay. ‘It’s not even just a record, it’s a discussion, it’s a podcast series, it’s poetry, it’s short stories, it’s an examination.’

The band’s Becky Jacobs and Sam Genders produced the podcast, which speaks to “those who work in the field of death: philosophers, scientists, frontline workers, and beyond.”

Previously, Tunng released Songs You Make At Night, in 2018 via Full Time Hobby. It was the first album with the original lineup (including founding members Sam Genders and Mike Lindsay) since 2007’s Good Arrows. Its lead single “ABOP” was one of our Songs of the Week. By Jennifer Irving

7. Travis: “The Only Thing” (Feat. Susanna Hoffs)

Leave it to Twitter to form an unlikely, but fantastic pairing like that of Travis’ Fran Healy and The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs. Hoffs admired Healy’s voice, some dm’s ensued, and soon the two birthed “The Only Thing,” a delightful duet shared on Monday via a Healy-directed video. “The Only Thing” is the latest single from Travis’ eagerly anticipated new album, 10 Songs, which will be released on October 9 on BMG.

Originally written by Healy as a could-be duet, Hoff remembers the moment the stars seemed to align. “One day, he asked me to sing with him, and without hesitation, I burst out ‘Yes!’” Hoff says in a press release. “He showed up at my doorstep with his recording gear and we recorded my vocals in the living room. Collaborating with Fran and the band has been a pure pleasure.” 

Dressed in monochrome jumpsuits, the band, along with Hoff, perform the pseudo-lullaby in Glasgow’s Theatre Royal. Against a light, acoustic groove, harmonies back Healy and Hoff’s admissions of a blind love. “When I held you it was the only thing/Only thing/And all I knew was you were everything/Everything,” they sing while looking into each other’s eyes. But later on they rethink, with the final line asking the stinging question: “So why am I blue?”

Although the video looks pretty simple to film, it was actually quite the opposite. “This is definitely my Covideo,” Healy said in a press release. “One of the main prerequisites was to somehow get us all on the same stage and try to capture the spontaneity of a duet while the performers are in different locations. Leading up to the shoot, I would send Susanna a video of a great duet. ‘Summer Wine,’ ‘I Got You Babe,’ ‘Islands in the Stream.’ I hired a small film crew and persuaded Glasgow’s Theatre Royal to open its doors to us. I directed the shoot remotely, via three phones. One in the DP’s ear, one FaceTime trained on the monitor, and one iPhone with the band. There were so many moving parts. I’m amazed we got there and it turned out great.”

10 Songs is the band’s first in almost four years, the follow-up to 2016’s Everything At Once. Previously, the band has shared “Valentine” (which was one of our Songs of the Week) along with, “A Ghost” (which was also one of our Songs of the Week). By Samantha Small

 

8. The Flaming Lips: “Mother Please Don’t Be Sad”

The Flaming Lips are releasing a new album, American Head, on September 11 via Warner Records. Today they shared another song from the album, “Mother Please Don’t Be Sad,” via a video for the track. In the song frontman Wayne Coyne sings from the perspective of a man who has been shot and killed in a robbery pleading with his mother not to be too upset about his death. “The ambulance attendants did all they can/And I almost pulled through/But in the end I won't see you tonight/Mother please don't be sad,” Coyne sings. “Mother Please Don’t Be Sad” is inspired by a real life incident in which a young Coyne was held up at gunpoint while at work. Musically, the song has a Soft Bulletin vibe. Coyne co-directed the video with regular collaborator George Salisbury and it was filmed in the studio in a socially distant manner.

Longtime collaborator Dave Fridmann co-produced American Head with the band. The album includes “Flowers of Neptune 6,” a new song the band shared in May via a video for the track. The song featured Kacey Musgraves on additional vocals and was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Musgraves also features on another American Head song, “God and the Policeman.”

When the album was announced in June, the band shared its second single, “My Religion Is You,” via a video for the song. Then they shared another song from the album, “Dinosaurs on the Mountain,” also via a video for the track. Then they shared a fourth song from the album, “You n Me Sellin’ Weed,” also via a video for the track. Then they shared another song from the album, “Will You Return / When You Come Down,” via a video for the track, which was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Read our exclusive interview with Wayne Coyne on his all-time favorite album, from our My Favorite Album Issue.

9. Fenne Lily: “Solipsism” 

On Tuesday, Bristol, England-based singer Fenne Lily shared another single from her forthcoming album, BREACH, out September 18 on Dead Oceans. The lo-fi “Solipsism” comes with an accompanying video that features a strange trip to the supermarket.

According to a press release, Lily wrote the song to be “something that sounded cheerful, about something really not cheerful.” It deals with the anxieties of the social media generation, “because everyone is sharing everything, and everyone's comparing their lives to other people's.” 

The video, which is directed by Tom Clover in partnership with non-profit Film Co, plays on the anxieties people in their 20s often deal with in today’s world.

"A lot of situations make me uncomfortable—some parties, most dates, every time I’m stoned in the supermarket,” says Lily in a press release. “‘Solipsism’ is a song about being comfortable with being uncomfortable and the freedom that comes with that. If you feel weird for long enough it becomes normal, and feeling anything is better than feeling nothing. I wanted this video to be a reflection of the scary thought that I’ll have to live with myself forever. It’s surreal to realize you’ll never live apart from someone you sometimes hate. Dad, if you’re reading this you killed it as shopper number 2.”

Lily recorded the album with producer Brian Deck at Chicago’s Narwhal Studios and received audio assistance from Steve Albini at Electrical Audio. The album is the follow-up to her 2018-released debut On Hold. Previously we posted BREACH’s first single, “Alapathy.”

10. Cults: “Monolithic” 

Cults (the duo of Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion) are releasing a new album, Host, on September 18 via Sinderlyn. On Tuesday they shared another song from it, album closer “Monolithic.”

Cults collectively had this to say about “Monolithic” in a press release: “A kind of happy ending. It’s about giving in, and getting outside yourself even if you aren’t sure what the outcome will be in the end. After a record of pain and self doubt, it's a jump into the abyss.”

Host features “Spit You Out,” a new song Cults shared in June, via a video (it was one of our Songs of the Week). Then when the album was announced they shared another new song from it, “Trials,” also via s video. “Trials” also made our Songs of the Week list. Then they shared another song from it, “No Risk,” which is actually a song about the benefits of taking risks and was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Cults co-produced the Host with Shane Stoneback and it was mixed by John Congleton and mastered by Heba Kadry. Loren Shane Humphrey (The Last Shadow Puppets, Florence and the Machine, Guards) plays drums on the album.

The album finds Follin exerting a bit more creative control than before and taking a larger role in the songwriting.

“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.

“When Shane and I heard what Madeline had written, we couldn’t believe it,” says Oblivion. “The music just floored us.”

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.

Honorable Mentions:

These six songs almost made the Top 10. The Grandaddy song is admittedly 20 years old, but this a beautiful new piano version.

Cartalk: “Las Manos” 

 

Grandaddy: “Jed’s Other Poem (Beautiful Ground) (Piano Version)”

Yves Jarvis: “Semula” 

Nao: “Woman” (Feat. Lianne La Havas)

Nap Eyes: “Snake Oil” and “Child’s Romance” 

Other notable new tracks in the last week include: 

William Basinski:  “O, My Daughter, O, My Sorrow”

Blue Hawaii: “Feelin’” 

   

Bill Callahan: “Ry Cooder”

Elvis Costello: “Phonographic Memory”

Matthew Dear: “New Breed (The Mustang Mach-E Remix)” 

FordMotorCompany · Matthew Dear: "New Breed (The Mustang Mach-E Remix)

Disclosure: “Birthday” (Feat. Kehlani & Syd) 

 

Greg Dulli: “Girl From the North Country” (Feat. Mark Lanegan) (Bob Dylan Cover) 

Hannah Georgas: “Easy”

 

Robert Glasper: “Better Than I Imagined” (Feat. H.E.R., and Meshell Ndegeocello)

Mourn: “This Feeling Is Disgusting” 

Molly Parden: “Kitchen Table”

Molly Parden · Kitchen Table

Jack Peñate: “Not Enough”

 

Real Estate: “Plastic Bird” (Galaxie 500 Cover) 

The Rolling Stones: “Scarlet (The Killers & Jacques Lu Cont Remix)”

 

Sad13: “Hysterical” 

 

Samia: “Triptych” 

William Shatner: “The Thrill Is Gone” (Feat. Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night) (B.B. King Cover) 

Shamir: “Running”

The Smashing Pumpkins: “Cyr” and “The Colour of Love” 

Squirrel Nut Zippers: “Train on Fire” (Feat. Andrew Bird)

St. Vincent: “New York” (Feat. Yoshiki) 

Tears for Fears: “Rhythm of Life (Demo)”

Thundercat: “Dragonball Durag (Remix)” (Feat. Guapdad 4000 & Smino) 

Tricky: “I’m In the Doorway” (Feat. Oh Land)” 

Laura Veirs: “Turquoise Walls”

Yo La Tengo: “Wasn’t Born To Follow” (The Byrds Cover)

Yumi Zouma: “Lie Like You Want Me Back (Alternate Version)”

Ziemba: “Harbor Me”

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

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