10 Best Songs of the Week: Strand of Oaks, Alex Lahey, Chromatics, Hayden Thorpe, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, October 21st, 2019  

10 Best Songs of the Week: Strand of Oaks, Alex Lahey, Chromatics, Hayden Thorpe, and More

Plus Ioanna Gika, Murray A. Lightburn, Amanda Palmer, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

Feb 22, 2019
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There were many strong contenders for this week's Songs of the Week. We could've gone as high as a Top 15 instead of the regular Top 10 and as it is there are a whopping 11 honorable mentions, with some good tracks that also almost made the honorable mention list to. Really, the #1 could have been any of the Top 4, it was close to a four-way tie for the top spot.

Elsewhere on the website this week we posted an Artist Survey interview with Frontperson. We reflected on the 20th anniversary of Jimmy Eat World's classic emo album Clarity. And in honor of this Sunday's Oscars, our film writers put together an alternate movie awards for the films of the last year. 

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Telekinesis, Du Blonde, Pom Poko, Julia Jacklin, and Methyl Ethel. Plus we posted reviews of various 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. Strand of Oaks: "Ruby"

Strand of Oaks (the project of Timothy Showalter) is releasing a new album, Eraserland, on March 22 via Dead Oceans. Previously he shared its first single, and opening track, "Weird Ways" (which was our #1 Song of the Week). This week he shared another song from it, "Ruby," via a video that is made up of home movie footage captured by his father (Jeff Showalter) on a video camera when he was a child. Nathan David Smith directed the video.

Showalter had this to say about the song in a press release: "'Ruby' is the happiest song I've ever written. Ruby isn't a person, rather the concept of time and memory and how with every passing year it becomes non linear. In the past I would've dismissed such unabashedly pure optimism, but I've been through a lot and I've learned to appreciate those rare moments of light." 

Showalter had this to say about the video: "This past year my little brother Jon spent countless hours trying to convert my family's collection of home movies. Somehow my dad in 1988 got a camera with 'Buick Points' and then proceeded to have a side career as world-class cinematographer."

The majority of My Morning Jacket (Carl Broemel, Bo Koster, Patrick Hallahan, and Tom Blankenship) back-up Showalter on Eraserland, which also features Jason Isbell and Emma Ruth Rundle.

The album is the follow-up to 2017's Hard Love. Kevin Ratterman produced the album, which was recorded at La La Land Studios in Louisville, KY. A previous press release set the stage for the album: "Empty and determined that he would never write songs again, dark thoughts crept in and Showalter, concerned for his own well-being decided to go on a spiritual pilgrimage - to the Jersey Shore." His friends in My Morning Jacket, especially Carl Broemel, heard Showalter was in a bad way and offered their assistance in recording the next Strand of Oaks album, that they could be his backing band. So Showalter got to writing and demoing the new album in February 2017, alone in Wildwood, NJ. Then the album was recorded in Louisville in April 2017.

"This project seemed to just fall together naturally," said Broemel in the press release. "I felt drawn to Tim's positive energy and his albums...I threw it out there that I'd be happy to help in any way I could with the record." 

My Morning Jacket's Patrick Hallahan added: "I remember sitting next to Tim and Kevin listening to the final mixes with tears rolling down my cheeks. From start to finish, this one came from the heart."

The press release called "Forever Chords" the definitive track on Eraserland, saying the song is "the manifestation of everything he hoped to achieve on this record and for Strand of Oaks as a whole."

Showalter added: "When I finished writing 'Forever Chords,' I felt like this is either the last song I ever need to write, or the rebirth of Strand of Oaks."

Read our review of Hard Love.

2. Alex Lahey: "Don't Be so Hard on Yourself"

This week Australian singer/songwriter Alex Lahey announced a new album, The Best of Luck Club, and shared a video for its first single, "Don't Be so Hard on Yourself," which features a prominent saxophone solo from Lahey (that's what really sold us on naming this #2 this week). The Best of Luck Club is due out May 17 via Dead Oceans. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as her upcoming Australian tour dates, here.

The album is the follow-up to her 2017-released debut album, I Love You Like a Brother (it was our joint Album of the Week and one of our favorites albums of that year). Lahey began writing The Best of Luck Club in Nashville, sometimes locking herself in a room for 12-hour days. Then the album was recorded over the course of a month in her hometown of Melbourne at Sing Sing South. Lahey co-produced the album alongside Grammy-winning producer Catherine Marks (Local Natives, St. Vincent, Manchester Orchestra). Lahey plays nearly every instrument on the album, with the appearance of the saxophone a reference to her past studying jazz saxophone at university. 

Lahey had this to say about the album in a press release: "In Nashville I was really inspired by the dive bar scene there and the idea that at these dive bars there's no pretentious energy. Whether you've had the best day of your life or the worst day of your life, you can just sit up at the bar and turn to the person next to you - who has no idea who you are - and have a chat. And the response that you generally get at the end of the conversation is, 'Best of luck,' so The Best of Luck Club is that place."

A press release describes the sound of the album as such: "The Best of Luck Club picks up where Brother left off, but sprints forward with killer hooks, her acute sense of humor, and a more polished sound. Throughout, Lahey's sharp songwriting and propensity for taking personal minute details and transforming them into anthemic pop-punk is showcased as she sings about self-doubt, break-ups, mental health, moving in with her girlfriend, vibrators, and generational ennui. Here, Lahey documents 'the highest highs and the lowest lows' of her life to date."

Callum Preston wrote and directed the "Don't Be so Hard on Yourself" video.

Read our 2017 interview with Alex Lahey.

3. Chromatics: "Time Rider"

This week Chromatics shared a video for a new song, "Time Rider," and announced a full North American tour. The band self-directed the video. "Time Rider" may not cover new ground for the band, but it still sounds like an awfully good Chromatics song and that's a good thing. Check out the tour dates here. There is no word yet on when their long delayed new album, Dear Tommy, will be released.

The tour will see support from Italians Do It Better label-mates Desire and In Mirrors, both Canadian bands. Each show will feature accompanying films directed by Chromatics' Johnny Jewel, as mixed live by video artist Danny Perez. As a press release describes: "Bringing a cinematic experience to the concerts, the bands will be blurring the line between stage and screen."

Chromatics have partnered with PLUS1 for this tour and "$1 from every ticket sold will go towards helping local teachers and classrooms get the supplies and resources they need to deliver the education every child deserves." Tickets go on sale this Friday, February 22 at 10 a.m., apart from the Washington, D.C. show, which goes on sale this Thursday, February 21 at 10 a.m.,

Chromatics were supposed to release Dear Tommy in 2015 (it was announced in December 2014). Then frontman Johnny Jewel had a near-death experience in Hawaii on Christmas Day 2015 and afterwards he destroyed all copies of Dear Tommy in order to re-record it to better capture the sound he was going for. It was then announced that it would come out last fall, but that never happened. Last year the band shared videos for the new songs "Black Walls" (which was one of our Songs of the Week) and "Blue Girl."

Last year Jewel also released a whole separate album, Themes for Television, which was partly inspired by Twin Peaks. And the band surprise released a brand new EP, Camera, that was a vinyl-only release, there was no digital stream or download.

4. Hayden Thorpe: "Diviner"

In 2017 British art-rockers Wild Beasts announced their breakup in a typed up statement, signed by the band and posted to Instagram. That was followed by a final EP, Punk Drunk and Trembling, three farewell concerts in February 2018, and a final album, February 2018's live in the studio release Last Night All My Dreams Came True (which featured new interpretations of songs from across their catalogue). Now, a year later, the band's singer Hayden Thorpe has released his first solo single, "Diviner," this week via a video for the track. The single is out now via Domino (who also released most of Wild Beasts' music). Crowns & Owls directed the video, which features Thorpe performing the song on an old piano in the forest at night.

Thorpe had this to say about the song in a press release: "Diviner became the first song and the divining rod for what was going to be next. There are, if we can wait for them, rare days of alignment. Diviner was written on such a day, my birthday of all days. The curtains were drawn for a while, I went inside. To say I'm delighted to see daylight would be an understatement."

Read our 2018 interview with Hayden Thorpe about the breakup of Wild Beasts and the band's legacy.

5. Ioanna Gika: "Out of Focus"

Ioanna Gika was formerly the frontwoman for Los Angeles dark electro shoegaze duo Io Echo, but this week she announced her debut solo album, Thalassa, and has shared a self-directed video for a new song from it, "Out of Focus." Thalassa is due out April 5 via Sargent House. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as her upcoming tour dates supporting Garbage, here. The album includes "Roseate," its opening track that was shared as a single last October and was also one of our Songs of the Week.

According to a press release, the "Out of Focus" video features "world surf champion Jake Caster as the Greek god Pan."

The press release also says that Thalassa was "written in Greece during a period of familial grief and romantic dissolution" and that the album "documents an unanchored soul facing nature at its most unforgiving."

Gika adds: "A series of deaths drew me home to Greece. The city of my childhood memories was in disrepair. I drove past painted swastikas towards burial sites. I said goodbyes and grieved for those I didn't get to say goodbye to. Thalassa is about going through change that is unwanted yet unstoppable. It is a document of the dread, the adrenaline, and the surrender in the moments when you realize the only way to survive is to brace yourself and go through."

Read our recent Artist Survey interview with Gika.

6. Murray A. Lightburn: "Fan Fiction (Ballad of a Genius)"

Murray A. Lightburn, frontman of Montréal's The Dears, released a new solo album, Hear Me Out, today via Dangerbird. (You can stream it here.) Earlier this week he shared one last pre-release song from the album, "Fan Fiction (Ballad of a Genius)," which makes the Top 10. (The album's title track was also shared via a video today and so that's an honorable mention below.)

Previously Lightburn shared Hear Me Out's first single, "Belleville Blues" (which we premiered and was one of our Songs of the Week), which was followed by two other songs from the album: "Changed My Ways" and  "To the Top" (via a black & white video for the track, which was also one of our Songs of the Week).

Lightburn had this to say about the album in a press release: "This album is about grown-up stuff. Having kids, having to sustain careers and sustain relationships, finding that thing that keeps you together in the midst of other circumstances that could tear you apart. The reason why the album's called Hear Me Out, is it's not only about expressing yourself, but listening too. Being able to communicate in a relationship is utterly crucial, if you're gonna survive anything."

Lightburn wrote and arranged all the songs on Hear Me Out, which was produced by Lightburn and Howard Bilerman (Leonard Cohen, Arcade Fire, Godspeed You Black Emperor!). It was recorded and mixed at Hotel2Tango in Montréal. Lightburn plays a lot of different instruments on the album: lead and background vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, organ, Mellotron, piano, tubular bells, vibraphone, tambourine, and maracas. The album also features guest vocals from Catherine McCandless of Young Galaxy and Ariel Engel of Broken Social Scene and La Force, as well as Hawksley Workman on bongos. Plus the album includes the following players: Jeff Luciani (drums), Rémi-Jean Leblanc (bass guitar), Steve Raegele (electric guitar and acoustic guitar), Gregory Burton (piano), and Liam O'Neil (piano and tenor saxophone).

Under the Radar and The Dears go way back. We first discovered the band as they were preparing to release their 2003 sophomore album, No Cities Left, which still remains one of our favorites and made the Top 20 in our Top 200 Albums of the Decade list in our Best of the Decade issue in 2009. We then put Lightburn on the cover of our print magazine in honor of The Dears' 2006 album, Gang of Losers. The Dears' last album was 2017's Times Infinity Volume Two, which was the follow-up to 2015's Times Infinity Volume One. Lightburn's last solo album was 2013's Mass: Light.

7. Amanda Palmer: "Voicemail for Jill"

Amanda Palmer is releasing a new album, There Will Be No Intermission, on March 8, which is also International Women's Day. This week she shared another song from it, "Voicemail for Jill," which tackles abortion and is a lifeline to those women struggling with the choice and experience.

On "Voicemail for Jill" Palmer "reaches out to a friend on her way to an abortion clinic."

"I wrote this song as a gift, a handbook," Palmer says in a press release, "for any woman on her way to have an abortion, and as a reminder that this is not an experience you have to face alone."

Palmer also had this to say about the song in a previous press release: "I've been trying to write a good abortion song for twenty-five years. It's been the white whale of my songwriting. Having had three abortions for very different reasons, and after connecting with hundreds of women who've gone through the same isolating and lonely experience, I just wanted to do the topic poetic justice. How do you write a song about abortion without being too heavy-handed or too preachy? It was only after being in Dublin for the abortion referendum that I came home and glued myself to the piano bench and said: 'Amanda, write it. You're a good enough songwriter now, you'll find a way.' Playing it live has felt like a hymn to every man and woman in the audience who's never been able to talk openly about their own abortion experiences."

Now, even die-hard pro-choice supporters might feel uneasy about the notion of celebrating abortion, after all it shouldn't be a flippant option, so perhaps some might be put off by Palmer ending the song suggesting she will throw an abortion shower for Jill. But it is still brave of Palmer to tackle the subject, something even the most liberal-leaning of songwriters might shy away from. But then again, Palmer has never been shy.

Previously Palmer shared the album's first single, "Drowning in Sound." A demo version of "Drowning in Sound" was released in 2017 in order to support those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

John Congleton produced the album, which also features contributions from Jason Webley, Jherek Bischoff, Max Henry, and Joey Waronker. There will also be accompanying narrative photo book also entitled There Will Be No Intermission, released independently by Palmer.

Palmer had this to say about the album in a previous press release: "I've never been nervous about releasing a record before, but this one is different. The rise of global fascism alongside the spreading fire of #MeToo has forged a louder megaphone for all women, and we're all seeing that radical truth is infectious. I feel more urgency than ever to share the naked truth of my experiences. The kind of stories that I'm sharing on this record - abortion, miscarriage, cancer, grief, the darker sides of parenthood - have been therapeutic and frightening to write. But every time I play them for my friends and fans, the nodding heads of empathy have lit a fire under my ass to record and release them."

Palmer added: "Most of these songs were exercises in survival. This isn't really the record that I was planning to make. But loss and death kept happening in real-time, and these songs became my therapeutic arsenal of tools for making sense of it all."

Read our 2016 interview with Palmer.

8. TEEN: "Pretend"

Sister trio TEEN are releasing a new album, Good Fruit, on March 1 via Carpark. This week the band shared another new song from the album, "Pretend," via a Charles Billot-directed video for the track. You can also stream the whole album a week early. Head over to NPR First Listen to hear the album.

Previously TEEN shared Good Fruit's first single, "Only Water," via a video for the song (it was one of our Songs of the Week). Then they shared another song from the album, "Runner," also via a video for the track.

The album is the follow-up to 2016's Love Yes. Charles Billot also directed both the "Only Water" and "Runner" videos. Good Fruit's cover art was designed by Luke Temple of Here We Go Magic.

In a previous press release TEEN's Kristina "Teeny" Lieberson summed up the album this way: "A lot of what ties Good Fruit in...is forging new paths for ourselves and letting go of old ways of doing things."

Read our The End interview with TEEN from 2016 and our 2016 Artist Survey interview with the band.

9. Aldous Harding: "Barrel"

This week New Zealand singer/songwriter Aldous Harding announced a new album, Designer, and shared a strange video for its first single, "Barrel." She also announced some tour dates. Designer is due out April 26 via 4AD. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates, here.

Designer is the follow-up to 2017's Party. As with that album, John Parish produces again. The album also features Huw Evans (H. Hawkline), Stephen Black (Sweet Baboo), drummer Gwion Llewelyn, and violinist Clare Mactaggart. Martin Sagadin directed the "Barrel" video. 

10. Palehound: "Killer"

This week Palehound (aka Ellen Kempner) shared a brand new song, "Killer." It is out now via Polyvinyl and was shared in honor of her current tour dates opening for Cherry Glazerr, which started earlier this week. Check out the tour dates here. Palehound's last album was 2017's A Place I'll Always Go.

Read our recent Artist Survey interview with Palehound.

Honorable Mentions: 

These 11 songs almost made the Top 10. Jay Som, Priests, Nilüfer Yanya, and an album track from Telekinesis (whose new album was released today) came the closest to making the main list.

The Dream Syndicate: "Black Light"

Flaural: "The Thinker"

Jay Som: "Simple"

Murray A. Lightburn: "Hear Me Out"

Low Life: "Lust Forevermore"

Stephen Malkmus: "Rushing the Acid Frat"

Marissa Nadler: "Poison" (Feat. John Cale) (Plus "If We Make It Through The Summer") 

Priests: "Good Time Charlie"

Teenage Fanclub: "Everything Is Falling Apart"

Telekinesis: "Out for Blood"

Nilüfer Yanya: "Tears"

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Club Night: "Village"

The Curls: "Isn't It Funny" (Feat. Sophagus) 

Ellis: "Something Blue"

Empath: "Soft Shape"

Guards: "Last Stand"

Albert Hammond Jr.: "Fast Times"

HEALTH & JPEGMAFIA: "HATE YOU"

Helado Negro: "Running"

Johnny Marr: "Armatopia"

Mini Dresses: "The One Who Heard You"

Minihorse: "Drink You Dry"

Pure Bathing Culture: "Devotion"

JW Ridley: "Glass Eyes"

Sad Planets: "Not of This World" 

Say Sue Me: "At the End of the Road"

Spiral Stairs: "The Fool"

Stereolab: "French Disco (Early Version Mix)"

Tierra Whack: "Only Child" 

Weezer: "High As a Kite" and "Living in LA"

Wyndham: "Spark"

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שביל ישראל מפה
February 24th 2019
2:30pm

Wow, real full summary, thanks!