10 Best Songs of the Week: The 1975, Kelly Lee Owens, Belle and Sebastian, Westerman, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, October 19th, 2020  

10 Best Songs of the Week: The 1975, Kelly Lee Owens, Belle and Sebastian, Westerman, and More

Plus Car Seat Headrest, Everything Everything, Jessie Ware, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Apr 24, 2020
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Welcome to the sixteenth Songs of the Week of 2020. It’s another week under quarantine, the same as the last week. Well, except that yesterday President Trump suggested injecting disinfectants as a possible treatment for COVID-19, leading Lysol and others to issues statements about how dangerous that would be. So our country is in good hands during this unprecedented crisis, right? 

This week we posted more interviews in our COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In series, including with Jonas Bjerre of Mew, Charlie Ryder of Yumi Zouma, Deradoorian, Walter Martin, and Porcelain Raft.

We also posted a My Firsts interview with Hazel English, a Self-Portrait interview with Melkbelly, and a Keeping Score interview with Rob Simonsen, as well as regular interviews with Baxter Dury and Thousand Yard Stare.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Born Ruffians, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Empty Country, FACS, The Heavy Eyes, Harkin, and two reissues by Cocteau Twins. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows).

This week we also posted the latest episode of our Why Not Both podcast, featuring HANA

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. The 1975: “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)”

The 1975 are releasing a new album, Notes On a Conditional Form, on May 22 via Dirty Hit/Interscope. Yesterday the English band have shared another single from it, “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know),” which is about as 1980s sounding as you can get and that’s no bad thing. There’s even a sax solo! Like the best pop hits of the Regan years, it’s pure escapism, which is needed right now. The band have also shared an official live video for the song. Check out both the studio and live versions below.

Previously we posted album opener “Me & You Together Song,” which had a bit of a Britpop vibe. Then we posted another single from it, “The Birthday Party,” via a computer animated video. Then they shared another single from it, “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America,” which featured guest vocals from Phoebe Bridgers and was one of our Songs of the Week.

2. Kelly Lee Owens: “Night”

British electronic music artist/producer Kelly Lee Owens is releasing a new album, Inner Song, on August 28 via Smalltown Supersound. Now she has shared another song from it, the hypnotic “Night,” in which she repeats the line “it feels so good to be alone” as the track builds to a cathartic conclusion. Since a lot of people are quarantined alone right now, it’s kind of a fitting statement.

Owens had this to say about the song in a press release: “This track speaks as to how feelings and insights are more accessible to us at nighttime—how the veils are thinner somehow and therefore how we are more able to connect to our hearts true desires. I wanted to release this track as a gift to you during this crazy time, to give a part of my heart to you all.”

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.

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.”

Read our 2017 interview with Kelly Lee Owens.

3. Belle and Sebastian: “Protecting the Hive (Part One)”

Belle and Sebastian are layering music with lyrics from fans on their thoughts and feelings about being quarantined at home alone to create a conspired artwork they are calling Protecting the Hive. The first release from this series is also called “Protecting the Hive” and is narrated by bandleader Stuart Murdoch and friend Alessandra Lupo, which is set to an aerial view of Glasgow in its current lockdown state, shot by Kenny MacLeod. It’s not exactly a new song in the traditional sense, but it’s still a meaningful and beautiful track.

The next installment “is a work-in-progress demo recording based on the same written contributions, which the band are set to share as audio files, encouraging fans to experiment with and record their own versions of the song at home.” You can also listen to the demo version of that song (confusingly, also titled “Protecting the Hive”) below, although it’s not one of our Songs of the Week as it’s still a work in progress.

It all stemmed from a message Murdoch sent out to fans: “Ok, I’ve got an idea. I come up with lots of tunes but the band aren’t around just now, and I rely on them to turn them into pop. How about we make a tune together using remote technology? Send me a few sentences or a paragraph, I’ll try to funnel those words into a song, then I’ll record an acoustic version of it and bounce it back to you. Then it’s up to you to do what you want to do with it! You have GarageBand, Zoom, whatever. A collaboration. Someone might be good with tech. Someone might want to sing it. Can you put a rhythm to it? Someone add some organ, some flute! At this point it’s out of my hands.”

Murdoch also hosts a live meditation session every week which can be watched on their Facebook page. By Lily Guthrie

Belle and Sebastian · Protecting The Hive

4. Westerman: “Your Hero Is Not Dead”

West London’s Will Westerman, who releases music simply under his last name, is releasing his debut full-length album, Your Hero Is Not Dead, on June 5 via Partisan. On Tuesday he shared another song from it, title track “Your Hero Is Not Dead,” which he says is inspired by the 2019 passing of Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis. He has also put out a new SoundCloud mix he calls “freeform communal music” and has titled Huxley. It features Neil Young, Thundercat, George Harrison, Arthur Russell, and others and can be heard here.

Westerman had this to say about “Your Hero Is Not Dead” in a press release: “This was the last song I wrote for the whole record, but I had the title for the album before any of the music was formed. I remember I wrote it on the day that Mark Hollis died. He's probably as close to a musical hero as I have. The song isn't about him or Talk Talk necessarily, but when he died I wanted to put myself to task and respond to the sadness I was feeling at that moment.”

Westerman recorded Your Hero Is Not Dead in Southern Portugal and London with his friend and producer Nathan Jenkins (aka Bullion). The album includes “Blue Comanche,” a new song Westerman shared in January. It was one of our Songs of the Week. Then when the album was announced he shared another new song from it, “Think I’ll Stay,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then he shared another song from it, “Waiting On Design,” which was also on our Songs of the Week list.

5. Car Seat Headrest: “There Must Be More Than Blood”

Car Seat Headrest (aka Will Toledo and band) are releasing a new album, Making a Door Less Open on May 1 via Matador. On Thursday they shared another song from it, the seven-and-a-half-minute “There Must Be More Than Blood.” They also shared a video of Toledo (as his character Trait) performing the song acoustically.

Previously Car Seat Headrest shared the album’s first single, “Cool Me Down.” “Cool Me Down” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared another song from it, “Martin,” via a lyric video for the track (which was also one of our Songs of the Week). Then they shared another song from it, “Hollywood,” via an animated video for the track.

Car Seat Headrest’s last album, Twin Fantasy, came out in 2018 via Matador. It was a re-imagined version of an album also titled Twin Fantasy that Toledo self-released to Bandcamp in 2011. But his last album of completely new material was 2016’s Teens of Denial. In 2019 the band also released the live album Commit Yourself Completely.

As well as Toledo, the band features Andrew Katz (drums), Ethan Ives (guitar), and Seth Dalby (bass). Making a Door Less Open had a somewhat unique recording process. In a press release it is billed as a collaboration between Car Seat Headrest and 1 Trait Danger, a Car Seat Headrest “electronic side project consisting of drummer Andrew Katz and Toledo’s alternative persona, ‘Trait.’” The album was recorded twice, first with guitars, bass, and drums and then secondly with purely synthesized sounds. Then in the mixing process the two recordings were combined.

6. Everything Everything: “In Birdsong”

This week British art-rockers Everything Everything released a new song, “In Birdsong,” via a video for the track. The single is the first release for the band’s own Infinity Industries imprint, in partnership with AWAL. The band’s frontman Jonathan Higgs directed the “In Birdsong” video.

Higgs issued this press release statement about the song: “‘In Birdsong’ tries to imagine what it would have been like to have been the first self-aware human. 

“I had come across a concept by psychology academic Julian Jaynes, the Bicameral Mind Theory: the idea that at one stage humans had two separate minds, one inside each half of our brains, and messages or commands would be delivered by one and received by the other. These ‘voices’ were thought to be those of the divine. The theory claims that the eventual melding of these two minds into the two-sided human brain we have now was the dawn of mankind’s consciousness.
 
“I wanted to somehow insert this evolutionary psychology into a song because I felt so in awe of the idea. I found a deep sense of wonder at its core, about life and the world. It applies to songs about love, sex, life, death and humanity - the things I’ve always written about.
 
“We weren’t intending to share this song right now, but in the age of Coronavirus, we wanted to be responsive to the changed landscape and ‘In Birdsong’ unexpectedly emerged as the most appropriate song to reappear with. Birdsong has accompanied human life since before we were even human, but in the recent century it has been obscured or pushed out of our lives. In the song I talk about hearing birdsong and knowing we are conscious and alive. With fewer cars and planes, and less human intervention generally, we’ve all been given the opportunity to reconnect with resurgent nature, and where we all are, for this brief moment - In Birdsong.”

The band also features Jeremy Pritchard (bass), Michael Spearman (drums), and Alex Robertshaw (guitar). Their last full-length was 2017’s Mercury Prize-nominated A Fever Dream, although they released the Deeper Sea EP in 2018.

Read our 2017 interview with Everything Everything on A Fever Dream.

7. Jessie Ware: “Ooh La La”

Jessie Ware is releasing a new album, What’s Your Pleasure?, on June 19 via PMR/Friends Keep Secrets/Interscope (it was due out June 5, but has been pushed back a couple of weeks). Today she shared another song from it, “Ooh La La,” via a lyric video. A press release says the song sees Ware “flirt with the camp side of disco. It imagines Ware waiting curbside for a lover to pick her up and sweep her away.” Ware co-wrote the song with Shungudzo Kuyimba, Model Child (Danny Parker), and James Ford. Like The 1975’s “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know),” this song has a bit of a 1980s vibe, in a Madonna kind of way.

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.

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.

8. Sondre Lerche: “Why Would I Let You Go”

Norwegian-born/American-based singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche is releasing a new album, Patience, on June 5 via PLZ. On Wednesday he shared another song from it, “Why Would I Let You Go,” via a video for the track.

Previously Lerche shared Patience’s first single, “You Are Not Who I Thought I Was,” via a video for the track.

Lerche has also done a six-song set with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra for NRK-TV, including both the album’s singles thus far. You can watch the performance of “You Are Not Who I Thought I Was” here or you can watch the full set here.

Lerche had this to say about “Why Would I Let You Go” in a press release: “I wrote this in 24 hours spent mostly in bed, in my old apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Writing it felt like a major life event to me. I had never stayed so intensely in the zone of one song or one feeling for so long—and I had never managed to compose such an exact and grand declaration. It was terrifying. I performed it at a few shows in spring of 2016, right after I wrote it. I was finishing the Pleasure album at the time, and I knew this song just wasn’t for that album. It really opened the door for Patience. I didn’t feel ready to record it until three years later. I wasn’t sure if the recording could ever live up to the feeling I had for the song. Even now, four years later, I have trouble performing this song without tearing up. It's very vivid and dear to me. I'm thankful I got to write it. And if it's the best song I ever write, I'm ok with that.”

Patience is the follow-up to 2017’s Pleasure and 2014’s Please (you can sense a pattern with the titles). It is Lerche’s ninth album and first since he relocated from New York City (where he lived for a decade) to the west coast, but the album was mainly recorded in his native Norway. Patience features percussionist Dave Heilman, bassist Chris Holm, keyboardist Alexander von Mehren, producers Kato Ådland and Matias Tellez, mixing engineer Jørgen Træen, and classical violinist/composer/arranger Tim Fain. Van Dyke Parks guests on “Put The Camera Down.”

In a previous press release Lerche said the album was inspired by his newfound love of ambient music and running marathons.

Read our recent COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In interview with Sondre Lerche.

9. Bright Eyes: “Forced Convalescence”

On Tuesday Bright Eyes (Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis, and Nathaniel Walcott) shared a new song, “Forced Convalescence.” It is said to be the second single from a yet-to-be-announced new album and follows “Persona Non Grata,” a new song the band shared in March that was their first new song in nine years. “Forced Convalescence” (which features Flea on bass) was shared via a lyric video.

The band previously announced that they had signed to Dead Oceans and had been recording, with intentions to release new music this year. They also previously announced a world tour (although those tour dates are now being “reassessed” due to COVID-19). In January they also shared a teaser video featuring them recording in the studio with an orchestra.

The credits for “Forced Convalescence” are as follows: Conor Oberst (vocal), Nathaniel Walcott (piano, mellotron, synthesizers, harpsichord, choir arrangement), Mike Mogis (electric guitar), Flea (bass), Jon Theodore (drums, percussion), and Kip Skitter (percussion). The song’s choir features: Jason McGee (conductor), James Connor, Quishima Dixon, Natalie Ganther, Anthony Johnson, Edward Lawson, Jennifer Lee, Sharetta Morgan-Harmon, and Marquee Perkins. Bright Eyes produced “Forced Convalescence,” which was engineered by Michael Harris and Steve Churchyard (with assistance by Chris Cerullo and Chandler Harrod). Mike Mogis mixed the song and it was mastered by Bob Ludwig. Conor Oberst and Nathaniel Walcott wrote “Forced Convalescence.”

While Oberst has kept busy in the last decade with solo and collaborative projects (such as last year’s Better Oblivion Community Center duo with Phoebe Bridgers), the band with which he made his name have not released an album since 2011’s The People’s Key.

In a previous press release Dead Oceans co-founder Phil Waldorf had this to say about signing the band: “Bright Eyes is not just a formative artist for me personally, but for countless people who work at Dead Oceans. To get to work with a band that is part of our own origin stories in falling in love with music is the rarest of privileges. We are thrilled to be part of another great chapter in Bright Eyes enduring legacy.”

10. Deradoorian: “Monk’s Robes”

Deradoorian (full name Angel Deradoorian) was releasing a new album, Find the Sun, on May 22 via ANTI-, but now she has pushed back its release date due to COVID-19 and shared another song from it, “Monk’s Robes,” via a video for the track. Find the Sun is now due out September 18.

A press release describes the song in more detail: “‘Monk’s Robes’ follows a monk who journeys to a mountain top in hopes of being one with God. When he arrives, his God turns his worldview on its head, exposing his ignorance as he questions his understanding of the world and his desires to be free. All the more prescient in today’s circumstances, it is a song about accepting the futility of attempting to escape your reality, finding peace in acceptance and working with what you have to make something beautiful.”

Deradoorian had this to say about the song: “I’ve heard so many people say ‘I want to escape to the mountain and live alone because life is so fucking painful sometimes.’ And that's not really the way to do it either. You need to be isolated, you need to learn about yourself, but you can't really stay there. You also need to integrate. You need to do both.”

Previously Deradoorian shared Find the Sun’s first single, the seven-minute long Krautrock-inspired “Saturnine Night.” “Saturnine Night” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Deradoorian was formerly the bassist/vocalist for Dirty Projectors. Find the Sun is the follow-up to her debut solo album, 2015’s The Expanding Flower Planet, and 2017’s Eternal Recurrence EP. Find the Sun was recorded with Deradoorian’s friend and percussionist Samer Ghadry, along with Ghadry’s frequent collaborator Dave Harrington.

Honorable Mentions:

These five songs almost made the Top 10.

GUM: “Don’t Let It Go Out”

Nick Hakim: “CRUMPY” (Feat. Mac DeMarco)

Man Man: “On the Mend” (Feat. Dre Babinski and Rebecca Black)

Sam Prekop: “Summer Places”

Skullcrusher: “Places/Plans”

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Billie Joe Armstrong: “That Thing You Do!” (Adam Schlesinger Cover)

Angelo De Augustine: “Santa Barbara” (Feat. Sufjan Stevens)

Badly Drawn Boy: “I Just Wanna Wish You Happiness”

James Blake: “You’re Too Precious”

Boy Scouts: “A World So Full of Love” (Roger Miller Cover)

Charli XCX: “Claws”

Childe: “Bad Ideas”

Christine and the Queens: “Highest in the Room” (Travis Scott Cover)

Deerhoof: “‘Farewell’ Symphony”

Desire: “Black Latex”

Duck Sauce: “I Don’t Mind”

Earl Sweatshirt: “WHOLE WORLD” (Feat. Maxo)

Golf Alpha Bravo: “Stuck Being Me” (Jagwar Ma’s Gab Winterfield)

Helado Negro: “I Fell In Love” (Feat. Xenia Rubinos)

Hundredth: “Sleeping In” (The Postal Service Cover)

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: “Dreamsicle”

Isaiah Rashad: “Why Worry”

Henry Jamison: “Green Room” (feat. Ed Droste)

Caleb Landry Jones: “I Dig Your Dog”

Jónsi: “Exhale” (Prod. A. G. Cook)

JPEGMAFIA: “BODYGUARD!”

Juice WRLD: “Righteous”

The Killers: “Fire In Bone”

L7: “Fake Friends” (Joan Jett and the Blackhearts Cover) (Feat. Joan Jett)

Mark Lanegan: “Stockholm City Blues”

Hamilton Leithauser: “The Greatest” (Lana Del Rey Cover)

Blake Mills: “Summer All Over”

Kacey Musgraves: “Oh, What a World 2.0” (Earth Day Edition)

New Kids on the Block: “House Party” (Feat. Boyz II Men, Big Freedia, Jordin Sparks, and Naughty By Nature)

No Age: “War Dance”

Iggy Pop: “Family Affair” (Sly & the Family Stone Cover, Feat. Bootsy Collins)

The Psychedelic Furs: “No One”

The Rolling Stones: “Living In a Ghost Town”

Esther Rose: “Blue on Blue” (Nick Lowe Cover)

Self Defense Family: “Jesus Of Nazareth”

Andy Shauf: “You Slipped Away”

Travis Scott and Kid Cudi: “THE SCOTTS”

Rosie Tucker: “Arrow” (Jeffrey Lewis Cover)

Rufus Wainwright: “Alone Time”

Hayley Williams: “Dead Horse”

The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die: “In Circles” (Sunny Day Real Estate Cover)

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