10 Best Songs of the Week: Beach House, Florence + the Machine, Natalie Prass, and More

Plus Tracyanne & Danny, Mass Gothic, Future Islands, Dirty Projectors, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

May 04, 2018 Bookmark and Share


Last week's Songs of the Week encompassed two week's worth of songs. This week we're back to normal. This week's list features lots of Songs of the Week alumni, with three of the top four being former #1s.

Four songs that almost made the Top 10: Now, Now; Trevor Powers; serpentwithfeet; and ShadowParty.

Elsewhere on the website this week: We posted interviews with musicians Gaz Coombes (formerly of Supergrass), Walter Martin (formerly of The Walkmen), Spoon, Mastersystem (which features members of Frightened Rabbit, Minor Victories, and Editors), as well as with actress Molly Ringwald. We also reviewed a bunch of albums (including the latest by Eleanor Friedberger, Gaz Coombes, Goat Girl, Middle Kids, and DJ Koze). And Gaz Coombes was our Album of the Week.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 10 best the week had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last week. Check out the full list below. 

1. Beach House: "Black Car"

Baltimore duo Beach House (Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally) are releasing a new album, 7 (titled as such because it's their seventh album), on May 11 via Sub Pop. This week they shared another song from the album, "Black Car," via a visual directed by San Charoenchai. Sure, it may be predictable for Beach House to be our #1 song, but they continue to kill it with each track from 7.

Previously Beach House shared the album's "Lemon Glow" (which was one of our Songs of the Week) and "Dive" (which was also one of our Songs of the Week), as well as a video for "Dive." (They also released a lengthy statement about the album.) Then they shared the album's third single, "Dark Spring," via a visually arresting video for the song. "Dark Spring" was our #1 Song of the Week.

Beach House put out two albums in 2015: Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, both via Sub Pop. In 2017 they released a B-sides and rarities compilation, fittingly titled B-Sides and Rarities, also via Sub Pop.

Read our 2017 interview with Beach House on B-Sides and Rarities.

Also read our 2015 interview with Beach House's Victoria Legrand about Depression Cherry.

2. Florence + the Machine: "Hunger"

This week Florence + the Machine (aka Florence Welch and backing band) announced a new album, High As Hope, and shared an A.G. Rojas-directed video for a new song, "Hunger." High As Hope is due out June 29 via Republic. The album features Kamasi Washington, Sampha, Tobias Jesso Jr, Kelsey Lu, and Jamie xx.

Welch wrote, co-produced, and recorded the majority of High As Hope by herself, cycling to her studio in Peckham every day. It's the first time she's co-produced a Florence + the Machine album. Then she finished the songs in Los Angeles with her friend and co-producer Emile Haynie and mixed the album in New York. Her daily views of the New York skyline inspired the album's title, because, as a press release says, the NYC skyline is "often in stark contrast to the chaos of the wider world."

Of "Hunger," Welch had this to say in the press release: "This song is about the ways we look for love in things that are perhaps not love, and how attempts to feel less alone can sometimes isolate us more. I guess I made myself more vulnerable in this song to encourage connection, because perhaps a lot more of us feel this way than we are able to admit. Sometimes when you can't say it, you can sing it."

The press release says that on the album Welch "writes of growing up in South London, of family, relationships and art itself." In Welch's own words: "There's a lot of love in this record, loneliness too, but a lot of love.... It's always a work in progress, and I definitely don't have everything figured out. But this feels like quite a pure expression of who I am now, as an artist, and an honest one. I'm just more comfortable with who I am."

Florence + the Machine shared a brand new song, "Sky Full of Song," a few weeks ago and it was released on limited edition 7-inch on Record Store Day (it was one of our Songs of the Week). It is included on the album. Welch also previously announced some May tour dates. They include shows at Los Angeles' Walt Disney Concert Hall, New York's Brooklyn Academy of Music, and London's Royal Festival Hall. The shows will partly benefit various homeless charities, with £1.00 from each ticket to the London show going to Shelter, $1.00 from every New York ticket going to Win, and $1.00 from every Los Angeles ticket being donated to Downtown Women's Center.

The "Sky Full of Song" 7-inch included on the flipside a recording of "New York poem (for Polly)," which is taken from Welch's forthcoming book, Useless Magic, which is out July 5 via Crown Publishing/Penguin. A press release describes it as "a collection of lyrics, artwork and poetry offering a unique, personal insight into her creative process." 

Florence + the Machine's most recent album was 2015's How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.

3. Natalie Prass: "Lost"

Natalie Prass is releasing a new album, The Future and the Past, on June 1 via ATO. This week she shared the album's third single, the soaring, beautiful ballad "Lost." She has also announced some new fall tour dates.

Prass had this to say about the song in a press release: "'Lost' is about putting your foot down in a relationship when enough is enough. It's the journey of getting engulfed in another person's energy, good and bad, and ultimately understanding the other person is out to hurt you and not there to love you back."

Previously she shared a video for its first single, "Short Court Style" (which was one of our Songs of the Week), and also performed the song on Conan. Then she shared the album's second single, "Sisters," which a press release called a "feminist anthem." "Sisters" was our #1 Song of the Week.

The Richmond based singer/songwriter released her acclaimed self-titled debut album in 2015 via Spacebomb/StarTime International. She had a new album written and was ready to record it when Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential election, which led to Prass rewriting the album. As a previous press release put it: "Out of her despair and disappointment in those results came an impulse she could not ignore: she rewrote the album to reflect these swirling emotions." The press release also called the album "a stunning snapshot of a musician in a state of personal rediscovery and surging femininity. The celebratory and defiant The Future and the Past also signals a significant artistic leap for Prass on the heels of her 2015 breakthrough debut album. It finds Prass tapping into deep, dancey grooves that glisten with '80s pop and '90s R&B, nestled alongside quivering, lushly orchestrated ballads."

As with her debut album, The Future and the Past was recorded in Richmond, VA with long-time friend and collaborator Matthew E. White at his Spacebomb Studios. 

Prass had this to say about the album in the previous press release: "The record was ready to go, and then the election happened. I was devastated. It made me question what it means to be a woman in America, whether any of the things I thought were getting better were actually improving, who I am and what I believe in. I knew I would be so upset with myself if I didn't take the opportunity to say some of the things that meant so much to me, so I decided to rewrite the record. I needed to make an album that was going to get me out of my funk, one that would hopefully lift other people out of theirs, too, because that's what music is all about."

Also read our 2015 Pleased to Meet You Spotlight interview with Prass and our separate 2015 print magazine article on Prass.

 

4. Tracyanne & Danny: "It Can't Be Love Unless It Hurts"

Tracyanne & Danny, is a new project from Camera Obscura frontwoman Tracyanne Campbell and Danny Coughlan (who has previously released music as Crybaby). Their self-titled debut album, Tracyanne & Danny, is due out May 25 via Merge. This week they shared the album's third single, string-swept duet "It Can't Be Love Unless It Hurts."

In a press release Campbell says the song is about "an old, obsessive, all-consuming love. The kind that's mostly unrequited and always built from bad choices and self-delusion." 

Previously Tracyanne & Danny shared a teaser trailer for the project and their lovely first single, "Home & Dry" (which was our #1 Song of the Week). Then the duo shared a second song from the album, "Alabama," via a music video (it was our #2 Song of the Week).

Camera Obscura understandably haven't had much activity since the tragic and untimely passing due to cancer of founding member and keyboardist Carey Lander in 2015. The band's last album was 2013's Desire Lines. Campbell is from Glasgow, whereas the London-born Coughlan is Bristol-based. They were introduced by mutual friends in 2013 and Campbell liked his music as Crybaby and asked him to open for Camera Obscura. They worked on songs together, but the project was shelved for Campbell to focus on Desire Lines. After Camera Obscura went on hiatus the duo revisited the project and recorded the album at Clashnarrow, Edwyn Collins' studio in the Scottish Highlands. Collins co-produced the album along with engineer and multi-instrumentalist Sean Read (Dexys Midnight Runners), using Collins' vintage gear. A previous press release said mutual influences on Tracyanne & Danny include "The Roches, Dion, Lou Reed, The Flamingos, Serge Gainsbourg, Santo & Johnny, and The Style Council."

Campbell said in the previous press release that the album is "melodic, musical, and murdery. It's not a duet record. We've tried our best to marry our voices, songs, and melodies."

 

5. Mass Gothic: "Dark Window"

This week Mass Gothic shared a lyric video for a brand new song, "Dark Window." The digital single is out now via Sub Pop and was co-produced by the band and Josh Ascalon, mixed by Chris Coady, and mastered by Heba Kadry. The band is currently on tour opening for Modest Mouse (check out the dates here).

The duo features former Hooray For Earth frontman Noel Heroux and his wife Jessica Zambri (of Zambri and Solvey). They released their self-titled debut album on Sub Pop in 2016, which was followed by the Sub Goth EP later that year. This is likely the first single from their sophomore album and a press release promises more music this summer. Nira Burstein co-directed the lyric video with the band.

Zambri had this to say about the song in a press release: "It was late at night, I started dancing around the studio singing the melody with 'la la la's' and Noel began throwing the chords together on guitar. It happened pretty quickly. There was wine, dancing, then a song."

Read our 2016 interview with Mass Gothic.

6. Future Islands: "Calliope"

Future Islands released a new album, The Far Field, a little over a year ago via 4AD. This week they shared a brand new song, "Calliope." The Baltimore trio haven't announced a new album or EP, instead it's the latest installment in Adult Swim's Singles Program.

Read our 2014 cover story article on Future Islands.

7. Dirty Projectors: "Break-Thru"

Dirty Projectors (the project of Dave Longstreth) released a new self-titled album back in February 2017 via Domino. This week they announced another brand new album, Lamp Lit Prose, and shared a video for its first single, "Break-Thru." The album features Robin Pecknold, Rostam, HAIM, Empress Of, and others. Lamp Lit Prose is due out July 13 via Domino.

A press release describes the album as such: "Lamp Lit Prose arrives just over a year after 2017's self-titled Dirty Projectors. Here Longstreth's band returns with a new album that is the yang to the yin of the 2017 effort. The songs signal a page turned for Longstreth: hope instead of heartbreak, a restorative balance. Guitars have returned to the Dirty Projectors' world, intricate vocal harmony too. Lamp Lit Prose is a recommitment to the sounds and ideals of Dirty Projectors, embracing the band's trademarks while pushing forward the sonic envelope." 

Their tour is the band's first full-on tour in five years. Dirty Projectors also recently announced a new live line-up. Longstreth will be joined by previous members Nat Baldwin (bass) and Mike Johnson (drums), as well as three new band members: Felicia Douglass (percussion/vocals), Maia Friedman (guitar/vocals), and Kristin Slipp (keyboards, vocals). 

8. Lost Under Heaven: "Bunny's Blues"

This week Lost Under Heaven (who were formerly known mainly by their initials LUH) shared a new song, "Bunny's Blues," via its bloody video. It follows "Breath of Light," a new song they shared back in March (it was one of our Songs of the Week). The band has also announced some new U.K. tour dates.

There's no word on if there's a forthcoming EP or album. The duo is Ellery James Roberts (the ex-WU LYF frontman) and Ebony Hoorn. They released their debut album, Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing, back in 2016 via Mute.

Hoorn directed the "Bunny's Blues" video and takes lead vocals on the song. She had this to say about the song and video in a press release from their label Mute: "With this song I present an alter ego. Creating this character of Bunny began with a performance piece I did back in Amsterdam. She became a playful tool to confront how male-dominated society attempts to control both women and nature without having any real understanding or respect for their being and innate power.... I took inspiration from Cassavetes' Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Rainer Fassbinder's Lola and then the Giallo Styling of Dario Argento and Jesus Franco to subvert the typical exploitative objectification of the female body.... Working with a small team, we designed and built all the sets in a friend's basement. Our cinematographer, Jamie Allan, was able to secure an old 16mm camera, which had been a lifelong dream to work with. I love how it pushes everyone to consider every aspect, to focus and remain present in the moment whilst you work. Creating this video has been an intense but very rewarding experience: between Ellery, Jamie and myself, we handled the entire production, direction and editing, learning many lessons that will feed back into LUH.INTERNATIONAL, our recently formed production studio."

Read our 2016 interview with Lost Under Heaven and our review of Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing.

9. Parquet Courts: "Mardi Gras Beads"

Parquet Courts are releasing a new Danger Mouse-produced album, Wide Awake!, on May 18 via Rough Trade. This week the band shared another new song from the album, "Mardi Gras Beads," via a video for the song. Brother Willis directed the video, which picks up where the "Wide Awake" video left off, with the band still in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

The song was written by the band's Austin Brown, who had this to say about the song in a press release: "It's a song about commitment to yourself for better or worse."

Previously Parquet Courts shared the album's first single, "Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience" (which was one of our Songs of the Week), as well as a video for "Wide Awake" (which was our #1 Song of the Week). They also stopped by Ellen to perform its almost title track "Wide Awake" (unlike the album title, it doesn't feature an explanation point), which is a song Ellen DeGeneres "loves very much," so said the host when introducing the band.

Pick up or download Under the Radar's current print issue (Spring 2018) to read our interview with Parquet Courts on Wide Awake!

Wide Awake! is the band's fifth album and the follow-up to 2016's excellent Human Performance. Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) is a fan of Parquet Courts and approached the band about working with them.

"The ethos behind every Parquet Courts record is that there needs to be change for the better, and the best way to tackle that is to step out of one's comfort zone," said frontman A. Savage in a press release in regards to working with Danger Mouse. "I personally liked the fact that I was writing a record that indebted to punk and funk, and Brian's a pop producer who's made some very polished records. I liked that it didn't make sense."

Savage says he was purposefully reacting against the ballads of Human Performance when co-writing the songs on Wide Awake! with Brown. "I needed an outlet for the side of me that feels emotions like joy, rage, silliness and anger," he said in the press release, citing such influences as Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits, and Black Flag. "All those bands make me want to dance and that's what I want people to do when they hear our record." 

Brown had this to say in the press release: "In such a hateful era of culture, we stand in opposition to that - and to the nihilism used to cope with that - with ideas of passion and love."

Read our 2016 interview with Parquet Courts.

10. Protomartyr: "Wheel of Fortune" (Feat. Kelley Deal)

Detroit-formed post punkers Protomartyr released a new album, Relatives in Descent, last September via Domino. This week they announced a new EP, Consolation E.P., and shared a Yoonha Park-directed video for a new song, "Wheel of Fortune," which features Kelley Deal of The Breeders and R. Ring (as does one other song on the release). Consolation E.P. is due out June 15 via Domino. Deal's R. Ring bandmate Mike Montgomery recorded the EP.

Protomartyr's Joe Casey had this to say about the EP in a press release: "Early 2017 proved to be a productive time for the band. We were writing songs right up to recording Relatives In Descent and wanted to keep that momentum going right after. Making 2015's split single A Half of Seven with R. Ring was one of our favorite recording experiences, so the decision to head down to Dayton, Kentucky and spend a weekend in May recording the four songs that became the Consolation E.P. was an easy one."
 
Kelley Deal had this to say: "For Mike and I, working on this EP with Protomartyr was a re-kindling of the tender spark that was struck upon our first encounter with them years ago in Texas. They were graciously tolerant and receptive to my production ideas on the songs and the project quickly grew beyond our private orb. We have cello from Lori Goldston, viola from Jocelyn Hach and even bass clarinet from Evan Ziporyn, and I do some singing with Joe. There's a lot of trust involved when an artist places their songs in your hands, and we were very mindful of that while intentionally trying to take the songs in new directions. Candyland in Dayton, KY is home-base for R.Ring recording, and it's close enough that the Proto-men could make it down to lay the tracks down. This is the second project like this we've done with them, so we're ready to flip the tables and have them produce and record some of our songs!"

Read our 2017 interview with Protomartyr.

Other notable new tracks in the last two weeks include:

Christina Aguilera: "Accelerate" (Feat. Ty Dolla $ign and 2 Chainz)

Arthur Buck: "Are You Electrified?" 

Bing & Ruth: "Quebec (Climber)"

Braids: "Burdock & Dandelion" 

Céline Dion: "Ashes"

Dizzy: "Joshua" 

Ex-Vöid: "Boyfriend"

Guns N' Roses: "Shadow of Your Love"

 

Houndmouth: "This Party"

James: "Broken By the Hurt" 

Jimmy Eat World: "Half Heart" and "Love Never"

Now, Now: "MJ"

Trevor Powers: "Playwright"

 

Prefuse 73: "Silver & Gold" (Feat. James Tillman)

Remember Sports: "The 1 Bad Man"

Retirement Party: "Shoulder It"

Arturo Sandoval: "Arturo Sandoval" (Feat. Featuring Ariana Grande and Pharrell Williams)

serpentwithfeet: "cherubim"

ShadowParty: "Celebrate"

worlds greatest dad: "cough"

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