11 Best Songs of the Week: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Andrew Bird, Nick Hakim, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, September 26th, 2020  

11 Best Songs of the Week: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Andrew Bird, Nick Hakim, and More

Plus Jess Williamson, EOB, The 1975 and Phoebe Bridgers, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Apr 03, 2020
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Welcome to the thirteenth Songs of the Week of 2020. While more album release dates were pushed back due to COVID-19 and it seems we haven’t reached the peak number of coronavirus cases in America yet, none of that stopped artists from sharing a whole lot of new songs this week. While we’re all quarantined inside, new music is a welcome distraction. This week we’ve got 11 best songs. 

This week we posted a whole bunch of content. We launched a new email interview series where we are checking in with musicians on how they are dealing with the quarantine and how the pandemic is affecting both their livelihood and art, starting with Norway’s Sondre Lerche and Canada’s Ellis.

We also posted My Favorite Album interviews with Iron & Wine on Gilberto Gil & Jorge Ben’s Gil e Jorge and actor/musician Chris Sullivan (of This Is Us) on John Prine’s self-titled debut. There was also a My Firsts interview with James Elkington and a Pleased to Meet You interview with Low Hummer.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Anna Burch, TOPS, Pearl Jam, Snarls, Childish Gambino, Roger and Brian Eno, and Bambara. 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 episodes of our Why Not Both podcast, one featuring Phantogram and another with actress/author Mara Wilson.

Plus several of our writers put together quarantine playlists.

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. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: “She’s There”

On Tuesday Melbourne, Australia five-piece Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever announced a new album, Sideways to New Italy, and shared a new song from it, “She’s There,” via a Nick McKinlay-directed video for the single. Sideways to New Italy is due out June 5 via Sub Pop. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here. With “She’s There” the band continue their remarkable winning streak of releasing one great single after another, making them one of the most reliable bands out there right now.

Sideways to New Italy is the band’s sophomore album and the follow-up to 2018’s debut album, Hope Downs, also released via Sub Pop. Hope Downs was our Album of the Week, one of our Top 100 Albums of 2018, and our #1 Debut Album of 2018.

Sideways to New Italy also includes “Cars In Space,” a new song the band shared in February via a video for the track co-directed by fellow Aussie musician Julia Jacklin with her regular collaborator Nick Mckk. “Cars In Space” was one of our Songs of the Week.

The band features singer/songwriter/guitarists Tom Russo, Joe White, and Fran Keaney, as well as bassist Joe Russo and drummer Marcel Tussie.

The album’s partial namesake, New Italy, is actually a village near New South Wales’ Northern Rivers, which is an area Tussie is from. A press release announcing the album describes the town: “A blink-and-you'll-miss-it pit-stop of a place with fewer than 200 residents, it was founded by Venetian immigrants in the late-1800s and now serves as something of a living monument to Italians' contribution to Australia, with replica Roman statues dotted like souvenirs on the otherwise rural landscape.”
 
Keaney had this to say about the album in the press release: “I wanted to write songs that I could use as some sort of bedrock of hopefulness to stand on, something to be proud of. A lot of the songs on the new record are reaching forward and trying to imagine an idyll of home and love.”

Of the “She’s There” video the band collectively had this to say: “We tried to convey that feeling in a dream where you need to be somewhere, and you don’t really know why, but you are determined to overcome every obstacle to get there.”

In February 2019 Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever shared a new song, “In the Capital” (it was one of our Songs of the Week) and released it as a 7-inch ia Sub Pop. The B-side, “Read My Mind,” was also shared in April 2019 via a video for the track (it was also one of our Songs of the Week). Neither song is featured on Sideways to New Italy.

Read our 2018 interview with Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.

 

2. Andrew Bird: “Capital Crimes”

On Thursday Andrew Bird shared a new song, “Capital Crimes,” via a Matthew Daniel Siskin-directed video for the track. The song is about capital punishment.

Bird had this to say about the new song in a press release: “I wrote Capital Crimes more than a year ago about capital punishment. For a while they were giving IQ tests to death row inmates. If you scored below 70 your life was spared, above 70 and you were executed. Of course this is absurd and was eventually done away with but the fact that it was in practice for even for a moment is alarming. Lately we find ourselves having these moral arguments, these false choice fallacies that older citizens should sacrifice themselves for the sake of the economy. The government exists to protect and care for its citizens especially those who are most vulnerable, not decide who should be sacrificed. I hope the song handles the issue more eloquently than my prose here. ‘If I let go of your hand it would be murder’—the things that hold our society together are not really institutions and laws but everyday humanity and compassion. An acceptance that we are all in this together. I thought this was a single-issue song until Matthew Siskin put this video together and made me realize that it’s far more universal than I thought.”

Also Bird was doing performances from his home before it was necessary and his previous web series Live From the Great Room is now on YouTube for all to enjoy. Half (14) of its 28 episodes are up there, with the rest coming soon.

Bird released a new album, the amusingly titled My Finest Work Yet, back in 2019 via Loma Vista and last year was also cast in the upcoming new season of FX’s crime anthology show Fargo. Plus in November he surprise released HARK!, a new Christmas EP that features two original songs (“Alabaster” and “Night’s Falling”) and covers of four holiday classics.

Read our interview with Andrew Bird on My Finest Work Yet.

 

3. Jess Williamson: “Infinite Scroll”

Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Jess Williamson is releasing a new album, Sorceress, on May 15 via Mexican Summer. On Tuesday she shared another song from it, “Infinite Scroll,” via a Jim Larson-directed video for the track. In the video she plays a runaway bride, but then there’s a sci-fi twist.

Williamson had this to say about the video in a press release: “We shot this video in early February, when the coronavirus was a distant murmur and not an immediate threat here in the U.S. It was lurking in the ether though, and of course on some level we were aware of it, but we couldn't have imagined at the time where we'd all be today. But something was clearly tapping on our subconscious minds, because we made a video about running away from this world and escaping to another planet. Which sounds like a pretty nice option at the moment.
 
“Jim and I came up with this idea of a runaway bride with an extraterrestrial twist. The dress I'm wearing is my mom's wedding dress. She bought it in 1979 off the rack at Neiman Marcus in Dallas. The veil is hers as well. Her mom sewed every pearl onto it by hand. It felt really special to wear that dress, almost holy. The first time I put it on it was surprisingly emotional for me. Jim and I are both drawn to the landscape of the Southwest, and we were talking about the musician Jim Sullivan's mysterious story, how he disappeared in the desert in New Mexico. I've spent a lot of time in New Mexico, it's a place that's near and dear to my heart. It felt right to make the video out there.”

Previously Williamson shared the album’s first single, “Wind on Tin,” via a video for the track. “Wind on Tin” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Sorceress is the follow-up to 2018’s Cosmic Wink, also released by Mexican Summer. The album was written in Los Angeles and was mainly recorded at Gary’s Electric in Brooklyn. The finishing touches were put on Sorceress at Dandysounds, a home studio on a ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas, where Williamson recorded Cosmic Wink.

4. Nick Hakim: “QADIR”

On Tuesday Nick Hakim announced a new album, WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD, and shared its first single, “QADIR,” via a video for the new song. WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD is due out May 15 via ATO. Watch the Nelson Nance-directed “QADIR” video below, but the video is a shorter near-six-minute version of the song, so also below is the full seven-and-a-half-minute version of the song. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here. 

WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD is the neo-soul artist’s sophomore album, and is due out almost exactly three years after the release of 2017’s debut album, Green Twins.

“QADIR” is about a friend who died. In a press release Hakim had this to say about the song, its length, and inspiration: “If I really sink into a recording, I don't want it to end. [‘QADIR’] is repetitive and hypnotizing, like a trance—that's intentional. The song is my ode to him. It's my attempt to relate to how he must have been feeling.”

Hakim also issued this statement about the album: “I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There's a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.

“For a while, I couldn't write. I worked on new music but couldn't find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can't. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won't be here—or you won't.

“But it's also true that I'm still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it's confusing or that it's messy-that's fine. There's so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn't like that, and so my music can't be like that either. I'm not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I'll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I'm exploring, but I'm not alone. It's a journey in progress; it's an experiment, every day.”

Read our 2017 interview with Nick Hakim.

 

5. EOB: “Olympik” 

EOB is the solo project of Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien and he’s releasing his debut album under the EOB name, Earth, on April 17 via Capitol. On Thursday he shared another song from it, “Olympik.” It has a welcome Zooropa era U2 vibe. 

In December O’Brien shared another song from Earth, the nine-minute long “Brasil,” via a video/short film for it. The song also featured Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood, as well as drummer Omar Hakim and The Invisible’s guitarist David Okumu. “Brasil” was one of our Songs of the Week. When Earth was announced O’Brien shared another new song from it, “Shangri-La.”

Flood produced the album, which was recorded in Wales and London. The album also features Laura Marling, Portsihead’s Adrian Utley, bassist Nathan East, and Wilco’s Glenn Kotche.

6. The 1975: “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America” (Feat. Phoebe Bridgers)

The 1975 are releasing a new album, Notes On a Conditional Form, on May 22 via Dirty Hit/Interscope (it was recently pushed back again, from April 24). Today the English band shared another single from it, “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America.” The song features guest vocals from Phoebe Bridgers and has a bit of a Sufjan Stevens vibe.

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.

In February Bridgers shared a brand new track, “Garden Song,” via a video for it. “Garden Song” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list.

7. Art Feynman: “I’m Gonna Miss Your World” 

This week Here We Go Magic frontman Luke Temple announced a new album under the name Art Feynman, Half Price at 3:30, and shared its first single, “I’m Gonna Miss Your World,” via a Caroline Sallee-directed stop-motion video for the new song. Half Price at 3:30 is due out June 26 via Western Vinyl. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here

A press release lays out the Art Feynman persona and the album as such: “As Feynman, Temple uses his dual persona like a needle and thread to stitch art pop, Nigerian highlife, worldbeat, and other less-heard genres into a musical quilt that displays his unmistakable guile and eccentric songcraft.”  

Temple describes “I’m Gonna Miss Your World” as “a groovy number about missing someone and all the things that surround them.”

Caroline Sallee is also known as the musician Caroline Says. She had this to say about the “I’m Gonna Miss Your World” video: “I made this video during the first two weeks of quarantining. I think the lighthearted nature of it was my way of trying to stay positive during an unthinkably scary time.”

In terms of Temple’s solo work, the album is the follow-up to 2019’s Both-And, 2016’s A Hand Through the Cellar Door, and 2013’s Good Mood Fool, all underappreciated works. In 2017 Temple released his first Art Feynman album, Blast Off Through the Wicker.

8. Alex Izenberg: “Disraeli Woman”

On Tuesday Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Alex Izenberg shared his first new song in four years, “Disraeli Woman,” via a video for the track directed by Giraffe Studios. It’s the first release for the chamber pop musician (think Harry Nilson) since his 2016 debut album, Harlequin. The song is available as a 7-inch now from Domino, with “I Don’t Want You To Hurt Anymore” as the B-side.

A press release explains what Izenberg, who is from the Chatsworth area of the San Fernando Valley, has been up to the last four years: “Not long after the release of Harlequin, Izenberg became emotionally unstable, beset by a failed relationship and inevitable post-debut questions about what came next. He spent the four years following its release learning to cope with and overcome fear, to turn doubt into power rather than paralysis. Having been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2012, music became a lifeline, or the lens that helps him refocus the world and make sense of his mess of feelings.”

Giraffe Studios had this to about the “Disraeli Woman” video in the press release: “Our shoot was a joyride in a ’76 Cadillac gliding across Los Angeles with a Super8mm camera hanging out the back. We started on a dewy morning in Chatsworth, Alex’s hometown, and ended 36 hours later with old friends under the pink glow of a magic Malibu sunset. Magic is very much what happens when you spend the time with Alex—serendipity and possibility being key words. We hope that this video serves as a peephole into the brilliant, spontaneous, and beautiful world of Alex Izenberg.”

The press release promises more new music Izenberg soon.

9. Thundercat: “Interstellar Love” (Featuring Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington, and Ronald Bruner Jr.) 

Thundercat (aka Stephen Lee Bruner) has released a new album, It Is What It Is, today via Brainfeeder. On Thursday he shared one last pre-release single from the album, “Interstellar Love,” which features Kamasi Washington, Flying Lotus, and percussionist Ronald Bruner Jr. (Thundercat’s older brother).

Previously Thundercat shared the album’s first single, “Black Qualls,” which features Steve Lacy of The Internet and funk icon Steve Arrington. “Black Qualls” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then Thundercat shared another song from the album, “Dragonball Durag,” which was inspired by the Japanese anime series Dragon Ball Z and was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then he shared another song from the album, “Fair Chance,” which featured Ty Dolla $ign and Lil B and was inspired by the late Mac Miller. “Fair Chance” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

It Is What It Is also features Childish Gambino, BADBADNOTGOOD, Louis Cole, and Zack Fox. Flying Lotus executive produced the album with Thundercat.

Bruner had this to say about It Is What It Is in a previous press release: “This album is about love, loss, life and the ups and downs that come with that. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but at different points in life you come across places that you don’t necessarily understand… some things just aren’t meant to be understood.”

10. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down: “Phenom” 

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, the band led by Thao Nguyen, are releasing a new album, Temple, on May 15 via Ribbon Music. Today they shared another new song from the album, “Phenom,” via a video that was shot via the Zoom video conferencing app and features Nguyen and various dancers from their homes. A more standard video was originally scheduled to be shot in late March, but then the COVID-19 coronavirus made social distancing a necessity and so Nguyen and her team improvised and did some truly creative things within the confines of Zoom. Erin Murray co-directed and choreographed the video. Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux also co-directed and Victoria Fayad produced.

Nguyen issued this press release statement about the “Phenom” video: “We were due to shoot the video for ‘Phenom’ with Erin and Victoria in L.A. in late March. That shoot was of course rightfully cancelled in mid-March, and the fate of any kind of video and release of ‘Phenom’ was very much in question.” 

Nguyen has also detailed how the video came together over the course of a week: 

Monday, March 23: “My manager Joe floats the idea for a ‘Phenom’ video constructed entirely within Zoom.”

Tuesday, March 24: “Erin and Victoria hop on board with the project, and Erin sends over a new treatment that afternoon. Jeremy joins, and the production team coalesces.”

Wednesday, March 25: “We have our first and only pre-production meeting (via Zoom).”

Thursday, March 26 & Friday, March 27: “Erin somehow works out all the choreography for a live Zoom dance video incorporating eight dancers and myself, all sheltering in place in our respective homes.” 

Saturday, March 28: “We hold our first and only five-hour rehearsal via Zoom.”

Sunday, March 29: “Shoot day. Everyone logs on at noon and wraps at around 8 p.m. Erin, Jeremy and Victoria begin production immediately.” 

Tuesday, March 31: “Jeremy sends the first cut at 3 a.m. Toronto time. The final ‘Phenom’ video is delivered at the end of this same day.”

Erin Murray had this to say in the press release: “I had fun adapting many of the original video ideas into the Zoom space, an outlet that was totally new to me in a storytelling/choreographic sense.”

Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux adds: “It speaks to the power of Thao to channel the rage and beauty of this song, turning isolation into community in a way that’s unique to this scary moment and also universal to a fucked up world.” 

Nguyen also had this to say about the song itself: “‘Phenom’ is a direct descendant of the song ‘Meticulous Bird’ from my previous album, A Man Alive. I wrote it late last year. I was reading Octavia Butler and Ursula Le Guin and channeling other worlds, a sort of post-apocalyptic utopia wherein time collapses and generations of the true leaders and the scorched of the earth come back and rule, wherein the earth itself comes back and brings to bear. I was and am always in deep awe of the fierce and focused throughout history who have worked and organized at the front lines, calling bullshit and protecting vulnerable life. They are the real phenoms and we are strong from their strength. The first seed of this song was that guitar riff that is layered over and over again at the end. ‘Phenom’ is at the edge of mania with the miscarriage of truth and justice and power, but believes in a more virtuous time and place in the distance.” 

Previously Nguyen shared the album’s first single, title track “Temple,” via a video for the track. “Temple” was one of our Songs of the Week.

11. Jenny Hval: “Bonus Material”

This week Jenny Hval shared a new song, “Bonus Material.” It is the Norwegian experimentalist’s first new song since last September’s full-length The Practice of Love. Hval has also announced some rescheduled tour dates, shows that were postponed due to COVID-19. Check out the tour dates here.

In a press release Hval says the single “is an unfinished track about unfinished substances leaking into one another.” The song is upheld by tepid reverb and echoey saxophone (courtesy of Espen Reinertsen). The perennial flow of overlapping instrumentation evokes qualities of a sound bath and sets a calm tone despite the initial apprehension and eerie images in the lyrics.

The singer/songwriter made a name for herself by fusing elements of jazz, folk, and electronica beneath her blissful vocals. Crafting her creative identity for over two decades now, Hval’s artistic style isn’t bound exclusively to music, but dives beyond into literature, performance, and visual expression as well. By Lily Guthrie

Honorable Mentions:

These seven songs almost made the Top 10.

Bad History Month: “A Survey of Cosmic Repulsion”

Empress Of: “Love is a Drug”

Iceage: “Lockdown Blues”

Purity Ring: “i like the devil”

serpentwithfeet: “A Comma”

M. Ward: “Heaven’s Nail and Hammer”

Yves Tumor: “Romanticist/Dream Palette” (Feat. Kelsey Lu and Julia Cumming)

 

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Chelsea Light Moving: “Sunday Stage”

Drake: “Toosie Slide”

Everything Is Recorded: “11:55AM / THIS WORLD” (Feat. Infinite Coles & Maria Somerville)

Kings of Leon: “Going Nowhere”

Kllo: “Still Here” 

The Magnetic Fields: “Kraftwerk In A Blackout”

Amber Mark: “Heart-Shaped Box” (Nirvana Cover)

 

No Age: “Feeler”

Orville Peck: “Summertime”

Eve Owen: “Blue Moon”

Lido Pimienta: “Te Queria”

PINS: “After Hours”

Psychic Ills: “Never Learn Not to Love” (Beach Boys Cover) and “Cease to Exist” (Charles Manson Cover)

Troye Sivan: “Take Yourself Home”

Sonic Boom: “The Way That You Live”

Mavis Staples: “All In It Together” (Feat. Jeff Tweedy)

Hayley Williams: “Over Yet”

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