12 Best Songs of the Week: Braids, NZCA LINES, Muzz, Sorry, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, September 18th, 2020  

12 Best Songs of the Week: Braids, NZCA LINES, Muzz, Sorry, and More

Plus Bob Dylan, Man Man, Hamilton Leithauser, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Mar 27, 2020
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Welcome to the twelfth Songs of the Week of 2020. It was another scary week out there, as America surpassed China and Italy to become the country with the most COVID-19 coronavirus cases in the world, with 101,242 known U.S. cases at the time of this writing and 1,588 American COVID-19 deaths. Meanwhile the world economy is in tatters and there’s no realistic end to the quarantine in sight, despite what President Trump says about everything opening back up again in time for Easter. But the president has got this covered right? Yeah…

Still, the quarantine has had some interesting side effects. We’re all getting to know our families, spouses, partners, children, pets, roommates, and/or ourselves better, which is either great or challenging, depending on how much you get along with the aforementioned. And there have been a lot of live streamed home concerts for us all to watch, such as Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard who has impressively been performing for around an hour from his home studio every single day. We’ve all become much more reliant on the Internet, social media, devices, and video chatting, which could have some lasting effects on the future, especially when it comes to kids. And speaking of kids, this is their big childhood historical moment, like 9/11, various wars, and the Great Depression were for previous generations. 

Let’s just hope it all gets back to normal sooner than expected. That we can all safely return to work and school. That bands can get back on the road and start performing for real audiences again. Until then there has been no shortage of new music, even though the release dates of many notable albums were pushed back this week due to COVID-19. This week we’ve got a Top 12, we couldn’t quite narrow it down to 10 songs.

This week we posted a My Favorite Album interview with Bleached, a Self-Portrait interview with Nap Eyes, a Pleased to Meet You interview with Sorry, and in-depth interview with Waxahatchee on her new album and her COVID-19 quarantine experience thus far. We also spoke to Ben Gibbard and several other Pacific Northwest musicians about how they are dealing with the pandemic.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Tame Impala, Rose Cousins, The Homesick, Say Hi, Waxahatchee, Beach Bunny, Sorry, Dua Lipa, and Nap Eyes. 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, this one featuring Half Waif.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 12 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. Braids: “Snow Angel”

Montreal trio Braids were releasing a new album, Shadow Offering, on April 24 via Secret City, but this week they pushed it back to June 19 due to COVID-19. On Thursday they also shared another new song from it, the nine-minute “Snow Angel,” via a Kevan Funk-directed video for the intense track. It’s an epic song that takes on social and political issues that are all the more relevant in this current crisis. “Should I even have a child at all?/This world is full up,” questions singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston in the lyrics. “I want to be a mother/But I shouldn’t bring in another.” It takes on global warming and the role all of us play in destroying the planet. If you want to get lost in the madness of the current moment, this is the song to turn to.

Standell-Preston had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Snow Angel’ was written in the immediate wake of the 2016 US election, as our collective conscience took a sharp inhale. It's a diary entry of sorts—a snapshot of the mind grappling with our era's endless barrage of content and destruction, continents away and close to home. *This* moment, with our world in the midst of a pandemic, is admittedly a new context. But I can't help but sense the song speaks to feelings many of us are experiencing—uncertainty, angst, and a desperate desire to make sense of it all.

“For me, it was deeply therapeutic to write and sing this song; saying things out loud can help us to not feel so alone, can help validate our natural fears about the future of our world, and can bring to light some of the hard questions that many of us are asking ourselves. I believe that art can change our relationship to fear. We hope this song can offer you a moment of catharsis and relief, in the same way writing and performing it has for us.” 

Shadow Offering includes “Eclipse (Ashley),” a new song Braids shared last December. When the album was announced the band shared another song from it, “Young Buck,” via a video for the track. “Young Buck” was one of our Songs of the Week. Shadow Offering was produced by former Death Cab for Cutie guitarist/producer Chris Walla.

Summing up the album, Standell-Preston had this to say in a previous press release: “There's more hopefulness in this record than anything else I've written. I think the songs are more human, more tangible, more honest.”

 

2. NZCA LINES: “Pure Luxury” 

On Wednesday NZCA LINES, the London-based project of Michael Lovett, shared a brand new song, “Pure Luxury.” The incredibly fun single was inspired by Lovett experiencing a Manhattan heatwave in February and is out now via Memphis Industries. In these dark times, this is the kind of escapist song we need! If you want to avoid the current moment, then this is the song to turn to. 

Lovett had this to say about the song in a press release: “It’s a sadistic joyride set in penthouse suites where the gold trim hides a rotting plywood facade, muscle cars are bought with credit cards and barbed wire fences separate luxury resorts from the slums beyond their walls. The fantasy of attainment in a world that has no future.”

Things have been fairly quiet for NZCA LINES since the release of their last album, 2016’s sophomore release, Infinite Summer, also released via Memphis Industries. Over the years Lovett has also performed in Metronomy’s touring band and performed on some of Christine and the Queens’ work. A press release does say that a new NZCA LINES album is in the works.

 

3. Muzz: “Broken Tambourine”

Paul Banks of Interpol has formed a new band, Muzz, that also features Matt Barrick (The Walkmen) and Josh Kaufman (Bonny Light Horseman). On Tuesday they shared a new song, “Broken Tambourine,” via a video for the track. The single is out now via Matador. Interpol have such a specific sound that it’s also nice to hear Banks branch out with his solo and side projects.

Previously Muzz shared their first song, “Bad Feeling.” It was a little more lush and chill than the post-punk assault of Interpol and was one of our Songs of the Week. Not much more is known about the band, such as whether or not the singles are taken from a forthcoming EP or album. Banks and Kaufman have known each other since they were teenagers and both have also worked with Barrick before. Muzz’s earliest recordings date back to 2015.

4. Sorry: “As the Sun Sets”

North London post-punkers Sorry released their debut album, 925, today via Domino (stream it here). On Monday they shared one last pre-release song from it, “As the Sun Sets,” via a video for the track which anchors the center of the album. The band’s Asha Lorenz directed the video.

Also, yesterday we posted our rave review of the album (read it here) and on Wednesday we posted our interview with the band and you can read that here.

925 includes “Right Round the Clock,” a song they shared in October that was one of our Songs of the Week, as well as “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” another new song they shared in November via a video for the track (it was also one of our Songs of the Week). When the album was announced Sorry shared another song from it, “More,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared another song from it, “Snakes,” via a video for the track that featured a giant…snake. “Snakes” was also one of Songs of the Week.

Sorry is led by childhood friends Asha Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen and the lineup is rounded out by Lincoln Barrett on drums and bassist Campbell Baum. Previously we also posted the band’s “Jealous Guy” (not a John Lennon cover), which was also one of our Songs of the Week but isn’t featured on the debut album.

James Dring (Gorillaz, Jamie T, Nilüfer Yanya) co-produced 925 with the band. Lorenz directed the “More” video alongside frequent collaborator Jasper Cable-Alexander.

5. Bob Dylan: “Murder Most Foul” 

Late last night Bob Dylan shared a new song, “Murder Most Foul.” The 17-minute track is his first new original song in eight years and tackles the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Dylan recounts the events on November 22, 1963 in evocative detail, using it as a launch pad to discuss the 1960s and more, while backed by delicate strings and piano. “I hate to tell you mister, but only dead men are free,” he waxes poetic. If it was more rambling, you could compare it to Mark Kozelek’s more recent opuses. A closer cousin might be Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ 2019 epic Ghosteen. But of course Dylan is the original. 

Dylan had this to say about the song on Twitter: “Greetings to my fans and followers with gratitude for all your support and loyalty across the years. This is an unreleased song we recorded a while back that you might find interesting. Stay safe, stay observant and may God be with you.”

6. Man Man: “Future Peg”

Man Man, the project led by Honus Honus (aka Ryan Kattner), are releasing their first album in almost seven years, Dream Hunting in the Valley of the In-Between, on May 1 via Sub Pop, Man Man’s first album for the label. On Tuesday they shared another song from it, “Future Peg,” via a strange Stephanie Ward-directed video for the catchy and off-kilter song.

Previously Man Man shared the album’s first single, “Cloud Nein,” via a Kattner-directed lyric video for the new song. “Cloud Nein” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Dream Hunting in the Valley of the In-Between is the follow-up to 2013’s On Oni Pond. Since then Kattner has released a solo album, a children’s music album, and an album as a member of Mister Heavenly. But it took him a long time to get back to Man Man. Dream Hunting in the Valley of the In-Between was written over a three-and-a-half-year period while Kattner lived in a friend’s guest house in Los Angeles. Kattner pointed out in a previous press release that it was more of shack than a fancy guest house and had “an old upright piano, a thrift store lamp, and nothing else.”

“I had chord progression notes that looked like chicken scratch and lyrics on pieces of paper stuck all over the walls. It looked like I was about to break the big case, catch the killer,” Kattner said of the period. “One of the best things about this time, in these ‘lost in the wilderness/surreal exile from my own band’ years, was that I finally found players who believed in me, trusted my vision, respected my songwriting. It was rejuvenating.”

Cyrus Ghahremani produced Dream Hunting in the Valley of the In-Between, which was mixed by S. Husky Höskulds and mastered by Dave Cooley.

In 2019 Man Man did release two new songs, “Beached” and “Witch,” as part of the Sub Pop Singles Club. Neither song is featured on the album.

7. Hamilton Leithauser: “Don’t Check the Score”

Hamilton Leithauser (formerly of The Walkmen) is releasing a new album, The Loves of Your Life, on April 10 via Glassnote. Today he shared another song from it, “Don’t Check the Score.” He also shared another funny teaser video for the album, this one featuring actress Sienna Miller. Check out both the song and video below.

Leithauser had this to say about the song in a press release: “Hi - Today I am releasing my new song ‘Don’t Check the Score.’ It’s about rooting for an old estranged friend. Maybe it was a rocky road and weird goodbye, but you’d like them to know you’re still in their corner.  

When I used to work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, my friend introduced me to ‘day trading’ which is just compulsive gambling on the stock market. It can be done from your home (or work) computer. Instead of working, we would gamble all day. It was incredibly fun when you were up, and not as fun when you were down. This was around 2001, so we only had a dial up connection on one shared computer. It took like 45 seconds to login to the website to check your bet (hopefully you’d made like $55 or something). When things looked sour, you’d say ‘don’t login!’ Out of sight, out of mind—sort of. In reality you’d just be biting your nails thinking of nothing else...definitely not working. Anyhow, the title is a metaphor for looking the other way, or avoiding an inconvenient truth. I guess I could have called it ‘Don’t Login’ but I think there’s a lot more nobility in a sports metaphor than a day trading metaphor. Eventually, I stopped trading, because the house always wins.  

So today this song goes out to all the gamblers, betters, troubled souls, long-lost friends, and sad-sack day-traders who can’t face logging in.  

Right now, don’t login.”  

When The Loves of Your Life was announced Leithauser shared a lyric video for a new song from it, “Isabella.” He also shared a teaser video for the song in which New York-based singer/songwriter Maggie Rogers gave him a haircut and made him cry. It followed another funny teaser video that Leithauser shared last month in which he got beaten up by actor/writer Ethan Hawke. That led to the new song “Here They Come,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.

8. Car Seat Headrest: “Martin”

Car Seat Headrest (aka Will Toledo and band) are releasing a new album, Making a Door Less Open on May 1 via Matador. On Monday they shared another song from it, “Martin,” via a lyric video for the track.

Previously Car Seat Headrest shared the album’s first single, “Cool Me Down.” “Cool Me Down” was one of our Songs of the Week.

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.

9. Ben Gibbard “Life In Quarantine”

In response to the COVID-19 Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie has been live streaming daily solo concerts from his home studio. Last week Gibbard also shared a video where he performed the new song “Life In Quarantine,” which is inspired by what we’re all going through with COVID-19, and this week he shared the studio version of the song (which is still solo acoustic). He sings about empty Seattle streets and desperate people at airports who aren’t really going anywhere.

This week he has been devoting each concert to a different period of his career. This week Gibbard announced that the daily live streams will be coming to an end this Sunday and also announced the themes for his final concerts.

Gibbard’s concerts have been happening every day at 4 p.m. PST/7 p.m. EST and you are able to watch him on YouTube or Facebook. Gibbard’s home state of Washington has been especially hard hit by COVID-19. Find more info here and here.

Also read our 2018 The End interview with Gibbard about endings and death.

 

10. Squid: “Sludge”

Promising new Brighton, England-formed five-piece Squid have signed to Warp and on Wednesday they shared their first single for the iconic British label, “Sludge.” The track was produced by Dan Carey and has its origins from a soundcheck when Squid supported Wire. 

“Sludge” follows the Town Centre EP, which the band released last fall via Dan Carey’s Speedy Wunderground. Previously Squid shared the EP’s seven-and-a-half minutes long “The Cleaner,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared another song from Town Centre, “Match Bet,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week.

The band features Ollie Judge (drums, lead vocals), Louis Borlase (guitars, vocals), Arthur Leadbetter (keyboards, strings), Laurie Nankivell (bass, brass), and Anton Pearson (guitars, vocals). The band have a post-punk sound, with comparisons to Talking Heads and Television fairly warranted.

11. Ellis: “Saturn Return”

Ellis (aka Hamilton, Ontario dream pop artist Linnea Siggelkow) is releasing her debut album, Born Again, on April 3 via Fat Possum. On Wednesday she shared another song from it, “Saturn Return,” via a Michael Pugacewicz-video for the track.

Siggelkow had this to say about “Saturn Return” in a press release: “‘Saturn Return’ is an astrological term for the time in your life where Saturn literally returns to the same place in it's orbit that it was the moment you were born. The first one happens in your late twenties, and it's a time of radical transformation. I am in mine now and have been feeling it big time! I wrote this record while reflecting on all the ways my life is changing, reconciling things from the past and making space to move forward.” 

Previously Ellis shared Born Again’s first single, “Fall Apart,” via a video for the track. “Fall Apart” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared another song from it, “Embarrassing,” via a video for the short track. Then she shared another new Born Again song, “March 13,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Jake Aron (Snail Mail, Solange, Grizzly Bear) produced the album, which was partly recorded at his Brooklyn studio. Born Again follows Ellis’s debut EP The Fuzz, which she self-produced and self-released in 2018. 

As Born Again’s title suggests, the album partly deals with questions of faith. Siggelkow is the daughter of a traveling book salesman and a piano teacher. “I grew up Christian and was quite devoted to faith up through my late teens, but I started challenging that once I got to university,” said Siggelkow in a previous press release announcing the album. “Since then I’ve been trying to redefine who I am and where I stand and what I think about these things on my own, and that journey very much played into the songwriting on this record.”

12. Deerhoof: “Future Teenage Cave Artists”

On Wednesday Deerhoof announced a new album, Future Teenage Cave Artists, and shared two songs from it, title track “Future Teenage Cave Artists” and “The Loved One,” the former via a lyric video. Future Teenage Cave Artists is due out May 29 via Joyful Noise. “Future Teenager Cave Artists” makes the main list, while you can find “The Loved One” future below.

Deerhoof is Satomi Matsuzaki on bass and vocals, Ed Rodriguez and John Dieterich on guitars, and Greg Saunier on drums, vocals and piano. Future Teenage Cave Artists is the follow-up to 2017’s Mountain Moves.

A press release sets up Future Teenage Cave Artists like so: “Normal is never coming back. Whether by a collective dismantling or sheer collapse, our old illusions are being hollowed out. Over the past couple of years, Deerhoof has been asking themselves if there was any music they could create that expressed how the rapidly changing future might actually feel. The finished product, Future Teenage Cave Artists, finds Deerhoof in a revolutionary mood, but also haunted by memories of a lost world and every failed attempt to save it. People already cut loose from the system, already surviving with new ways of lifethese hopeful heroes are Deerhoof’s inspiration. These are the Future Teenage Cave Artists.”

Honorable Mentions:

These eight songs almost made the Top 10.

Bright Eyes: “Persona Non Grata”

Disheveled Cuss: “She Don’t Want”

Konradsen: “The Year Is Over”

Sondre Lerche: “You Are Not Who I Thought I Was”

Jackie Lynn: “Dream St.”

Peel Dream Magazine: “It’s My Body” 

Run the Jewels: “The Yankee and the Brave (ep.4)”

Zachery Allan Starkey: “Force” (Feat. Bernard Sumner) 

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Billie Joe Armstrong: “I Think We’re Alone Now” (Tommy James And The Shondells Cover)

Bono, will.i.am, Jennifer Hudson, and Yoshiki: “Sing For Life”

Brutus: “Sand”

CHAI: “No More Cake”

Channel Tres: “Weedman”

Deerhoof: “The Loved One”

Dirty Projectors: “Search For Life”

Deeper: “The Knife”

Duck Sauce: “Captain Duck”

Craig Finn: “All These Perfect Crosses”

Dua Lipa: “Break My Heart”

Gordi: “Aeroplane Bathroom”

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit: “Only Children”

Jordana: “Sway” 

Melkbelly: “Sickeningly Teeth”

The Memories: “The Sign” (Feat. Colleen Green) (Ace of Base Cover)

Nation of Language: “September Again”

Pearl Jam: “Quick Escape”

The Pretenders: “Hate For Sale”

Rosalía: “Dolerme”

Run the Jewels: “Ooh LA LA” (Feat. DJ Premier and Greg Nice)

Shabazz Palaces: “Chocolate Souffle”

Joan Shelley: “Blue Skies”

STRFKR: “Budapest” (feat. Shy Boys)

Superwolf: “You’ll Get Eaten, Too”

TOPS: “Direct Sunlight”

TORRES: “Wandering Star” (Portishead Cover)

Trace Mountains: “Me & May”

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