12 Best Songs of the Week: Courtney Barnett, Gaz Coombes, Let’s Eat Grandma, Snail Mail, and More

Plus Okkervil River, The Go! Team, King Tuff (feat. Jenny Lewis), Hiss Golden Messenger, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Mar 23, 2018 Bookmark and Share


Last week we skipped Songs of the Week. Most of the music industry was in Austin for SXSW and thus few notable songs were shared last week, leaving us with not enough contenders to even put together a Top 5 we were truly excited about. So this week's Songs of the Week mainly covers this week, but has a few songs from last week, including the song that would've been our #1 last week if we'd done a list. Hence we have a Top 12 this week.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last two weeks, we have picked the 12 best this week had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared this week. Check out the full list below.

1. Courtney Barnett: "Need a Little Time"

Australian singer/songwriter/guitarist Courtney Barnett is releasing a new album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, on May 18 via Mom + Pop/Marathon Artists/Milk! Records. Previously she shared its first single, "Nameless, Faceless," via a video for the song. (It was our #1 Song of the Week.) Last week she shared another song from the album, "Need a Little Time," via its video. It would've been our #1 if we'd done a Songs of the Week last week and it was strong enough to hold onto the title, despite this week's competition.

Danny Cohen directed the clip, which features Barnett being sent out to space, where she performs the song floating amongst the planets. What's curious, however, is that the people sending her to space look like aliens.

Cohen had this to say about the video in a press release: "'Need a Little Time' has this soaring, floating feeling to it. I decided to play on the meaning of the song, Courtney needs some time away from herself (and you). I didn't want to show Courtney leaving her friends/family/fans etc, it needed to be more metaphorical. Courtney floats through space and time, ends up in some isolated part of the universe. She finally has found some time alone, just Courtney and her guitar, singing in space without a care in the world."

Before Tell Me How You Really Feel's announcement Barnett shared a new video that teased her new album. The two-and-a-half minute video featured Barnett in a room filled with different instruments, which she picked up to perform snippets of new songs. At the end the album title appeared on the screen. After that mysterious billboards for the album started to appear in major cities around the world. Select indie record stores worldwide then unexpectedly received vinyl copies of "Nameless, Faceless."

A previous press release described the album as such: "In Tell Me How You Really Feel, Barnett has revealed an exhilarating and unexpected shift. From its title (A question? An order?) to the unsettling cover image - a blood-red tinted self-portrait in uncomfortably tight close up - Barnett sets a different tone. There's a new-found directness with this record, a muscularity to the instrumentation, a tenderness in her voice and a boldness to the lyrics. It speaks to Barnett entering a remarkable new phase of her musical evolution. She's saying more, with less. Whereas once she examined the world through the prism of self-analysis, Tell Me How You Really Feel shifts that focus to those she interacts with - the good ones, the bad ones, the loved ones. Those she knows intimately and those who are strangers."

Last year Barnett teamed up with American singer/songwriter/guitarist Kurt Vile for the collaborative album, Lotta Sea Lice, which came out in October via Matador. (It was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017.)

Read our 2017 interview with Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile on Lotta Sea Lice.

Barnett released her debut full-length album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, via Mom + Pop in 2015 and it landed at #6 on Under the Radar's Top 100 Albums of 2015 list.

Also read our joint interview between Barnett and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, from our Best of 2015 issue.

2. Gaz Coombes: "Walk the Walk"

Former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes is releasing a new solo album, World's Strongest Man, on May 4 via Hot Fruit/Caroline International. Previously he shared the album's first single, "Deep Pockets," as well as a video for the song. It was one of our Songs of the Week. This week he shared another song from the album, the string-backed "Walk the Walk" (which we predicted would be one of this week's Songs of the Week and here it is).

The album is the follow-up to 2015's Matador. A previous press release said World's Strongest Man was inspired by "Grayson Perry's autobiography The Descent of Man, Frank Ocean's Blonde, Californian weed, British woodlands, unchecked masculinity, Neu!, and hip hop (and a whole lot more besides)."

Read our recent 2017 Artist Survey interview with Gaz Coombes.

3. Let's Eat Grandma: "Falling Into Me"

This week British duo Let's Eat Grandma (Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth) announced a new album, I'm All Ears, and shared a new song from it, "Falling Into Me." I'm All Ears is due out June 29 via Transgressive.

I'm All Ears is the band's sophomore album and the follow-up to their 2016 debut, I, Gemini. The album features production from David Wrench (The xx, Frank Ocean, Caribou), SOPHIE, and The Horrors' frontman Faris Badwan. 

Walton had this to say about "Falling Into Me" in a press release: "It's about getting to know someone and getting over your fears about feeling insecure. It's about telling people how you feel."

Hollingworth added this about the song: "It's about communication. Some of the lyrics reference being in control as a woman in a romantic relationship, and being the one to initiate. So you're the person who tells them that you like them, you're taking the initiative. It's the importance of if you feel something, tell them. Because you don't know what's going to happen in life, you might as well just do it." 

4. Snail Mail: "Pristine"

Snail Mail (aka Lindsey Jordan) has been garnering growing attention since her 2016 EP Habit. The Baltimore musician has only recently graduated from high school, but this week she announced her debut album, Lush, and shared its first single, "Pristine." Lush is due out June 8 via Matador.

Lush was recorded with producer Jake Aron and engineer Johnny Schenke, and features touring bandmates drummer Ray Brown and bassist Alex Bass.

A press release describes the album as such: "Lush feels at times like an emotional rollercoaster, only fitting for Jordan's explosive, dynamic personality.... Lush sounds cinematic, yet still perfectly homemade."

5. Okkervil River: "Pulled Up the Ribbon"

Okkervil River (the project of Will Sheff and backing band) are releasing a new album, In the Rainbow Rain, on April 27 via ATO. Previously they shared the album's first single, "Don't Move Back to LA" (which was one of our Songs of the Week). This week they shared another song from the album, "Pulled Up the Ribbon," via a strange and cinematic video directed by Christopher Good. It features the band performing the song on a rock beach next to lapping ocean waves, sometimes playing a giant guitar as they are clad in clothes seemingly from the 1700s. A press release says the video "follows the band as they embark on a mystical journey that seems to transcend time."

Sheff had this to say about the song in a press release: "When I first started working on 'Pulled Up the Ribbon' I felt really excited about the melody and the chords in a way that made me nervous, because I felt pressure to write lyrics for it and nothing seemed quite right. I started with something quite dark and violent, and it felt like a good direction but I kept hitting creative dead ends. And then I realized there was something in the melody and phrasing that seemed like it was about destruction and doom but also something else that felt like it was about creation and birth. So I decided to try to write a kind of praise song for the force behind all of those things. The song started as a waltz ballad, briefly turned into a Motown-style number, and then we streamlined it and Will Graefe added that hook. I had heard some of the great vocal performances on our keyboardist Sarah's album with her project Lip Talk and knew I wanted her to sing on the song, and she elevated it further. And then, when I took the song to Shawn Everett to mix, he stripped out a lot of the padding from the track and made everything more aggressive and skeletal, with the drums and bass way up in the mix, the beauty amped up but also the spooky stuff. This was the only one of Shawn's mixes where there were no notes, no tweaking. He played me the track and I said 'whoa' and approved it and we moved on." 

Good had this to say about directing the video: "It's such a sweeping, rousing, almost elemental-sounding track. I immediately thought of the rock beach in Rockport, Massachusetts' Halibut Point State Park as an appropriately evocative backdrop and then from there just let my mind wander!" 

Sheff self-produced In the Rainbow Rain, which was mixed by Shawn Everett (Perfume Genius, The War on Drugs). The album is the follow-up to 2016's Away. Sheff's backing band for In the Rainbow Rain is Benjamin Lazar Davis (bass), Will Graefe (guitar), Sarah Pedinotti (keys), and Cully Symington (percussion)-Sheff's band on the Away tour. Sheff reflected on that tour in a previous press release: "It was my favorite touring experience in many years... I felt like a kid again. I realized how phenomenally lucky I am that I've been able to play music for this long."

Sheff began writing In the Rainbow Rain right after the 2016 Presidential election. "If December 2016 was good for anything, it was good for writing songs," he said in the previous press release. 

6. The Go! Team: "The Only Thing New is U Finding Out About It"

British sample-wizards The Go! Team just released a new album, Semicircle, a couple of months back in January via Memphis Industries, but this week they already shared a new single, the delightful mainly instrumental number "The Only Thing New is U Finding Out About It." This week the band also announced that they will perform on TruTV's The Chris Gethard Show on April 10.

The Go! Team's leader Ian Parton had this to say about the song in a press release: "'The Only Thing New is U Finding Out About It' is an expansion of an idea from a remix I did years ago. It builds around a looping Steve Reich-esque kalimba line, with a syncopated steel drum response jumping in the gaps, and by the end a full-on choir have joined in this weird math rock African/Asian hybrid thing. The title is inspired by a Mike Watt quote - and a sentiment I'm into: that it's up to you to go out and track down the good shit that's out there..."

Previously The Go! Team shared Semicircle's first single, "Semicircle Song," as well as "Mayday" and "All the Way Live," and a video for "Mayday."

Semicircle features two key members of the original live band lineup that toured the band's acclaimed debut album, 2004's Thunder, Lightning, Strike. Ian Parton is the main creative force behind the band, but brought back guitarist Sam Dook and rapper Ninja for Semicircle.

The band's last album was 2015's The Scene Between, which was essentially an Ian Parton solo project. A previous press release laid out the lineup for Semicircle: "Semicircle finds Parton collaborating with current live players Simone Odaranile (drums) and Angela 'Maki' Won-Yin Mak (vocals), as well as two original members, guitarist Sam Dook and rapper Ninja. Annelotte de Graaf (aka Amber Arcades), previous collaborator Julie Margat (aka Lispector), and a crew of unexpected musicians feature throughout." Semicircle also features the Detroit Youth Choir.

7. Hiss Golden Messenger: "Passing Clouds" and "Passing Clouds (Dub)"

This week Hiss Golden Messenger (the band led by M.C. Taylor) shared a new song, "Passing Clouds," with proceeds going to a gun control charity. The song, along with a dub remix, was released via Spacebomb Records, with all proceeds going to the charity Everytown for Gun Safety, the nonprofit looking to end gun violence. Listen to "Passing Clouds" below via Billboard (who premiered it), along with the dub remix.

Taylor recorded the song in Richmond, VA, on Feb. 7, which was a week before the tragic school shooting at Parkland, Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that resulted in 17 fatalities and reignited the gun control debate. Due to Parkland, Taylor decided to release the song for Everytown for Gun Safety. 

Taylor had this to say about the song in a press release: "I believe gun laws need to change. So I am now committed to performing whatever actions are within my power to push that stone forward. We've been told for so long that a change in gun laws is next to impossible. It is not. We've been told that the NRA, and the politicians whom they buy, are too powerful. They are not. The young people in Parkland, Florida, have proven that. I am on their side. I am on the side of peace, hope and love, on the side of grieving parents and spouses and co-workers in Parkland and Newtown, in Aurora and Las Vegas. As Sly Stone says, 'My only weapon is my pen.' But it's a mighty weapon indeed that works to bring light to dark places."

Bassist Cameron Ralston, who previously toured with Hiss Golden Messenger, co-produced the song and the remix with Spacebomb founder Matthew E. White. Ralston had this to say in the press release: "Not long after we had recorded 'Passing Clouds,' news spread of the tragic events at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Mike immediately reached out to me and said we should put this song out to raise money as charity for Everytown for Gun Safety. I'm not sure there was even a decision to be made on my end. Absolutely, YES. The harsh reality that an event like the Stoneman Douglas shooting presents to us as humans is a reality I am just not willing to accept. The threat of a mass shooting at a school is not something we can tolerate as 'part of our lives now.' What object holds more value than the gift of life?"

Spacebomb Records & Group CEO Ben Baldwin also had this to say: "At Spacebomb, we believe our children should be able to learn in safety. Our loved ones should be able to go to work and teach in safety. No one should have to face or fear gun violence. We are lucky enough to have worked in, spent time in, and lived in countries where less access to guns, not more guns, has been the answer. With sensible gun laws, that is possible in the U.S. too."

Hiss Golden Messenger's last album, Hallelujah Anyhow, came out last year via Merge, a label they are still signed to. The "Passing Clouds" 7-inch is available here.

8. King Tuff: "Thru the Cracks" (Feat. Jenny Lewis and Springtime Carnivore's Greta Morgan)

King Tuff (aka Kyle Thomas) is releasing a new album, The Other, on April 13 via Sub Pop. This week he shared another song from the album, "Thru the Cracks." It features the guest vocals of Jenny Lewis (although we wouldn't call it a full on duet). There's also backing vocals by Greta Morgan (Springtime Carnivore), and drums by Charles Moothart (Mikal Cronin, Ty Segall, Fuzz). 

Thomas had this to say about the album in a press release: "About two years ago I lost a good friend to suicide. He loved the Beatles, Nirvana, Burroughs, bumming smokes, stealing his parents' records and selling em to me... he was a complex character, a sweetheart with poor social skills, a musical genius with no outlet. He was pretty damn misunderstood in this world and struggled for a long, long time.

I had this song laying around for 7 years or so, but sadly it wasn't until he was gone that it came into focus and I realized what it was all about. It's one of my favorites I've ever written, and one of the truest. And it all comes back again to this thing, the Other. Maybe death is just a passageway to something else. Maybe in death we finally, once and for all, join the Other. I dunno, but I think Jeremiah is probably hanging out on the metaphysical stoop right now with none other than the Other itself.

Wherever you are bud, I'm singing to you"

9. Preoccupations: "Disarray"

Preoccupations released a new album, the amusingly titled New Material, today via Jagjaguwar. It was our Album of the Week. Previously they shared its first single, "Espionage," as well as a video for the pulsing "Antidote" (which was one of our Songs of the Week). This week, just before the album's release, they shared one more song from the album, "Disarray," via a video directed by Ruff Mercy. The sometimes disorientating video features lead vocalist/songwriter/bassist Matt Flegel as he sings the song at Saunton Sands in North Devon in the U.K. Sometimes his face is distorted by artwork and other squiggles, sometimes it is slightly separated from his head. Other times the image is a reflection in the water covered sand and it's unclear whether or not the image is upside down.

Flegel had this to say about the song in a press release: "When I was writing 'Disarray,' it started off with an image of a mother combing her daughter's hair that came into my mind, I liked the metaphor of splitting the braids and combing through the tangles, and wrote the rest of the lyrics around that image. This song sat untouched for close to 6 months as a recording with just bass and drums before we came back to it and wrote and recorded the guitar line while out of our minds one night in the early AM."

Mercy had this to say about directing the video: "For me the word 'Disarray' conjures up images of a mind unraveling in a chaotic way. I wanted to physically show that inner turmoil without having to have Matt or an actor run around with a painted face looking distressed so to cut up and distort and draw over Matt's image felt like an interesting way to show this."

The post-punk band were formerly known as Viet Cong, but released their first album as Preoccupations, also titled Preoccupations, in 2016 via Jagjaguwar. New Material is thus technically their third album. The band self-recorded the album, which was mixed by Justin Meldal-Johnson (M83, Wolf Alice).

Flegel had this to say about New Material in a previous press release: "It's an ode to depression. To depression and self-sabotage, and looking inward at yourself with extreme hatred." 

Read our 2016 interview with Preoccupations.

10. Iceage: "Take It All"

Denmark's Iceage are releasing a new album, Beyondless, on May 4 via Matador. They have previously shared two songs from it, "Catch It" (via a video, and it was one of our Songs of the Week) and "Pain Killer" (which features Sky Ferreira). This week they shared the album's third single, the dramatic string backed "Take It All," which features violin from Nils Gröndahl.

Iceage-Elias Bender Rønnenfelt (vocals, lyrics), Jakob Tvilling Pless (bass), Dan Kjær Nielsen (drums), and Johan Wieth (guitar)-produced the album with Nis Bysted. It was recorded all-analog by Mattias Glavå at Kungsten Studios in Göteborg, Sweden. The band's last album was 2014's Plowing Into the Field of Love. Rønnenfelt also released two albums with Marching Church, 2015's This World Is Not Enough and 2016's Telling It Like It Is.

11. Unknown Mortal Orchestra: "Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays"

New Zealand-born/Portland-based Unknown Mortal Orchestra (mainly the project of Ruban Nielson) are releasing a new album, Sex & Food, on April 6 via Jagjaguwar. Previously they shared its first single, "American Guilt" (as well as a video for the song), announced some tour dates for the spring, and shared another song from the album, "Not in Love We're Just High," via an animated video (it was one of our Songs of the Week). This week they shared another song from the album, "Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays."

As Stereogum reports, the song was shared in an interesting way. Fans who preordered Sex & Food were sent a black pamphlet titled "Age of Paranoia" that included a link to www.everyoneactscrazynowadays.com and late last night "Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays" premiered there.

Sex & Food is the follow-up to 2015's excellent Multi-Love. It was recorded in various cities, including Seoul, Hanoi, Reykjavik, Mexico City, and Auckland, as well as Nielson's home base studio in Portland.

Read our 2015 interview with Unknown Mortal Orchestra about Multi-Love.

12. Twin Shadow: "Brace (Feat. Rainsford)"

Twin Shadow (aka George Lewis Jr.) is releasing a new album, Caer, on April 27 via Warner Bros./Reprise. Previously he shared two songs from it, "Saturdays" (which features HAIM) and "Little Woman" (the latter shared via a video). Both made our Songs of the Week list. Last week he shared another song from the album, "Brace," which features Rainsford. It comes with a video that plays more like a lyric video, with Lewis in silhouette on a bed while the lyrics are projected behind him. It's the same setting as the "Little Woman" video. Musically "Brace" has a very '80s John Hughes soundtrack feel.

The album is Twin Shadow's fourth full-length album and the follow-up to 2015's Eclipse (and the free Night Rally mixtape from the same year). It's the first album since the 2015 tour bus accident that resulted in Lewis having hand surgery. Caer is pronounced ka-air and is the Spanish word for "to fall." Lewis considers this a sister album to his acclaimed 2010 debut album, Forget, as a previous press release added, "in that it's a record with hidden doorways and secret passages; more is revealed the more time you spend inside of it." 

Lewis had this to say about the album in the press release: "Sometimes I feel like I have to take a fall to essentially get to the next phase of my life. It's happened over and over. I've been through so many musical phases and through so many relationships with friends and lovers. I always feel like I'm standing on the edge of a cliff, looking down and thinking, 'This is the only way forward: onto the next thing.' It's sort of destructive, but I guess I thrive on rebirth."

The press release further described Caer and its themes: "The album serves as a powerful lens through which Lewis explores his own personal sense of falling, as well as what he has observed about a world that feels as if it's declining. On a larger scale, Caer feels extraordinarily current, given what's going on culturally and politically right now." 

As Lewis put it: "The patriarchy is falling apart. Our perceptions of who we are as human beings, because of technology and machines, are falling apart. We're living at a breaking point, and a lot of the themes on the album are talking about these fault lines."

Other notable new tracks this week and last week include:

77:78: "Love Said (Let's Go)"

Beck: "Up All Night (Oliver Remix)"

Björk: "Arisen My Senses (Lanark Artefax Remix)," "Arisen My Senses (Jlin Remix)," and "Arisen My Senses (Kelly Lee Owens Remix)"  

Leon Bridges: "Bad Bad News" and "Bet Ain't Worth the Hand"

Chance the Rapper: "All We Got (feat. Kanye West) (SBTRKT Remix)"

CHVRCHES: "XO" (Beyoncé Cover)

Control Top: "Type A"

Elvis Costello: "I'll Still Love You" (Based on the Writings of Johnny Cash)

Rivers Cuomo: "Medicine for Melancholy"

Django Django: "Surface to Air (feat. Self Esteem) (Body In The Thames Remix)," "Surface to Air (feat. Self Esteem) (Lunice Remix)," and "Surface to Air (feat. Self Esteem) (Nightwaves 6am Remix)"

DMA's: "For Now"

Eels: "Premonition"

Craig Finn & The Uptown Controllers: "Galveston"

Kississippi: "Easier to Love"

Ray LaMontagne: "Such a Simple Thing"

The Magic Numbers: "Sweet Divide"

Matt and Kim: "Happy If You're Happy"

Mount Kimbie: "Blue Train Lines (Nina Kraviz Main Mix)"

Kacey Musgraves: "High Horse"

Pearl Jam: "Can't Deny Me"

Tess Roby: "Catalyst"

Say Sue Me: "Where We Were Together"

The Sea and Cake: "These Falling Arms"

Speedy Ortiz: "Lean In When I Suffer"

Sunflower Bean: "Human For"

Superorganism: "Havana" (Camila Cabello Cover)

Alexis Taylor: "Oh Baby"

Vive la Void: "Red Rider"

The Voidz: "ALieNNatioN"

WAVVES: "Onie" (The Electric Prunes Cover)

Jack White: "Ice Station Zebra"

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