12 Best Songs of the Week: Jesse Kivel, Doves, Django Django, Janelle Monáe, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Wednesday, October 21st, 2020  

12 Best Songs of the Week: Jesse Kivel, Doves, Django Django, Janelle Monáe, and More

Plus Everything Everything, Seamus Fogarty, This Is the Kit, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Sep 11, 2020
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Welcome to the 36th Songs of the Week of 2020. This week’s list is a supersized one, with 12 instead of 10 songs (and last week we only had eight), which is surprising considering Monday was the Labor Day holiday here in America, meaning few new songs were shared that day. 

It was a chaotic week in current events. Rage, a new book by iconic journalist Bob Woodward, revealed that President Trump realized how dangerous COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic was but still lied to the American people, downplaying it. And Trump can’t claim fake news this time, as Woodward has Trump on tape in an interview he agreed to give. Meanwhile, historic forest fires raged on the West Coast, creating apocalyptic vistas and once again proving that climate change is real and is affecting us now. Millions of American children went back to school this week, which for most meant staring at a computer screen from home for hours on end.

This week we were also saddened by the death, at age 82, of British actress Diana Rigg. She’s best known as the trailblazing 1960s action hero in The Avengers (the spy TV series, not the Marvel thing) and also for playing Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo, one of the very best Bond girls, in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. She was also in The Great Muppet Caper and more recently in Game of Thrones and an episode of Doctor Who with her daughter, Rachael Stirling (who is incidentally married to Elbow’s Guy Garvey). Rigg and Emma Peel inspired a generation of girls to be anything they wanted to be, despite the societal constraints on their gender.

Remember that last week we announced our long-awaited new print issue, with Phoebe Bridgers and Moses Sumney on the two covers. Find all the info here and buy a copy directly from us here.

This week on our website we also posted interviews with Widowspeak and Doves, as well as a My Favorite Album interview with Hatchie.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by The Flaming Lips, Liela Moss, Josiah Johnson. Hamilton Leithauser (a live album), The Rentals, The Charlatans (a reissue), and Girls In Synthesis. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows). 

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. Jesse Kivel: “William”

This week Jesse Kivel of Los Angeles duo Kisses announced his debut solo album, ‘Infinite Jess’, and shared its first single, “William.” ‘Infinite Jess’ is due out November 13 on his own New Feelings label. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Joey Genetti produced the album, which also features Sam Wilkes, Jeff Brodsky, and Michael David. The album ends with a cover of Don McLean’s “Vincent.” “William” has a bit of a relaxed War on Drugs meets Westerman vibe.

Kisses also features Kivel’s wife Zinzi Edmundson. Their last album was 2015’s Rest in Paradise.

Read our 2010 interview with Kisses.

2. Doves: “The Universal Want”

Manchester-based trio Doves released their long-awaited fifth album, The Universal Want, today on Imperial. The Universal Want is the band’s first album in 11 years and you can stream the whole thing here. Even though all three of its pre-release singles made our Songs of the Week lists, there are plenty of album tracks we loved too. We settled on the title track, “The Universal Want,” which goes in a surprising dance direction at the end (similar to Doves’ previous incarnation Sub Sub or the Australian dance-rock band Jagwar Ma). We also considered “For Tomorrow,” which makes our honorable mentions list below. 

Also, yesterday we posted our review of the album and our interview with the band’s Jimi Goodwin.

In June the band shared the album’s first single, “Carousels,” which was their first new song in 11 years. “Carousels” made it to #1 on our Songs of the Week list. When the album was announced they shared its second single, “Prisoners,” via a music video for it.  “Prisoners” was #2 on our Songs of the Week list. Then they shared a remix of “Carousels” done by The Comet Is Coming, the London based Nu Jazz trio. Then Doves shared the sheet music and lyrics from the album’s closing track, “Forest House,” with the intention that fans and other musicians alike would try and play the song and then post it online using #doveleaks. The band shared one final pre-release single, Cathedrals of the Mind,” via a trippy video for it. “Cathedrals of the Mind” was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then on release day they shared a video for the album’s “Broken Eyes.”

Doves’ last album was 2009’s Kingdom of Rust. The band went on an “indefinite pause” in 2010, but announced their reunion in 2018 and played their first reunion show in March 2019, to benefit Teenage Cancer Trust. Other live shows followed, along with promises of new music.

Of the album as a whole, the band’s Jez Williams had this to say: “It’s definitely got the stamp of ‘the time’ all over it. Everything on the album is an echo. It’s an echo of what we were going through at the time. Getting back together, the Royal Albert Hall and everything else.”

The album’s artwork is by London-based, Finnish photographer, Maria Lax. Goodwin was taken by her 2020 photobook, Some Kind of Heavenly Fire, and gifted a copy to each of his bandmates. The press release says the book “set evocative images alongside memorabilia relating to a moment in time when hardship, industrialization and UFO sightings disturbed the peace of her isolated hometown in Northern Finland.

Doves have released four albums: 2000’s Lost Souls, 2002’s The Last Broadcast, 2005’s Some Cities, and 2009’s Kingdom of Rust. Since their hiatus, frontman Jimi Goodwin released a solo album, Odludek, in 2014. That same year, Doves’ other two members, brothers Jez and Andy Williams, formed the new band Black Rivers (they released their debut album in 2015).

3. Django Django: “Spirals”

Django Django are back with a new song, “Spirals,” shared on Thursday via a kaleidoscopic video. It’s the band’s first new song in almost two years, since 2018’s Winter’s Beach EP and their third album, Marble Skies, also released in 2018 via Ribbon Music. “Spirals” is at first like an amusement park ride starting up, getting faster and faster, before the vocals come in and it gets into a more stable groove. Maxim Kelly directed the video, which features repeated images of frontman Vincent Neff spiraling as if in a DNA strand. It’s a welcome return from the endlessly creative British art rockers.

Kelly had this to say about the video in a press release: “The approach behind ‘Spirals’ by Django Django was to translate the psychedelic trip through The Victorian technique of the phénakisticope. The visual illusion generated by spinning the disks at the correct speed coupled with the shutter of a camera is both confusing and hypnotic. I was drawn to how the animations flow in and out, drifting and duping the mind and then back again. This felt a lot like the psychedelic experience tome. The challenge was to fuse the old with the modern. The analogue and the digital. Updating and modernizing the technique.”

A press release says “Spirals” is “an utterly compelling glimpse at what’s to come” and that it was written for an upcoming live set, but there’s no mention of a new album. The press release further describes the song: “Beginning with elegant circling synths that grow into a never-more-relevant anthem to hope, it uses the image of DNA to muse on how the connections we have as humans are stronger than the divisions.”

Django Django also features producer/drummer David Maclean, bassist Jimmy Dixon, and synthesizer operator Tommy Grace.

Read our 2018 interview with Django Django on Marble Skies.

4. Janelle Monáe: “Turntables”

Janelle Monáe seems to have been focused on her successful acting career of late, but this week she shared a brand new song, “Turntables.” It was written for and features in All In: The Fight For Democracy, which is a new Amazon Studios documentary about voter suppression.

Monáe wrote the song with Nathaniel Irvin III and George A. Peters, and it features production by Nate “Rocket” Wonder and Roman GianArthur. The song is out now via Wondaland Arts Society/Bad Boy Records/Atlantic.

All In: The Fight For Democracy was directed by Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Liz Garbus and Oscar-nominated and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Lisa Cortés, and produced by Garbus, Cortés, Academy Award-winning producer Dan Cogan, and Stacey Abrams. According to a press release the film “examines the often overlooked, yet insidious issue of voter suppression in the United States in anticipation of the 2020 Presidential Election” and “interweaves personal experiences with current activism and historical insight to expose a problem that has corrupted our democracy from the very beginning. With the perspective and expertise of Stacey Abrams, the former Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives and founder of voter suppression advocacy group Fair Fight Action, All In: The Fight for Democracy will offer an insider’s look into laws and barriers to voting that most people don’t even know is a threat to their basic rights as citizens of the United States.”

This is the first new song since Monáe’s last album, 2018’s Dirty Computer. In terms of her acting, her current film is Antebellum, which will be available on demand at home starting September 18.

5. Everything Everything: “Big Climb” 

British art-rockers Everything Everything released a new album, Re-Animator, today via Infinity Industries/AWAL (stream it here). Today they also shared a video for “Big Climb,” a song not shared prior to the album’s release.

Everything Everything self-directed the “Big Climb” video, which features the band in suits performing in an office and pokes fun at corporate culture, while also making some political statements about the damage climate change has already done.

The band collectively had this to say about the video in a press release: “We started to notice a lot of online dejection at the state of the world that young people stand to inherit. It was nihilistic, but perfectly understandable and basically rational. They are inheriting a rapidly warming planet with few jobs and little affordable housing, created by previous generations who seem utterly unapologetic. The attitude is ‘We fucked it, now it’s your problem so you fix it.’ It’s shameful that we’re relying on 15 year olds to lead the way. We wanted to satirize all of that.”

We recently posted our podcast interview with Everything Everything on Re-Animator and you can listen to that here.

Also read our recent COVID-19 Quarantine Check-In interview with Everything Everything’s Jonathan Higgs.

In April the band shared the album’s “In Birdsong,” via a video for the track that was one of our Songs of the Week. Then when the album was announced they shared “Arch Enemy,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared a strange video for “Arch Enemy.” Then they shared another new song from the album, “Planets,” via a video. “Planets” was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then in July they shared another song from the album, “Violent Sun,” via a video for the track directed by the band’s frontman Jonathan Higgs. “Violent Sun” also made our Songs of the Week list.

6. Seamus Fogarty: “Johnny K” 

This week Irish singer/songwriter Seamus Fogarty announced a new album, A Bag of Eyes, and shared its first single, “Johnny K,” via a video for it. A Bag of Eyes is due out November 6 via Domino. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

A Bag of Eyes is the follow-up to 2017’s The Curious Hand and was recorded across London, Kent, and East Sussex, England. It features Fogarty’s partner Emma Smith, alongside Meilyr Jones, Leo Abrahams, Aram Zarikian, and John Fogarty.

“It was about creating and exploring new sound worlds,” Seamus Fogarty says in a press release, “experimenting with new ways of incorporating electronics into the songwriting process, and in some cases dispensing with conventional songwriting processes altogether.”

Jack Barraclough directed the video for “Johnny K” and had this to say: “The idea for Johnny K was inspired by a picture of David Cameron relaxing in his £25,000 garden shed. Seamus was looking to steer away from a video set in an Irish pub, and how much further from an Irish folk singer can you get than an English aristocrat? So, Johnny K became Jonathan Kingsley and the rest is history! At first, what you see in the video isn't really matching up with the lyrics, but as Jonathan Kingsley's world gets turned upside down, the themes of the song and lyrics start to make a lot more sense with the visuals.”

7. This Is the Kit: “Coming to Get You Nowhere” 

This Is the Kit, the project led by British-born singer/songwriter Kate Stables, is releasing a new album, Off Off On, on October 23 via Rough Trade. On Thursday she shared another song from the album, “Coming to Get You Nowhere,” via a video for the track that features Stables helping to get a car unstuck on a country lane.

Stables had this to say in a press release: “We made the video from footage of our friend's car getting stuck when they came to visit us during our rehearsal time just before we went into the studio to make Off Off On. It felt like a car getting stuck and people having to work together and ask for help to get it unstuck was a fitting story to accompany this song, which is itself about getting stuck and the ways we can help or hinder ourselves when it comes to getting out of unhealthy patterns. Making this video has been really nice for me during this time of not being able to get together with the rest of the band. I miss them and the time we spent together making Off Off On so it's been great to hang out with them in video form. Not as good as the real thing of course but comforting none the less.”

Previously This Is the Kit shared the album’s first single, “This is What You Did,” via a video for the track. “This is What You Did” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Off Off On is the follow-up to 2017’s breakthrough record, Moonshine Freeze, which was their first album for Rough Trade. Josh Kaufman of Bonny Light Horseman and Muzz produced the album. Stables’ band in the studio included Rozi Plain (bass/vocals), Neil Smith (guitar), Jesse D Vernon (guitar, keyboards), and Jamie Whitby-Coles (drum/vox). The album was recorded at Real World Studios in the UK and finished just before the pandemic. Since Moonshine Freeze Staples has also been performing with The National and sang guest vocals on their 2019 album I Am Easy to Find.

Read our 2017 interview with This Is the Kit.

8. Gorillaz: “Strange Timez” (Feat. Robert Smith) 

On Wednesday Damon Albarn’s virtual band Gorillaz shared a new song, “Strange Timez,” via a video for it. The song and video features Robert Smith of The Cure. It’s episode six of their Song Machine video series. Gorillaz also announced that all the songs from season one of Song Machine will be collected in a new album, Song Machine: Season One - Strange Timez, which is due out on October 23. The album will also feature St. Vincent, Beck, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, JPEGMAFIA, Elton John, CHAI, and others. Check out the collection’s tracklist and list of guests here.

The album will be presented via a standard, 11-song version on CD, 12-inch vinyl, and digital. There is also a deluxe version that features 17 songs, a hardback art book, three art prints, a CD, digital download, and two vinyl records. Then there’s the “Limited Edition Super Deluxe Edition” that includes 17 songs, the hardback art book, two 12-inch vinyl records, 11 7-inch vinyl records, 11 art prints, a CD, a “crankshaft music box, and a digital download. There will also be mixtape cassettes, each selecting 11-12 songs from the deluxe edition. Gorillaz are also releasing a 210-page annual entitled Almanac.

The band will also be doing three different livestream concerts on December 12 and 13 via LIVENow, timed to different time zones.

Previously Gorillaz shared episode one of Song Machine, which showcased a video for the new song “Momentary Bliss” that featurds slowthai and Slaves. “Momentary Bliss” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared episode two of Song Machine, which was the new song “Désolé,” that featured Malian musician Fatoumata Diawara, via a video for the track. “Désolé” was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared a new song, “Aries,” that featured Peter Hook (Peter Hook and the Light, Joy Division, New Order) and Georgia, via a video for the track. “Aries” was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then Gorillaz shared another new song, “How Far?,” that featured Afrobeat legend Tony Allen. It was shared only days after Allen’s death. Episode four of Song Machine was “Friday 13th,” a new song that featured French-British rapper and singer Octavian. Episode five was “PAC-MAN,” which featured Schoolboy Q and was shared via a video.

9.  New Order: “Be a Rebel” 

On Tuesday New Order shared a new song, “Be a Rebel.” This week they were supposed to be embarking on a joint tour with fellow electro-pop icons of the 1980s, Pet Shop Boys, but alas those dates were postponed due to COVID-19. Rescheduled 2021 tour dates have now been announced. Check out the tour dates here.

“In tough times we wanted to reach out with a new song,” says frontman Bernard Sumner in a press release. “We can’t play live for a while, but music is still something we can all share together. We hope you enjoy it… until we meet again.” 

“Be a Rebel” will be released on 12-inch vinyl and CD via a Mute in the future, with accompanying remixes. Warren Jackson did the artwork for the single.

Also, on October 2 via Warner Music, New Order will release a new box set version of their 1983 album Power, Corruption & Lies. It will include four 12-inch singles from the era not on the album: “Blue Monday” (which is apparently the biggest 12-inch single of all time), “Confusion,” “Thieves Like Us,” and “Murder.”

New Order’s last studio album was 2015’s Music Complete. Music Complete was the band’s first studio album in a decade, their first for their new label Mute, and the first not to feature founding member Peter Hook (but it saw the return of founding member Gillian Gilbert). The band’s current lineup features Sumner, Gilbert, Stephen Morris, Tom Chapman, and Phil Cunningham.

Also read our 2015 interview with New Order’s Bernard Sumner about Music Complete, as well as our review of the album.

10. Matt Berninger: “One More Second” 

Matt Berninger of The National is releasing his debut solo album, Serpentine Prison, on October 16 via Book, Berninger’s new imprint with Concord. On Thursday he shared another song from it, One More Second,” via a lyric video for it.

Berninger had this to say about the song in a press release: “I wrote ‘One More Second’ with Matt Sheehy (Lost Lander, EL VY) with the intention for it to be a kind of answer to Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Always Love You,’ or sort of the other side of that conversation. I just wanted to write one of those classic, simple, desperate love songs that sound great in your car.”

Previously Berninger shared the album’s title track, “Serpentine Prison,” via a video for it. “Serpentine Prison” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then he shared another song from it, “Distant Axis,” via a video for it.

Booker T. Jones produced Serpentine Prison, with additional production by Sean O’Brien. The album features an array of special guest players, including: Matt Barrick (The Walkmen, Jonathan Fire*Eater, Muzz), Andrew Bird, Mike Brewer, Hayden Desser, Scott Devendorf (The National), Gail Ann Dorsey (David Bowie, Lenny Kravitz), Booker T. Jones, Teddy Jones, Brent Knopf (EL VY, Menomena), Ben Lanz (The National, Beirut), Walter Martin (The Walkmen, Jonathan Fire*Eater), Sean O'Brien, Mickey Raphael (Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan), Kyle Resnick (The National, Beirut), Matt Sheehy (EL VY, Lost Lander), and Harrison Whitford (Phoebe Bridgers).

11. Helena Deland: “Truth Nugget” 

Montréal’s Helena Deland is releasing her debut full-length album, Someone New, on October 16 via Luminelle Recordings. This week she shared another song from it, atmospheric slow-burner “Truth Nugget.”

“‘Truth Nugget’ is about the distance that exists even between the closest people and how friendship involves nurturing the other's solitude,” says Deland in a press release. “It also touches upon how I experience my guardedness as being part of how I perform my gender.”

The song was shared via a visualizer directed by Félix Marquis-Poulin that features a fountain. “The fountain in a forest at night is what came to mind based on the sounds of the song,” says Deland, “but metaphorically it stands as something beautiful, private feeling and reassuring that you stumble upon unexpectedly, familiar but exciting, the way friendship can be.”

In July Deland shared the album’s “Lylz.” Then when the album was announced in August she shared the album’s title track, “Someone New,” via a video that showed Deland posing for the portrait painting which graces the album’s cover.

Deland has previously released a series of well received EPs and singles—including 2018’s two interconnected EPs, collectively titled From The Series of Songs “Altogether Unaccompanied” Vol. III & Vol. IV.

Read our 2018 The End interview with Helena Deland about endings and death.

12. beabadoobee: “Worth It”

Twenty-year-old Filipino-born, London-raised singer/songwriter/guitarist beabadoobee is releasing her debut album, Fake It Flowers, on October 16 via Dirty Hit. This week she shared another song from it, “Worth It.” As with many of her songs, it puts a modern spin on ’90s alternative rock.

In a press release beabadoobee (real name Beatrice Laus and also known as Bea Kristi) says “Worth It” is “simply about teenage infidelity and the mistakes one can make when they’re tempted to do things. It’s a bit of a confession song but also an understanding that it’s a part of life.”

Previously beabadoobee shared two singles from Fake It Flowers: “Sorry” and “Care.”

 

Honorable Mentions:

These five songs almost made the Top 10.

Blue Hawaii: “Not My Boss” 

 

Doves: “For Tomorrow”

Eartheater: “Volcano” 

PAN · Eartheater - Volcano (PAN 112)

Bob Mould: “Siberian Butterfly” 

Sylvan Esso: “Frequency”

Other notable new tracks in the last week include: 

A Certain Ratio: “Berlin” 

Aesop Rock: “The Gates”

Annie: “The Streets Where I Belong”

 

Bedouine, Hurray For The Riff Raff, and Waxahatchee: “Thirteen” (Big Star Cover) 

James Blake: “Godspeed” (Frank Ocean Cover)

 

Elvis Costello: “Hey Clockface / How Can You Face Me Now?”

Disturbed: “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You” (Sting Cover) 

The Flaming Lips: “God and the Policeman” (Feat. Kacey Musgraves)

Good Sad Happy Bad: “Shades”

mxmtoon: “ok on your own” (Feat. Carly Rae Jepsen)

NOTHING: “Say Less”

Amanda Palmer and Rhiannon Giddens: “It’s a Fire” (Portishead Cover)

Tom Petty: “Confusion Wheel”

Shame: “Alphabet”

Slow Pulp: “At It Again”

Bruce Springsteen: “Letter to You”

The Staves: “Trying”

Susanna: “The Vampire”

TOBACCO: “Jinmenken”

War On Women: “Wonderful Hell”

Miranda Winters: “Little Baby Dead Bird”

Yellow Days: “The Curse” (Feat. Mac DeMarco)

Yumi Zouma: “My Palms Are Your Reference to Hold to Your Heart (Alternate Version)”

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