12 Best Songs of the Week: Phoebe Bridgers, Jessie Ware, Jess Williamson, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, May 30th, 2020  

12 Best Songs of the Week: Phoebe Bridgers, Jessie Ware, Jess Williamson, and More

Plus Real Estate, Perfume Genius, Christine and the Queens, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Feb 28, 2020
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Welcome to the eighth Songs of the Week of 2020. It was busy week of new album announcements and surprise EPs. That led to another super-sized edition.

This week we posted interviews with Greg Dulli, Humanist, and Real Estate, as well as a Self-Portrait interview with Lanterns on the Lake and a Keeping Score interview with Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Shopping, Black Lips, Peggy Sue, Caribou, and Soccer Mommy. 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 Sudan Archives.

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. Phoebe Bridgers: "Garden Song"

On Wednesday Phoebe Bridgers shared a brand new track, "Garden Song," via a video for it. Bridgers' brother Jackson Bridgers directed the video, which features Phoebe in her pajamas in a pot smoke filled bedroom in which she is joined by people (including comedian Tig Notaro) in weird costumes and masks. As we've come to expect from Bridgers, "Garden Song" is built on evocative and poetic lyrics, this time about childhood, a recurring dream about a movie screen turning into a tidal wave and getting lost in a hedge maze, a skinhead neighbor that goes missing, hometowns, operations, and more, all carried by her sublime vocals. The song is out now via Dead Oceans. Check out Bridgers' upcoming tour dates and the single's cover art here.

Bridgers released her debut album, Stranger in the Alps, back in September 2017 via Dead Oceans. For "Garden Song" she reteamed with that album's producers/collaborators Tony Berg and Ethan Gruska. The song was recorded at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California. There's no word on a new album or EP from Bridgers, right now it's just a standalone single.

A press release says that for the "Garden Song" video Bridgers "asked her younger brother Jackson to film her smoking a bong and to then 'surprise' her with what happens next. For a non-smoker, the effect was particularly strong and the resulting video captures Bridgers being weirded out by various furry monsters and - at one point - the comedian/author Tig Notaro in a monk's costume." 

Bridgers has been plenty busy since the release of Stranger in the Alps.

In 2018 she teamed up with fellow singer/songwriters Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus to form supergroup boygenius, whose self-titled debut EP was released in October 2018 via Matador.

In 2019 she teamed up with Conor Oberst for the side-project Better Oblivion Community Center, who released their self-titled debut album last year via Dead Oceans.

Oberst and Bridgers also just appeared in a video for Conan O'Brien's TBS show Conan, which has launched a new fake behind the scenes web series, Meet the Conan Staff. In one episode Oberst and Bridgers play production assistants on the show. Oberst can't help but break into song during the staff meetings, much to the annoyance of O'Brien and his other employees, especially as his songs are usually quite depressing. Bridgers, meanwhile, is very well liked.

Last December Bridgers shared the new Christmas track, "7 O'Clock News/Silent Night," which featured Fiona Apple and Matt Berninger (of The National). Last October Bridgers and Berninger also teamed up for the new song, "Walking On a String," which they performed in Netflix's Between Two Ferns: The Movie. Then they shared a studio version of the song via a black & white video featuring them recording it, making "Walking On a String" one of our Songs of the Week.

Read our 2017 exclusive interview with Phoebe Bridgers and check out our photo-shoot with her.

Read our 2019 cover story interview with boygenius.

2. Jessie Ware: "Spotlight"

Today Jessie Ware announced a new album, What's Your Pleasure?, and shared a new song from it, "Spotlight," via a video for the track. What's Your Pleasure? is due out June 5 via PMR/Friends Keep Secrets/Interscope. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art (and the single cover art for "Spotlight") here.

What's Your Pleasure? is Ware's fourth album and the follow-up to 2017's Glasshouse. The album features an array of collaborators, including Kindness, Danny Parker, Shungudzo Kuyimba, Clarence Coffee Jr., Benji B, Midland, Morgan Geist (Storm Queen), Matthew Tavares, Metronomy's Joseph Mount, and James Ford (who was the primary collaborator on the album). "Spotlight" was co-written by Ware with Danny Parker, Shungudzo Kuyimba, and James Ford and was produced and mixed by Ford.

The album includes two songs Ware shared last year. "Adore You," which was produced by Metronomy's Joseph Mount and mixed by James Ford (who's also in Simian Mobile Disco), came out in February 2019. "Mirage (Don't Stop)," which was produced and co-written by Benji B and Matthew Tavares (and featured additional production by James Ford and was co-written by Clarence 'Coffee' Jr.), came out in November 2019 and was one of our Songs of the Week. In October 2018 she also shared "Overtime," another new song that was one of our Songs of the Week, but it doesn't appear on the tracklist to the new album. 

Jovan Todorovic directed the "Spotlight" video, which was filmed in Belgrade aboard former Yugoslavian dictator Tito's Blue Train.

Ware had this to say about What's Your Pleasure? in a press release: "It feels so amazing to be back making music, so much has happened recently. Some crazy exciting things but I feel so happy to be back to my first love. Music was the first scene that truly embraced me!!

"I feel like these last few years I've had to do some exploration to figure out what I wanted to write about musically again and learn new things about myself. I've been yearning for that escapism, groove and maybe it's time to say goodbye to the melancholy Jessie.

"I've spent the last year in the studio with an old friend of mine James Ford, working with a handful of great friends to create a record I'm truly proud of. I'm happy to share with you my brand new single 'Spotlight' taken from my fourth album. It's melodramatic, it's romantic, it's everything that I love and it's got a bit of a beat. This is the first taste of my brand new album What's Your Pleasure? which will be out 5th June.

"I can't wait to get back on the road and see you all...It's been far too long but for now let's have some fun and hope you enjoy the music! x"

Read our 2017 Self-Portrait interview with Jessie Ware.

3. Jess Williamson: "Wind on Tin"

On Wednesday Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Jess Williamson announced a new album, Sorceress, and shared its first single, "Wind on Tin," via a video for the track (which would appeal to Weyes Blood fans). She has also announced some tour dates. Sorceress is due out May 15 via Mexican Summer. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as Williamson's upcoming tour dates, here.

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. Williamson and Eli Welbourne directed the "Wind on Tin" video, which was filmed in Los Angeles.

A press release sets up "Wind on Tin" this way: "In the song, the narrator travels to a remote desert town to attend the memorial service for a friend who passed away. She thinks she hears the voice of God, and she's either tuned in, crazy, or both." 

Williamson had this to say about the song in the press release: "Grief has a way of making the veil between worlds very thin. Prior to the memorial service, I was sitting on a porch passing around a guitar and drinking beers with a few very dear people in my life who I look up to greatly and who were very close to the person who had passed. We heard an unexplainable sound in the wind that made us all pause. Like a flute, but more angelic. It kept going. We tried, unsuccessfully, to record it. The sound was indescribably beautiful and heavenly. 'Were the angels singing just for us, or is that what the wind out here does on tin?' Regardless of the answer, I know that for that brief moment we were lucky initiates into the mystery realm, and I'm deeply grateful."

4. Real Estate: "Friday"

Real Estate released a new album, The Main Thing, today via Domino (stream it here). Now that the album is out, we get to include our favorite track from it, album opener "Friday." It perhaps should've been released as a pre-release single from the album, but then again the band only released two singles from The Main Thing prior to the album's release, with one of those only coming earlier this week. "Friday" gets into a bit of a cool groove and signals that The Main Thing might be a different kind of album from Real Estate. Although the following 12 tracks aren't too far removed from the relaxed Real Estate blueprint we're accustomed to. 

Today we posted our new interview with Real Estate's Martin Courtney on the album and you can read that here.

Previously Real Estate shared The Main Thing's first single, "Paper Cup," which featured Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso, via a video for the track. "Paper Cup" was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared another song from the album, title track "The Main Thing."

Real Estate's current lineup is Martin Courtney, Alex Bleeker, Jackson Pollis, Matthew Kallman, and Julian Lynch. Their last album was 2017's In Mind, also on Domino. Kevin McMahon, who worked on the band's 2011 album Days, produced The Main Thing, which was recorded over the course of a year at Upstate New York's Marcata Sound studio.

5. Perfume Genius: "Describe"

On Tuesday Perfume Genius (aka Mike Hadreas) announced a new album, Set My Heart On Fire Immediately, and shared its first single, "Describe," via a self-directed video for the track. Set My Heart On Fire Immediately is due out May 15 via Matador. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as Perfume Genius' upcoming tour dates opening for Tame Impala, here.

Set My Heart On Fire Immediately is Perfume Genius' fifth studio album, the follow-up to 2017's No Shape (also on Matador). Although last year Hadreas did the music for the immersive dance project The Sun Still Burns Here.

Set My Heart On Fire Immediately finds Hadreas re-teaming with producer Blake Mills. It was recorded in Los Angeles, where Hadreas currently lives with longtime partner and musical collaborator Alan Wyffels. The album also features musicians Jim Keltner, Pino Palladino, Matt Chamberlin, and Rob Moose.

According to a press release, on Set My Heart On Fire Immediately Hadreas "plays with themes of love, sex, memory and the body, channeling popular music mythologies while irreverently authoring its own."

Hadreas explains further in the press release: "I wanted to feel more open, more free and spiritually wild, and I'm in a place now where those feelings are very close - but it can border on being unhinged. I wrote these songs as a way to be more patient, more considered - to pull at all these chaotic threads hovering around me and weave them in to something warm, thoughtful and comforting."

For The Sun Still Burns Here Hadreas collaborated with Seattle-based choreographer Kate Wallich and her dance company The YC. Hadreas says that working with them also inspired Set My Heart On Fire Immediately.

"I had been working with them for a year and a half," he explains. "With lots of rehearsals, lots of performances, lots of relationships and energies, and I was feeling connected to my body. I was feeling connected to all their bodies. And having boundaries be blurred and having rules be gone and having all this play within nonsense and absurdity - in tandem with a real connection and truly valuable work."

The "Describe" video features The YC dance company. Hadreas says the video envisions "an end of the world where there are no boundaries, there are no edges, no rules, or the rules are completely new with how you interact with each other and the space around you."  

Of the single, Hadreas also says: "It started as a really somber ballad. It was very minimal and very slow. And then it turned into this beast of a song. I started writing about when you are in such a dark place that you don't even remember what goodness is or what anything feels like. And so, the idea was having someone describe that to you, because you forgot or can't get to it."

Read our 2017 interview with Perfume Genius on No Shape.

6. Christine and the Queens: "La vita nuova" (Feat. Caroline Polachek)

On Thursday Christine and the Queens (aka Héloïse Letissier) surprise released a new EP, La vita nuova, and an accompanying short film of the same name. The EP features six new tracks, including her recent single "People, I've been sad," and is out now via Because Music. The title track features guest vocals from Caroline Polachek, who also appears in the film (in which Letissier turns into a vampire and bites Polachek on the neck), and is the highlight of the EP beyond "People I've been sad."

Colin Solal Cardo directed the film, which features choreography by Ryan Heffington. A press release further describes the film as such: "The 14 minute film is an inward journey that sees the artist invest Opéra Garnier, the world famous Paris opera house, filling it with stories of ghosts and mythical creatures."

"People, I've been sad" was one of our Songs of the Week. Letissier also did a live performance video of the song for the YouTube channel COLORS.

Christine and the Queens released her sophomore album, Chris, back in September 2018 via Because Music. Read our 2018 interview with Christine and the Queens on Chris.

7. Soccer Mommy: "bloodstream"

Soccer Mommy (the project of Nashville native Sophie Allison) released a new album, color theory, today via Loma Vista (stream it here). On Monday she shared one last pre-release song from the album, album opener "bloodstream," via a Bella Clark-directed animated video.

Today we posted our review of color theory and you can read that here.

Color theory is the follow-up to Allison's debut full-length album, Clean, released in 2018 via Fat Possum. It was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2018. Gabe Wax produced the album (he also produced Clean), which was written on tour and recorded in Nashville at Alex The Great. Lars Stalfors mixed the album, which features the live Soccer Mommy band on studio recordings for the first time.

The album titles and song titles are all intended to be written in lowercase. Color theory also features two songs Soccer Mommy shared in 2019. In November she shared a seven-minute long "yellow is the color of her eyes," via a video for the track directed by Alex Ross Perry (Her Smell). It was one of our Songs of the Week. "Yellow is the color of her eyes" featured Mary Lattimore on harp and followed "lucy," another new song Soccer Mommy shared in September that was also one of our Songs of the Week

When the album was announced in January, Soccer Mommy shared a new single from it, "circle the drain," via a Atiba Jefferson-directed for the song. "Circle the drain" was one of our Songs of the Week

Then Soccer Mommy stopped by Jimmy Kimmel Live! to make her TV debut performing two singles from the album: "circle the drain" on the broadcast show and "lucy" as a web-exclusive.

8. Car Seat Headrest: "Cool Me Down"

On Wednesday Car Seat Headrest (aka Will Toledo and band) announced a new album, Making a Door Less Open, and shared its first single, "Cool Me Down." The band have also announced some new tour dates. Making a Door Less Open is due out May 1 via Matador. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates, here.

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.

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.

Toledo issued a long statement about the album and you can read that here.

9. Gorillaz: "Désolé" (Feat. Fatoumata Diawara)

On Thursday Damon Albarn's virtual band Gorillaz shared a new song, "Désolé," that features Malian musician Fatoumata Diawara, via a video for the track. It's the second episode of their Song Machine video series. Gorillaz's Jamie Hewlett directed the video, which features Albarn and Diawara on a boat on Lake Como in Italy.

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.

Gorillaz's virtual drummer Russel had this to say about the song in a press release: "Making 'Désolé' with Fatou was a real moment for me, you know. She's an African Queen. This lady made the song what it is, beautiful, like life. What can I say about 'Désolé?' They say sorry is the hardest word, but that's not true... Try saying antidisestablishmentarianism with a mouth full of gluten free cronuts on a speed boat without licking your lips."

10. Sorry: "Snakes"

North London post-punkers Sorry are releasing their debut album, 925, on March 27 via Domino. On Tuesday shared another song from it, "Snakes," via a video for the track that features a giant...snake. The band's Asha Lorenz directed the video.

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.

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.

11. Margaret Glaspy: "Stay With Me" 

Margaret Glaspy is releasing a new album, Devotion, on March 27 via ATO. On Wednesday she shared another song from it, "Stay With Me."

Previously Glaspy shared Devotion's first single, "Killing What Keeps Us Alive" via a video for the track. It was one of our Songs of the Week.

Devotion is the follow-up to Glaspy's 2016-released debut album, Emotions and Math. Glaspy co-produced the album with Tyler Chester and recorded it at Atomic Sound in Red Hook, Brooklyn. "Tyler and I proved to be a very good match in the studio," said Glaspy in a previous press release. "I love being very hands-on with my records and he was a force of nature without restricting my sense of what the record should be. His instincts and ability are truly inspiring." 

Glaspy said Devotion is "about letting love in even when you don't know what will happen when you do. It's about devoting your heart to someone or something, against all odds."

12. Vundabar: "Montage Music"

Boston duo Vundabar (Brandon Hagen and Drew McDonald) are releasing a new album, Either Light, on March 13 via Gawk. On Wednesday they shared another song from the album, "Montage Music," via a lyric video.

Hagen had this to say about the song in a press release: "'Montage Music' is a meditation on the way capitalism takes beautiful cycles of birth, death and rebirth and makes them ugly by making future regenerations impossible. The song uses a car as the primary symbol for this as it exemplifies the unsustainable, though sometimes intoxicating, aspect of modern life. The narrator becomes fully engrossed in the vanities and demands of this life, and only at the end of the song notices a cloud of burning black smoke rising from tea being made without water, now impossible not to notice." 

Previously Vundabar shared Either Light's first single, "Burned Off," via a playful video for the track. "Burned Off" was one of our Songs of the Week. Then the band shared another song from the album, "Petty Crime," via an amusing self-directed video for the track inspired by The Sopranos. "Petty Crime" was also one of our Songs of the Week. Either Light is the follow-up to 2018's Smell Smoke and finds the band working with a producer for the first time, Patrick Hyland (Mitski).

Honorable Mentions:

These seven songs almost made the Top 10, with Kelly Lee Owens coming the closest.

Matt Berninger: "Holes" (Mercury Rev Cover)

Jaga Jazzist: "Spiral Era"

E. Scott Lindner: "21"

Kelly Lee Owens: "Melt!"

Palehound: "See a Light"

Real Estate: "The Main Thing"

Why Bonnie: "Voice Box"

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

100 gecs: "ringtone (Remix)" (Feat. Charli XCX, Rico Nasty, & Kero Kero Bonito)

Alice Bag: "Breadcrumbs"

The Big Net: "Big Moon" and "Rufus"

Blanck Mass: "The Devers" and "Jack's Theme"

Max Bloom: "Thinking 'Bout You"

Christine and the Queens: "Je disparais dans tes bras," "Mountains (we met)," "Nada," and "I disappear in your arms"

Deeper: "Lake Song"

Disclosure: "Ecstasy," "Etran," "Expressing What Matters," Get Close," and "Tondo"

Disq: "Gentle"

Dizzy: "Sunflower"

Duck Sauce: "Get To Steppin"

Steve Earle & The Dukes: "Devil Put the Coal In the Ground"

Everything Is Recorded: "3:15AM/CAVIAR" (Feat. Ghostface Killah and Infinite Coles)

FACS: "Casual Indifference"

Field Works and Eluvium: "Dusk Tempi"

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds: "Come On Outside"

Gordi: "Sandwiches"

Half Waif: "Halogen 2" 

Injury Reserve: "Hoodwinked" and "Waste Management"

Irreversible Entanglements: "Bread Out of Stone"

Jordana: "Crunch"

Lady Gaga: "Stupid Love"

Land of Talk: "Weight of That Weekend"

Lily Konigsberg: "It's Just Like All the Clouds"

Long Neck: "Backseat"

Many Voices Speak: "Want It Kept"

Melkbelly: "Humid Heart"

Metz: "Call of the Wighat" (The Cramps Cover)

Momma: "Double Dare"

The National: "Never Tear Us Apart" (INXS Cover)

No Age: "Turned to String"

OffWorld: "Brave to Be Alive"

P.E.: "Pink Shiver"

Peel Dream Magazine: "Emotional Devotion Creator"

San Fermin: "Little Star"

Shabazz Palaces: "Fast Learner" (Feat. Purple Tape Nate)

STRFKR: "Never the Same"

Swae Lee: "Someone Said"

SZA and Justin Timberlake: "The Other Side"

THICK: "Mansplain"

Throwing Muses: "Dark Blue"

Vampire Weekend: "Houston Dubai," "I Don't Think Much About Her No More" (Mickey Newbury Cover), and "Lord Ullin's Daughter" (Feat. Jude Law)

Rufus Wainwright: "Damsel In Distress"

Lucinda Williams: "You Can't Rule Me"

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