12 Best Songs of the Week: The National, Foals, Penelope Isles, Bedouine, and More

Plus Vampire Weekend, Strand of Oaks, Glen Hansard, Local Natives, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

Mar 08, 2019
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We've got another supersized Songs of the Week this week, with a Top 12 instead of the regular Top 10. Like last week we could've gotten it down to 10, but it felt wrong to leave out the bottom two. It was a near tie for the top two songs this week.

Elsewhere on the website this week we posted an interview with Foals about their new album, which came out today, as well as an Artist Survey interview with Ezra Furman.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Stella Donnelly, Said The Whale, Amanda Palmer, Helado Negro, and a particularly brutal review of the new Weezer album. Plus we posted reviews of various DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows.

Also, our politics writer Steve King penned an unflinching assessment of the Democratic 2020 presidential candidates.

Don't forget that last week we announced our new print issue. The issue features Mitski on the front cover and boygenius (Julien Baker + Phoebe Bridgers + Lucy Dacus) on the back cover.

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. The National: "You Had Your Soul with You"

This week The National announced a new album, I Am Easy to Find, which is accompanied by a 24-minute short film directed by Mike Mills and starring Oscar-winning Danish actress Alicia Vikander, and shared its first single, "You Had Your Soul with You," as well as a trailer for the film. The band also announced some more tour dates on top of the five intimate shows they announced last week. I Am Easy to Find is due out May 17 via 4AD. Below also is the film's trailer. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as the band's tour dates, here.

"You Had Your Soul with You" features guest vocals from David Bowie collaborator Gail Ann Dorsey and the album also features vocal contributions from Sharon Van Etten, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Lisa Hannigan, Mina Tindle, and more.

"Yes, there are a lot of women singing on this, but it wasn't because, 'Oh, let's have more women's voices,'" says frontman Matt Berninger in a press release. "It was more, 'Let's have more of a fabric of people's identities.' It would have been better to have had other male singers, but my ego wouldn't let that happen."

The project came together when Mills, who has directed iconic music videos and feature films such as 20th Century Women and Beginners, approached Berninger in September 2017 about collaborating together. Instead of just having Mills make a music video or two for them, they decided to get him much further involved in the album, so much so that Mills co-produced with the band. The album was recorded in Long Pond, Hudson Valley, NY, with additional sessions in Paris, Berlin, Cincinnati, Austin, Dublin, Brooklyn, and elsewhere.

A press release further explains the project and the relationship between the film and album: "The result is I Am Easy to Find, a 24-minute film by Mills starring Alicia Vikander, and I Am Easy to Find, a 68-minute album by The National. The former is not the video for the latter; the latter is not the soundtrack to the former. The two projects are, as Mills calls them, 'Playfully hostile siblings that love to steal from each other' - they share music and words and DNA and impulses and a vision about what it means to be human in 2019, but don't necessarily need one another. The movie was composed like a piece of music; the music was assembled like a film, by a film director. The frontman and natural focal point was deliberately and dramatically sidestaged in favor of a variety of female voices, nearly all of whom have long been in the group's orbit. It is unlike anything either artist has ever attempted and also totally in line with how they've created for much of their careers."

The National released their excellent last album album, Sleep Well Beast, in September 2017 via 4AD. It was our Album of the Week and #7 on our Top 100 Albums of 2017 list.

Read our 2018 interview with The National.

Read our 2017 interview with The National on Sleep Well Beast.

Read our rave 9/10 review of Sleep Well Beast.

 Read our 2012 interview with Alicia Vikander, as well as our 2015 interview with her.

2. Foals: "In Degrees"

Foals are releasing two albums this year: Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1 came out today via Warner Bros. and Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 2 is due out this fall. The band was holding out on us though, with Part 1's best song, "In Degrees," not being released as single prior to the album's release. Now the album is out you can here the banger of a song below.

Also, today we posted our interview with Foals' frontman Yannis Philippakis about Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1 and you can read that here.

Previously Foals shared a cinematic video for Part 1's first single, "Exits" (which was one of our Songs of the Week), a video for "On the Luna," and a lyric video for "Sunday" (which was also one of our Songs of the Week).

The albums are the follow-up to 2015's What Went Down. Philippakis produced the albums, which were recorded at 123 Studios in Peckham, London with the help of engineer Brett Shaw. The band also features Jimmy Smith (guitar), Jack Bevan (drums), and Edwin Congreave (keys).

In a previous press release Philippakis had this to say about releasing two albums: "They're two halves of the same locket. They can be listened to and appreciated individually, but fundamentally, they are companion pieces."

Philippakis said that the albums do address the environmental crisis our planet faces. "There's a definite idea about the world being no longer habitable in the way that it was," he said. "A kind of perilousness lack of predictability and a feeling of being overwhelmed by the magnitudes of the problems we face. What's the response? And what's the purpose of any response that one individual can have?"

Philippakis added: "Lyrically, there are resonances with what's going on in the world at the moment. I just feel like, what's the utility of being a musician these days, if you can't engage with at least some of this stuff? These songs are white flags, or they're SOSs, or they're cries for help... each in a different way."

3. Penelope Isles: "Chlorine"

Penelope Isles are a new British four-piece signed to Bella Union. We've never heard of them before today and have thus never covered them before, but we just heard their new single "Chlorine" and love it. The band features siblings Jack and Lily Wolter and are from Isle of Man-via-Brighton. If you are at SXSW next week they will be playing a bunch of shows there.

4. Bedouine: "When You're Gone"

Bedouine is the project of singer/songwriter Azniv Korkejian. She released her self-titled debut album in 2017 via Matthew E. White's Spacebomb label. It was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017 and one of our Top 15 Debut Albums of 2017. This week she shared a brand new song, "When You're Gone," via a video for the track (which is out now via Spacebomb). It's another string-swept folk gem from Korkejian. Check out her upcoming tour dates, including her SXSW appearances, here.

Gus Seyffert (Beck, Norah Jones, Michael Kiwanuka) produced the song in his LA studio and the video was filmed in Iceland during Iceland Airwaves and at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, which is where the strings were recorded. 

Korkejian had this to say about the song in a press release: "When I started 'When You're Gone' I was just messing around with pretty chords. Then the lyrics spontaneously came to me much later when I read something on Instagram, which is kind of hilarious. It triggered a line that eventually rolled out the entire song. In retrospect I think it reflects on the time since I've released my first record; in nondescript hotel rooms alone or getting dropped off a cliff after tour is over, not exactly sure what to do with myself. It also touches on what that can mean when it comes to the people you're closest to. My favorite part may be the delicate intro that's tucked away in the record as a hidden track." 

Korkejian was born in Aleppo, Syria to Armenian parents, but spent her childhood in Saudi Arabia and then moved to America when her family won a Green Card lottery. She's lived all over the U.S., including Boston, Houston, Lexington, Austin, Savannah, and Los Angeles. Musically she's got a '60s/'70s singer/songwriter vibe akin to First Aid Kit or Laura Marling, with some hints of Natalie Prass too.

Read our 2017 interview with Bedouine.

5. Vampire Weekend: "Sunflower" (Feat. Steve Lacy) (Plus "Big Blue")

Vampire Weekend are releasing a new album, Father of the Bride. Previously it was said to be an April release, but this week its release date was confirmed as May 3 via Columbia/Spring Snow. This week the band also shared two more songs from the album: "Sunflower" (which features Steve Lacy of The Internet) and "Big Blue." We were a bit taken aback by "Sunflower" and were unsure of it at first, but it grew on us over the course of the week and makes this list. "Big Blue" is less than two-minutes long, so it's more of an honorable mention.

Previously Vampire Weekend shared two songs from Father of the Bride: "Harmony Hall" (which was #2 on our Songs of the Week list) and "2021," as well as a video for "Harmony Hall."

Father of the Bride is the band's fourth album and is expected to feature 18 songs in 59 minutes. The band's last album was 2013's Modern Vampires of the City. Since then founding member/producer Rostam Batmanglij left the band as a full-time member. 

6. Strand of Oaks: "Keys"

Strand of Oaks (the project of Timothy Showalter) is releasing a new album, Eraserland, on March 22 via Dead Oceans. This week he shared another song from the album, the slow-burner "Keys" which he says is something of a love song for his wife Sue. One of the most telling lines is "I've gotta get my shit together before I'm 40." I've been there man.

Showalter had this to say about "Keys" in a press release: "I've tried ever since Strand of Oaks started to properly write or express my love for my wife and best friend Sue. We've grown up together and without a doubt you would have never heard of me if it wasn't for Sue. She worked two jobs at the beginning of Oaks just to make sure I could get plane tickets to some tour I would inevitably lose money on and for six records she was the first to ever hear any song I've ever written. In a way everything that I've written is a love song for her. I was a lonely and aimless kid when we first met and it was her unconditional support that gave me the courage to pursue this dream. But 'Keys' is a song about the future and realizing with more years the aspects of life that truly matter and what seems so important in the moment just slips into dust. If you listen to the second chorus you will hear the best and only take we could find where both me and my producer Kevin could get through without tears. 'I'll buy us a trailer down in the Keys,' may be the most honest and true realization I've ever expressed to my love. I truly hope anyone listening is loved by someone like I have."  

Previously Strand of Oaks shared Eraserland's first single, and opening track, "Weird Ways" (which was our #1 Song of the Week). Then he shared another song from it, "Ruby," via a video that is made up of home movie footage captured by his father (Jeff Showalter) on a video camera when he was a child. "Ruby" was also our #1 Song of the Week.

The majority of My Morning Jacket (Carl Broemel, Bo Koster, Patrick Hallahan, and Tom Blankenship) back-up Showalter on Eraserland, which also features Jason Isbell and Emma Ruth Rundle.

The album is the follow-up to 2017's Hard Love. Kevin Ratterman produced the album, which was recorded at La La Land Studios in Louisville, KY. A previous press release set the stage for the album: "Empty and determined that he would never write songs again, dark thoughts crept in and Showalter, concerned for his own well-being decided to go on a spiritual pilgrimage - to the Jersey Shore." His friends in My Morning Jacket, especially Carl Broemel, heard Showalter was in a bad way and offered their assistance in recording the next Strand of Oaks album, that they could be his backing band. So Showalter got to writing and demoing the new album in February 2017, alone in Wildwood, NJ. Then the album was recorded in Louisville in April 2017.

6. Glen Hansard: "Fool's Game"

Glen Hansard is releasing a new album, This Wild Willing, on April 12 via ANTI-. Previously he shared its first single, "I'll Be You, Be Me," which was one of our Songs of the Week. This week he shared another song from the album, the six-minute long "Fool's Game." It starts off brooding and atmospheric and then just explodes with euphoria midway through, before settling back down again.

Hansard had this to say about "Fool's Game" in a press release: "This song originated with a line I'd been rolling round my head: 'It's a fool's, fool's game, lover, that we have to play.' I wanted to build something that felt like The Shangri-Las or Velvet Underground in their 'Pale Blue Eyes'-period."

This Wild Willing was "conceived in Paris" and recorded at Black Box studios with producer David Odlum. The album also features classically-trained Iranian musicians the Khoshravesh brothers, long-time Hansard associates Joe Doyle (bass) and ROMY (piano, vocals, string arrangements), and Dublin electronic musicians Deasy and Dunk Murphy (Sunken Foal). Hansard, of course, is also in The Frames and The Swell Season and, alongside Markéta Irglová, won an Academy Award for Best Song for "Falling Slowly" from the film Once that Hansard and Irglová both starred in.

Hansard had this to say about the album in a previous press release: "This collection of songs is mainly made up of those that came through while improvising and following the melodic lines and threads. Sometimes when you take a small musical fragment and you care for it, follow it and build it up slowly, it can become a thing of wonder." 

7. Clinic: "Rubber Bullets"

This week Liverpool post-punks Clinic announced their first new album in seven years, Wheeltappers and Shunters, and shared a video for its first single, "Rubber Bullets," which sounds like... Clinic, and that's a great thing. Welcome back fellas. Wheeltappers and Shunters is due out May 10th via their longtime label Domino. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art here.

The band's last album was 2012's Free Reign. "We'd released albums like clockwork every two years, so it seemed natural to have a break," explains Clinic's Ade Blackburn in a press release about the long gap between albums. "It allowed everyone to do some quite oddball stuff, away from Clinic. I think we all wanted a bit more freedom."

Wheeltappers and Shunters' album title is inspired by a 1970s British variety show The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club, which was hosted by Bernard Manning and according to the press release "recreated the smoky, boozy atmosphere of Northern working men's clubs for a sofa-bound audience."

"It's been a pisstake thing between us for quite a few years," Blackburn explains. "Whenever we'd talk about a song sounding too 'cabaret' or too nice, we'd say, 'That's a bit Wheeltappers and Shunters.'"

Wheeltappers and Shunters looks back on the culture 1970s era Blackburn and "his collaborator-in-chief" Jonathan Hartley grew up in. "It's a satirical take on British culture - high and low," Blackburn says. "It fascinates me that people look back on the 1970s as the glory days. It's emerged that there was a darker, more perverse side to that time. When you look back on it now it was quite clearly there in mainstream culture."

The press release sets the scene for Wheeltappers and Shunters: "The Great Britain that Clinic are evoking is not that ancient, bucolic past of village green cricket, half a mild and hanky-waving Morris Dancers that many seem so determined that the country should return to, but a rather more sleazy past. Clinic's reverie is for a time when Blackpool was the pleasure capital of the kingdom and the public was kept entertained by traveling circuses and the dirty glamour of the funfair; tacky end of the pier merriment and enforced fun at Butlins; when bell-ringing town criers bellowed their nonsensical broadsides into the ether."

The album was recorded last year at Hartley's Liverpool studio. Then Dilip Harris (King Krule, Sons of Kemet, Mount Kimbie) mixed the album. "We thought it felt right to make a fun, dancefloor album in these dark and conservative times," says Blackburn. 

Joseph May directed the "Rubber Bullets" video.

8. Local Natives: "When Am I Gonna Lose You" (Plus "Café Amarillo")

This morning Local Natives announced a new album, Violet Street, and shared a video for a new song from it, "When Am I Gonna Lose You." The video stars actress Kate Mara (The Martian, Megan Leavey). The album also features "Café Amarillo," another new song that they shared yesterday via a video for it. "When Am I Gonna Lose You" was our favorite of the two, with "Café Amarillo" an honorable mention.

Violet Street is due out April 26 via Loma Vista. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as the band's upcoming tour dates, here.

As with "Café Amarillo," Van Alpert directed the "When Am I Gonna Lose You" video, which features visuals by Public-Library. In fact the "Café Amarillo" video included flashes of the "When Am I Gonna Lose You" video, tying them together. Violet Street is Local Natives' fourth album and the follow-up to 2016's Sunlit Youth. For Violet Street the band worked with producer Shawn Everett (Alabama Shakes, Kacey Musgraves, The War on Drugs).

Kelcey Ayer (Local Natives' co-vocalist, pianist, and one of the band's primary songwriters) released his debut solo album under the name Jaws of Love. (the period at the end of the name is intentional), Tasha Sits Close to the Piano, in 2017 via House Arrest.

9. Andrew Bird: "Manifest"

Andrew Bird is releasing a new album, the amusingly titled My Finest Work Yet, on March 22 via Loma Vista. This week has shared another song from the album, "Manifest," via a Matthew Daniel Siskin-directed video that shows Bird and his band recording the album live to tape at Barefoot Studios in Los Angeles. Perhaps this is shaping up to be one of his finest works yet?

Bird had this to say about the song in a press release: "'Manifest' traces our evolution from single celled organisms to modern man - then takes it further, post-mortem, to when a plant or animal becomes a fossil fuel fracked from the ground and released into the atmosphere from combustion engines like ghosts. The after-life of energy."

Previously Bird shared My Finest Work Yet's opening track, "Sisyphus" (which was one of our Songs of the Week), performed the song on the Chris Thile-hosted public radio show Live From Here, and shared a video for the song. The album includes "Bloodless," a politically themed song that Bird released in November and was our #1 Song of the Week.

In a previous press release Bird said of the album: "I think My Finest Work Yet is my finest work yet."

The album tackles our current divisive political climate, as Bird explained in the previous press release: "I'm interested in the idea that our enemies are what make us whole-there's an intimacy one shares with their opponent when locked in such a struggle. If we were to just walk away would our enemies miss us?  How did we get to this point and how can we, through awareness of it, maybe pull ourselves out of this death spiral."

Bird added: "There is a certain optimism to this record...it's pretty up musically though it doesn't pull any punches when it comes to the lyrics."

Paul Butler produced My Finest Work Yet, which was recorded at Barefoot Recordings in Los Angeles, CA. Bird's last album, Are You Serious, was released in 2016 via Loma Vista.

10. Charly Bliss: "Chatroom"

Charly Bliss are releasing a new album, Young Enough, on May 10 via Barsuk. Previously they shared a video for its first single, "Capacity," which was one of our Songs of the Week (and the video was directed by Michelle Zauner aka Japanese Breakfast). This week they shared another new song from the album, "Chatroom," via a video for it. Maegan Houang directed the twisted clip, which stars frontwoman Eva Hendricks, in a credible performance, as the member of a cult.

Hendricks had this to say about the song and video in a press release: "I was sexually assaulted by someone I dated and I wrote 'Chatroom,' and most of Young Enough, as a way of processing that experience and explaining it to myself. 'Chatroom' is a song about reaching ecstatic joy through consuming rage. Simply put, it's a colossal 'fuck you' and a celebration of reaching the point of a 'fuck you' that isn't diluted by self-blame or apologies.

"I feel so lucky to have worked with Maegan Houang on this video. I felt an immediate sense of mutual trust, and she produced a treatment that directly addresses the themes of trauma, misogyny and mind control without resorting to a literal representation of the lyrics. It's tonally the darkest video we've ever made, and I think it anchors the intent of song which might otherwise be obscured by the fact that it's also our most direct foray into larger-than-life pop music."

11. Barrie: "Darjeeling"

Brooklyn five-piece Barrie are releasing their debut album, Happy to Be Here, on May 3 via Winspear. Previously they shared its lead single, "Clovers" (it was one of our Songs of the Week). This week they shared another song from the album, "Darjeeling," via a video for the song. Zach Stone and Madeline Leshner produced and directed the video, which finds the band at a huge stately home.

Barrie's leader Barrie Lindsay had this to say about the song in a press release: "The opening line of the song - 'the city towed my car the first night I got in' - is true; my car got towed when I first moved to New York. The first night I hung out with Spurge and Noah, we went to this warehouse party in Bushwick on the train tracks, which was totally new to me. My car was in Manhattan, and when I went back to find it at 3 a.m. it was gone. So I walked along the West Side highway to the impound lot. At 4 a.m. it was this eerie wasteland of abandoned cars. It was in the honeymoon phase of moving to New York and I remember feeling very happy and surreal in the tow lot. I've had a lot of experiences like that in the city, and I think I had that feeling in mind with this song - it's kind of a collection of those vignettes."

Lindsay wrote the album's songs late at night alone in her apartment, plays various instruments on the album (guitar, piano, synth, and bass), and co-produced the album with Jake Aron (Snail Mail, Solange, Grizzly Bear). But Barrie is not simply a solo project, the band also features Dominic Apa, Spurge Carter, Noah Prebish, and Sabine Holler, who had to record her backing vocals remotely from Germany due to visa issues. The band members are from all over, having previously lived in Boston, Baltimore, Upstate New York, London, and São Paulo via Berlin, but came together in New York.  The band's pleasing dream pop/indie pop that would appeal to fans of Yumi Zouma.

"The scaffolding of this album is moving to New York and finding these people that make up the band," Barrie says in a press release. "We're very different, but we cover each other's gaps personally and creatively, and are eager to learn from each other."

12. Pip Blom: "Daddy Issues"

Pip Blom are a four-piece band from Amsterdam, but it's also the name of the band's frontwoman. They are releasing their debut album, Boat, on May 31 via Heavenly/[PIAS]. This week they shared another song from the album, "Daddy Issues," via a video for the track. Edward Zorab directed the video, in which a movie character comes to life and visits a lonely man. Check out the band's upcoming SXSW shows dates here.

Blom had this to say about the video in a press release: "The video is a love letter to classic cinema, but also a cautionary tale. Our culture makes it too easy to fall in love with things which aren't real, and if you're not careful you can end up in a sort of groundhog day cycle of self-induced disappointment. I think the surreal narrative of the video encapsulates that in quite a self aware way."

Honorable Mentions: 

These seven songs almost made the Top 10, including two cool songs from the debut album by SASAMI (which came out today) that weren't previously released as singles.

The Black Keys: "Lo/Hi"

Black Mountain: "Future Shade"

Kindness: "Cry Everything" (Feat. Robyn)

The Mountain Goats: "Cadaver Sniffing Dog"

SASAMI: "Pacify My Heart" and "Turned Out I Was Everyone"

Versing: "Offering"

Other notable new tracks in the last week include: 

The Chemical Brothers: "We've Got to Try"

Stef Chura: "Method Man"

 

Com Truise: "Existence Schematic"

Mac DeMarco: "Nobody"

Earth: "Cats on the Briar"

FACS: "Total History" 

Fennesz: "In My Room"

Fontaines D.C.: "Roy's Tune"

Gesaffelstein: "So Bad" (Feat. HAIM)

The Get Up Kids: "Satellite"

The Gotobeds: "Calquer The Hound"

Greys: "These Things Happen"

Gurr: "Zu Spät" 

The Hold Steady: "The Last Time That She Talked to Me"

Christian Lee Hutson: "Northsiders"

Ibibio Sound Machine: "Guess We've Found a Way"

Illuminati Hotties: "I Wanna Keep Yr Dog"

Lambchop: "Crosswords, Or What This Says About You"

 

M83: "Karl"

Marshmello: "Here With Me" (Feat. CHVRCHES)

Mary Lattimore & Mac McCaughan: "I"

Stephen Malkmus: "Come Get Me"

Nick Murphy: "Sanity"

 

NOTS: "Half Painted House" 

Patio: "New Reality"

Laura Stevenson: "Value Inn"

Taken By Trees: "Careless Whisper" (George Michael Cover)

Tierra Whack: "Gloria"

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Andy
March 9th 2019
6:03am

really love your long posts on the weekend!שביל הגולן