12 Best Songs of the Week: Wilma Archer, Empty Country, Yumi Zouma, Waxahatchee, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, May 30th, 2020  

12 Best Songs of the Week: Wilma Archer, Empty Country, Yumi Zouma, Waxahatchee, and More

Plus Nap Eyes, Jay Som, Wye Oak, Glass Animals, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Feb 21, 2020
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Welcome to the seventh Songs of the Week of 2020. Since Monday was President's Day here in America, it should've been a less busy week for new tracks, but there was still plenty to choose from and this week we've got 12 songs that we consider the week's best.

This week we posted My Favorite Album interviews with Anna Meredith and actress/writer/director Zoe Lister-Jones, as well as an interview with Dutch trio The Homesick, a Self-Portrait interview with Shopping, and a The End interview with Tennis.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by King Krule, Ash (a best of), of Montreal, Mush, and Algiers. 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. Wilma Archer: "Decades" (Feat. Laura Groves and Future Islands' Samuel T. Herring)

Wilma Archer (aka Will Archer, who used to release music as Slime) is putting out a new album, A Western Circular, on April 3 via Domino imprint Weird World. On Tuesday he shared another song from it, "Decades," which features guest vocals from Laura Groves and Future Islands' Samuel T. Herring. It's a gorgeous and artfully reigned in track, where Herring and Groves' vocals complement each other, when they could have easily clashed.

Archer had this to say about "Decades" in a press release: "The song acts as part one of a 10-minute composition as per the running order of the album, with 'Ugly Feelings' being the counterpart. Both songs demonstrate cyclical melodic motifs, further illustrating the theme of A Western Circular."

Previously Archer shared A Western Circular's first single, "Last Sniff," which features guest vocals from MF DOOM. It was shared via a video for the track. The album also features Sudan Archives.

2. Empty Country: "SWIM"

Empty Country is the new solo project of Joseph D'Agostino, formerly of Cymbals Eat Guitars (which broke up in 2017). His self-titled album as Empty Country is due out April 24 via Get Better and this week he shared another song from it, epic six-minute album closer "SWIM."

D'Agostino had this to say about the song in a press release: "SWIM = Someone Who Isn't Me. It's a character sketch, as many of the songs on Empty Country are. The narrator is a composite of several people I met or observed while living in Kensington, a neighborhood in Philadelphia gravely affected by the ongoing opioid emergency in the United States. One day my wife Rachel pointed out in passing that some of our neighbors had old faces. She didn't mean 'old' in the sense that they were aging prematurely (though some certainly were), but that they had the faces of Dustbowl-era farmers we had seen in books and films. I began imagining a young man suffering from temporal dysphoria (feeling that one was born into the wrong era and strongly identifying with a bygone time), drinking and otherwise numbing himself to tamp down overwhelming anemoia and sadness. Robbing condos freshly erected in adjoining neighborhoods. Doing harm. Blacking out, driving drunk, hurting those he should love, but simply cannot. Dreaming of leaving forever the bricky mazes of row homes that open into wide empty avenues."

Empty Country was originally due out last week on Tiny Engines, but when that label came under scrutiny due to late royalty payments to Adult Mom and other artists, D'Agostino decided to find a new label and delay the release to April.

3. Yumi Zouma: "Southwark"

New Zealand's Yumi Zouma are releasing a new album, Truth or Consequences, on March 13 via Polyvinyl, their first for the label. On Tuesday they shared another song from the album, "Southwark," via a self-directed video for the track. The video intercuts between the band at the beach and performing the song indoors somewhere. "Southwark" continues Yumi Zouma's remarkable track record of creating irresistible and effortless indie-pop.

In a press release the band's singer/songwriter Christie Simpson says the song "feels like a dedication, a mantra, a promise to myself. I wrote the chorus line about the someone in particular that I was with at the time, but it now feels like a universal truth for my relationships, a dedication that goes to every person I've loved and those that I'm still loving now. I can be quite dramatic in love and relationships, and I don't always do or say the right thing when I should, but I do throw myself in completely (for better or worse). I loved that idea of repeating that dedication - 'I am imperfectly yours'.... This track has haunted me a little every time I listen, there's something melancholy that sits in there alongside that overall feeling of quiet elation. I suppose that speaks to the classic dichotomy of love and relationships - nothing is ever 100% good or perfect, and that's what I am constantly trying to come to terms with."

Guitarist/vocalist Josh Burgess had this to say about the video: "A bit of a Yumi tradition is having at least one video on a record we shot ourselves. While we're not going to be nominated for an Oscar anytime soon, it's always fun to grab a camera and start shooting. It felt like too good of an opportunity to pass up having us all sitting there in a photo studio mere moments after the centerfold picture of our record. From there we headed off to the beach for sunset. Christie wanted to get into the water but the threat of hypothermia proved too much! It's also the first video/time we've ever revealed lyrics so overtly! The fantastic Lorenzo Fanton's typeface was too good to pass up!"

Previously Yumi Zouma shared Truth or Consequences' lead single, "Cool For a Second," via a video for the track (which was one of our Songs of the Week). The album also includes "Right Track / Wrong Man," a song the band shared back in December.

The band self-produced the album and it was mixed by Jake Aron (Solange, Grizzly Bear, Snail Mail). While formed in New Zealand, Yumi Zouma's members currently reside in various cities around the world: New York City (Josh Burgess - guitar, vocals), London (Charlie Ryder - guitar, bass, keys), Christchurch, New Zealand (Christie Simpson - vocals, keys), and Wellington, New Zealand (Olivia Campion - drums).

The band released a new EP, EP III, in September 2018 via Cascine. EP III was the follow-up to Yumi Zouma's sophomore album, Willowbank, which was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017. In May 2019 they shared another brand new song, "Bruise," that was a standalone single and was one of our Songs of the Week.

Read our 2017 interview with Yumi Zouma on Willowbank.

4. Waxahatchee: "Lilacs"

Waxahatchee (aka Katie Crutchfield) is releasing a new album, Saint Cloud, on March 27 via Merge. On Tuesday she shared another song from the album, "Lilacs," via a video for the track. Ashley Connor directed the clip, which solely features dancer Marlee Grace dancing to the song in an empty warehouse/performance space.

Crutchfield had this to say about "Lilacs" in a press release: "'Lilacs' was the last song I wrote for the record and it's mostly just about obsessive/negative thought patterns. It's about backsliding into old behaviors that don't serve you and sort of letting your worst self get the best of you. I think that when people are in that mindset they can really try to turn the blame onto other people, so the song sort of plays out like a conflict you'd have with someone you love. It's meant to capture that moment of heat that happens right when you realize you're wrong or that your issue is more with yourself than with someone else - being flawed and fragile but making progress inch by inch. The chorus serves as a sweet little resolve. I wanted it to feel like the light at the end of the tunnel and the reminder that it can always and often does get better."

Crutchfield previously shared Saint Cloud's first single, "Fire," via a video for the track. It was one of our Songs of the Week.

Saint Cloud is the follow-up to 2017's Out in the Storm (which was our Album of the Week). Brad Cook produced Saint Cloud, which was recorded in the summer of 2019 at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, TX, and Long Pond in Stuyvesant, NY. Crutchfield's backing band on the album was Bobby Colombo and Bill Lennox of the Detroit-based band Bonny Doon and that band will also be backing her on her 2020 tour dates. The album also features Josh Kaufman (Hiss Golden Messenger, Bonny Light Horseman) on guitar and keyboards and Nick Kinsey (Kevin Morby, Elvis Perkins) on drums and percussion. Saint Cloud was written right after Crutchfield decided to get sober.

"I think all of my records are turbulent and emotional, but this one feels like it has a little dose of enlightenment," Crutchfield said in a previous press release announcing the album. "It feels a little more calm and less reckless."

Read our 2017 The End interview with Waxahatchee where she answered our questions about endings and death.

5. Nap Eyes: "So Tired"

Nap Eyes are releasing a new album, Snapshot of a Beginner, on March 27 via Jagjaguwar/Royal Mountain in partnership with Paradise of Bachelors. On Tuesday they shared another song from the album, "So Tired," via a lyric video. It features a sublime guitar solo towards the end.

In a press release frontman Nigel Chapman had this to say about "So Tired": "The 'So Tired' refrain marks a slight shift in perspective and its meaning is twofold. For one, I get frustrated sometimes by what the world seems to require for success at a given task (for example, polished songwriting, coherent and understandable communication), so part of this is just me venting on this subject. Sometimes I would rather flow with free writing than try to box songs into rehearsed, many-times-repeated containers.
 
"Second, at times I find myself wishing people would not hold so many preconceptions about the things in this world a given person might try to communicate. Most of us, myself included, usually assume we already know a lot - even about things we've spent very little time thinking about - and because of this attitude, people are often predisposed to misunderstand new ideas, even when they're communicated in straightforward and coherent ways. But there's no doubt, an idea won't ever get through until there's someone around to listen to it."

Previously Nap Eyes shared Snapshot of a Beginner's first single, "Mark Zuckerberg," via a video for the song (which of course tackles the founder of Facebook).

Nap Eyes features frontman Nigel Chapman, drummer Seamus Dalton, bassist Josh Salter, and guitarist Brad Loughead. Jonathan Low (Big Red Machine, The National) and James Elkington (Steve Gunn, Joan Shelley) produced Snapshot of a Beginner, which was recorded at The National's Upstate New York Long Pond Studio. 

6. Jay Som "A Thousand Words"

Jay Som (aka Melina Duterte) released a new album, Anak Ko, last year via Polyvinyl. On Thursday she shared two new songs, "A Thousand Words" and "Can't Sleep," that were recorded during the sessions for Anak Ko but didn't make the final tracklist. They will be released as two sides of a 7-inch single on May 1 via Polyvinyl. "A Thousand Words" firmly makes this week's Songs of the Week list, whereas the quirky "Can't Sleep" is definite B-side material and can be found further below in the list of songs also released this week.

Duterte had this to say about "A Thousand Words" in a press release: "This song was made after a year of extensive touring plus a cancelled tour. I forced myself to make a sort of big and jovial song to bring me out of the funk I was in. I also wanted to remind myself that music can be fun! It was heavily inspired by Bruce Springsteen, Elliott Smith, Pavement and that song 'Alright' by Supergrass." 

Of "Can't Sleep" she had this to say: "'Can't Sleep' was made in August or September 2017 while I was living with my parents in between U.S. tours, before I moved to LA. I think I had all my gear packed away somewhere that I couldn't access, so I used instruments left over in my childhood room: a broken acoustic guitar, chopsticks on a snare drum, a bad hi hat, and my trumpet. Everything was recorded through the laptop mic. I was pretty frustrated with the California heat and the fact that I couldn't record properly, so this sort of fever dream song was born."

Anak Ko was our Album of the Week and one of our Top 100 Albums of 2019.

Read our interview with Jay Som on Anak Ko.

Read our review of Anak Ko.


7. Man Man: "Cloud Nein"

On Wednesday Man Man, the project led by Honus Honus (aka Ryan Kattner), announced their first album in almost seven years, Dream Hunting in the Valley of the In-Between, and shared its first single, "Cloud Nein," via a Kattner-directed lyric video for the new song that features an older man dancing around the streets of London. Dream Hunting in the Valley of the In-Between is due out May 1 via Sub Pop, Man Man's first album for the label. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art here.

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

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

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

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

Reflecting the origins of the band in the press release, Kattner says: "I started Man Man because I saw Holy Mountain when I was 22. It blew my mind. I had never been in a band or played music before, but I knew I needed to make songs that sounded like that movie felt. When I was hunkering down to write, there was a lot of self-doubt, fighting the urge to throw in the towel. It was unavoidable but I had to dive headlong into these fears and twist them into something that wasn't dominated by them. I'm not gonna lie, it fucking sucked, but it definitely forced the best album of my career out of me. Sometimes you have to tear it all down to build it back up the right way."

Summing up his worldview, Kattner adds: "You have to keep changing, evolving in order to survive, appreciate what you have while you have it because there are no guarantees it'll stick around forever. AKA, life."

8. Wye Oak: "Walk Soft"

On Wednesday Wye Oak (Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack) shared a brand new song, the understated "Walk Soft." They also shared a new mini documentary highlighting the history of the band ahead of their upcoming JOIN tour dates later this month and next month. Check out the documentary here.

Wasner had this to say about "Walk Soft" in a press release: "When I was younger, I used to work at a stable taking care of horses. I thought they were the most beautiful animals on earth, and seemingly so gentle, so it took me a while to learn that they could also be dangerous, if only because they were so much bigger than I was. Love is like this, too-the bigger it feels, the more power it holds. True beauty should be frightening."

"Walk Soft" follows "Fortune," a new song they shared in November that was #1 on that week's Songs of the Week list, and "Fear of Heights," a new song they shared in January that was also #1 on that week's Songs of the Week list.

For the first time since 2012, Wasner and Stack are now both living in the same city together, Durham, NC (home to their label Merge), which has allowed for renewed creativity and led to the band recording last summer. There's no word yet on a new album or EP.

Wye Oak released their last album, The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs, back in April 2018 via Merge. (It was our Album of the Week and one of our Top 100 Albums of 2018.) In February 2019 they shared a brand new song, "Evergreen," via the Adult Swim Singles series (it was one of our Songs of the Week).

Since their last album, Stack launched his solo project, Joyero, releasing his debut album as Joyero, Release the Dogs, in August 2019 via Merge. Wasner, meanwhile, has been touring as part of Bon Iver's band. A previous press release promised that the JOIN tour dates will feature an expanded live band and will find them not just performing Wye Oak songs, but also ones by Joyero and Wasner's Flock of Dimes solo project.

Read our 2018 interview with Wye Oak on The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs.

9. Glass Animals: "Your Love (Déjà vu)"

On Wednesday British four-piece Glass Animals shared a new song "Your Love (Déjà vu)." It is being released in advance of the band's North American tour dates, which start next week and are mostly sold out. It will be the band's first U.S. tour since drummer Joe Seaward was hit by a truck while cycling in Dublin in 2018, forcing them to cancel their remaining tour dates that year. A press release says "Your Love (Déjà vu)" is the first hint of the band's third album. Check out the band's upcoming tour dates here.

Frontman Dave Bayley, who produced the song, had this to say about "Your Love (Déjà vu)" in a press release: "I think we've all found ourselves in fucked up relationships that make us feel sad and helpless. Not necessarily something romantic-maybe it's with a family member or a friend. A relationship that we know on some level is going to keep breaking our hearts. We let that person back into their lives over and over again, even though it always ends the same. Maybe you don't confront it because you hope it'll change with time. Or because it's easier to let it slide and never set boundaries. Maybe you think you deserve that unhappiness. Or maybe you find some strange comfort in the chaos.... This song is about that...about being addicted to chaos. About doing or allowing something self-destructive because on some level you get off on the sadness that comes of it. It's about wanting to float around and exist inside of that feeling because it has always been familiar to you. It's something that a lot of people know from growing up in a tense household...so it can feel right to create that dynamic, even if you don't realize you're doing it."

The band released their sophomore album, How to Be a Human Being, in 2016 via Harvest.

Read our 2016 interview with Glass Animals here.

Read our 2016 Artist Survey interview with Glass Animals here.

10. Anna Calvi: "Eden" (Feat. Charlotte Gainsbourg)

Anna Calvi is releasing a new album, Hunted, on March 6 via Domino. It is a new stripped down version of her 2018 album Hunter featuring various notable guest singers. On Monday she shared Hunted's version of "Eden," which features guest vocals from Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Calvi had this to say about the new track in a press release: "Charlotte Gainsbourg has taught me so much as a singer, in how the most quiet of utterances can be the most dramatic and powerful of all. When I was writing 'Eden' I had Charlotte's voice in my head - there's a secrecy and quiet power to this song that always made me think of her. It's a dream come true to have collaborated with her."

Previously Calvi shared Hunted's first single, a new version of "Don't Beat the Girl Out of My Boy" that featured guest vocals from Courtney Barnett. It was one of our Songs of the Week. Hunted also features Julia Holter and IDLES' Joe Talbot.

Calvi had this to say about Hunted in a previous press release: "During a break from touring I went back and listened to the first recordings I ever made of Hunter. These recordings capture the very moment I first wrote these songs, and recorded them on my own, in my attic studio. I find something especially intimate about sharing these most private recordings with my favorite singers and asking them to lend their voices and artistic sensibility. Courtney Barnett is an amazing artist. Her voice and guitar playing together are mind blowing. Her ability to connect the profound to the smallest moments of human experience is the unique talent of a true artist."

Hunter was Calvi's third full-length album and the follow up to 2011's Anna Calvi and 2013's One Breath. It was nominated for the Mercury Prize.

Last year Calvi shared an atmospheric new song, "You're Not God," that was done for the soundtrack of the Netflix/BBC show Peaky Blinders and was one of our Songs of the Week.

Read our exclusive Self-Portrait feature with Calvi from 2018, where she takes a self-portrait photo and writes a list of six personal things about herself that her fans may not know. 

11. King Krule: "Cellular"

King Krule (aka British musician Archy Marshall) released a new album, Man Alive!, today via True Panther/Matador. On Tuesday he shared one last pre-release single from the album, "Cellular," via an animated video for the track directed by Jamie Wolfe.

Previously King Krule shared a self-directed video for the album's first single "(Don't Let the Dragon) Draag On." Then King Krule shared another song from the album, "Alone, Omen 3," via a video for the track (which was one of our Songs of the Week).

Man Alive! features album versions of all four songs contained in last year's King Krule short film, Hey World!, that featured Marshall performing the aforementioned "(Don't Let the Dragon) Draag On" and "Alone, Omen 3," alongside "Perfecto Miserable" and "Energy Fleets."

King Krule's last album was The OOZ, released in October 2017 via True Panther in the U.S. (and XL in the U.K.). (It was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017.)

Man Alive! was made with The OOZ's co-producer Dilip Harris. Marshall performed most of the instruments himself, apart for the saxophone, which was played by Ignacio Salvadores. Marshall began recording in London, but partway through the sessions he found out he was going to be a dad for the first time and moved up to the North West to be close to the family of his baby's mother.

"I should've had it all wrapped up before my daughter was born," said Marshall in a previous press release. But after his daughter Marina was born in March 2019, Marshall took a few weeks off and then finished the album. "I was still adding tracks until she was about six months old (i.e mid-September)," he said.

Marshall said that getting out of his South London suburban neighborhood was good for him. "It was just the easiness of it. There really is nothing else to do here, especially when it turns to winter. Everyone I know has jobs, whereas I'd sit on my arse all day sometimes not doing anything, then I'd go to the pub with them when they finished work. It became a bit habitual. Then, right in the middle of the record, this big change came in my life that I didn't really comprehend initially. It was like, 'Oh, I'd better get my shit together!' To be honest, I was really glad to get away from all that so I could focus on more pressing matters - like keeping a child alive and stuff."

Speaking about the album's themes and lyrics, Marshall said: "More and more, I've been put off by the intention of speaking about what's going on in society as a black-and-white thing, or trying to get to the bottom of why we're in this position. So the album is mostly made up of snapshots and observations. There are a lot of real-time-and-place moments, songs talking about walking through the park just over there and getting a head injury [don't ask! - Ed.], then there are other tracks which are just simplicity, looking at one particular situation and reflecting on it as somehow being super-profound."

Read our 2017 interview with King Krule on The OOZ

12. Thundercat: "Dragonball Durag" 

Thundercat (aka Stephen Lee Bruner) is releasing a new album, It Is What It Is, on April 3 via Brainfeeder. On Monday he shared another song from it, "Dragonball Durag," which is inspired by the Japanese anime series Dragon Ball Z.

Bruner had this to say about Dragon Ball Z in a press release: "I have a Dragon Ball tattoo... it runs everything. There is a saying that Dragon Ball is life."

As for the "Durag" aspect of the song's title, Bruner says: "There are two types of people in the world, the guy with the durag and the guy who doesn't know what a durag is. The durag is a superpower, to turn your swag on... it does something, it changes you. If you have one in the wardrobe, think about wearing it tonight, and it may pop off because you never know what's going to happen."

Previously Thundercat shared the album's first single, "Black Qualls," which features Steve Lacy of The Internet and funk icon Steve Arrington. "Black Qualls" was one of our Songs of the Week. It Is What It Is also features Ty Dolla $ign, Childish Gambino, Lil B, Kamasi Washington, BADBADNOTGOOD, Louis Cole, Zack Fox, and Flying Lotus (who executive produced the album with Thundercat).

Bruner had this to say about It Is What It Is in a press release: "This album is about love, loss, life and the ups and downs that come with that. It's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but at different points in life you come across places that you don't necessarily understand... some things just aren't meant to be understood."

Honorable Mentions:

These 11 songs almost made the Top 10.

The 1975: "The Birthday Party"

The Avalanches: "We Will Always Love You" (Feat. Blood Orange)

Draag: "Alternative Privilege"

Ellis: "Embarrassing"

Mark Lanegan: "Skeleton Key"

Jessy Lanza: "Lick In Heaven"

Jackie Lynn: "Shugar Water"

Purity Ring: "stardew"

Sparks: "Self-Effacing"

Sufjan Stevens and Lowell Brams: "The Runaround"

Tricky: "Lonely Dancer" (Feat. Anika)

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Allie X: "Susie Save Your Love" (Feat. Mitski)

Archers of Loaf: "Raleigh Days" 

Christelle Bofale: "Miles"

Tim Burgess: "Empathy for the Devil"

Clairo: "february 15, 2020 london, uk (demo)"

Greg Dulli: "A Ghost"

Jay Som: "Can't Sleep"

JPEGMAFIA: "BALD!"

K A G: "Play With Fire" (The Rolling Stones Cover)

Locate S,1: "Whisper 2000"

Alanis Morissette: "Smiling"

Morrissey: "Knockabout World" 

Willie Nelson: "First Rose of Spring"


Ozzy Osbourne: "It's a Raid" (Feat. Post Malone)

Pearl Jam: "Superblood Wolfmoon"


Peter Bjorn and John: "Music"

PINS: "Bad Girls Forever"

Public Practice: "Compromised"

Spinning Coin: "Get High"

The Strokes: "Bad Decisions"

The Weeknd: "After Hours"

Yves Tumor: "Gospel For a New Century"

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