12 Best Songs of the Week: Yak, Vampire Weekend, HÆLOS, Jenny Lewis, and More

Plus Rose Elinor Dougall, Foals, Florence + the Machine, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Jan 25, 2019
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This was a helluva week for new music. Monday was fairly quiet due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, but Foals officially announced two albums and shared a cinematic video for a new song. On Tuesday Broken Social Scene announced a new EP and Apparat, Stephen Malkmus, Flight of the Conchords, and Nilüfer Yanya all announced new albums; a new song accompanied each announcement. On Wednesday Jenny Lewis confirmed her new album details (including its much talked about album cover) and shared a new song. Wednesday also saw new tracks from TEEN, Beck (feat. Feist), Ryan Adams (feat. John Mayer), HÆLOS (to accompany their album announcement), and Mercury Rev (who shared two tracks, one featuring Susanne Sundfør and one featuring Lucinda Williams). Thursday was the big day, however, as most of us woke up to two surprise released albums: Weezer put out a covers album out of nowhere, even though they have a new album due out in March, and Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst teamed up as the new band Better Oblivion Community Center and released their self-titled debut album. Then only a few hours later Vampire Weekend shared not one, but two new songs, the first two singles from their upcoming first album in six years. Not to be outdone, later that day Florence + the Machine also shared two new songs, even though she just put out a new album last year. On Thursday Rose Elinor Dougall also announced her new album and shared a new song, and Julia Jacklin and Murray A. Lightburn also shared new songs. Today was a little quieter, with the most notable tracks being a new song from Kurt Vile, even though he only just released a new album in October, and a new song from Yak that features Jason Pierce (aka J. Spaceman of Spiritualized). So can you blame us that this week's Songs of the Week is a Top 12 instead of the usual Top 10?

Elsewhere on the website this week we posted Artist Survey interviews with Robyn Hitchcock, Charles Watson, Doe Paoro, Bernice, and Palehound.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Deerhunter, Juliana Hatfield, Sneaks, William Tyler, Blood Red Shoes, Mike Krol, Pavo Pavo, Tim Presley's White Fence, FIDLAR, Swervedriver, Pedro the Lion, and James Blake. Plus we posted reviews of various DVDs, Blu-rays, films, and TV shows, including the season finale of The Good Place.

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. But to start there are two songs we neglected to include on last week's list.

Two Songs We Should Have Had On Last Week's List:

Firstly, here are two songs we should have put on last week's list, but forgot to. They weren't released as singles last week, which is why we forgot about them, but they were both the closing tracks on their respective albums released last Friday.

Deerhunter: "Nocturne"

Steve Gunn: "Paranoid"

This Week's Top 12:

1. Yak: "This House Has No Living Room" (Feat. J. Spaceman)

Today British psych trio Yak shared a new track "This House Has No Living Room" via its NSFW video. The track is the finale on their forthcoming new album, Pursuit of Momentary Happiness, out February 8 via Jack White's Third Man Records. "Inside this house/The walls are paper thin," frontman Oli Burslem croons over top of a gently churning rotary organ and some mechanized percussion before the song opens into a symphony full of horns and samples of bird songs. The track features Jason Pierce (aka J. Spaceman) of Spiritualized (formerly of Spacemen 3), pulling double duty on slide guitar and guest vocals towards the end, as well as John Coxon of Spiritualized and Spring Heel Jack. The video is comprised of footage from the recently discovered 8mm archives of cult erotic photographer John Kayser and features a heavy focus on feet.

Burslem had this to say about the recording of the track: "This is the last song we recorded at RAK and it's definitely my favorite. It sums the whole record up. I guess it's inspired by mortality and memories of loved ones past and present. It also features my good friend John Coxon on piano and harmonica without whom I doubt the band would be where we are today. If it's the last piece of music I ever make I'll be happy."

Back in October Yak shared the video for Pursuit of Momentary Happiness' "Bellyache," which made it onto our Songs of the Week list. In December, when the album was announced, they also shared the song "Fried."

Pursuit of Momentary Happiness is the follow-up to the band's 2016-released debut album, Alas Salvation. The new album was originally going to be recorded at the Perth, Australia studio of Tame Impala's Kevin Parker, but it didn't work out. The band's original bassist, Andy Jones, also left the band for a new life in Australia. Burslem returned to England with no money, no album, and no place to live.

He was already friends with Coxon, who introduced him to Pierce. The Spiritualized leader encouraged Burlsem and drummer Elliot Rawson to solider on and soon they had a new bassist in Vinny Davies and were recording the album at London's RAK studios with producer Marta Salogni (Björk, Django Django). In 10 days they recorded 29 songs, 11 of which made the album. Then Burslem put the finishing touches on the album with the help of Pierce at his home studio.

In a previous press release, Burslem had this to say about recording the album: "I don't want it to be a boo-hoo story. It was fun doing it. It's nice to push yourself to the limit, and I can say now that I don't give a shit what anyone thinks, because it's a document of that time, and it's honest and open, and I couldn't have done or given much more." By Stephen Axeman

Read our 2016 interview with Yak.

2. Vampire Weekend: "Harmony Hall" (Plus "2021")

Vampire Weekend released two new songs on Thursday morning: "Harmony Hall" and "2021." They are the first two singles to be shared from their forthcoming fourth album, Father of the Bride, which is due out this April via Columbia (exact release date TBA) and is expected to feature 18 songs in 59 minutes. The songs were shared via visuals, one featuring a lot of bugs and one featuring frogs.

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. 

Frontman Ezra Koenig wrote "Harmony Hall," which was produced by Ariel Rechtshaid and Koenig, with additional production by Batmanglij. Koenig and Haruomi Hosono wrote "2021," which produced by Rechtshaid and Koenig. 

 3. HÆLOS: "Kyoto"

This week London-based band HÆLOS announced a new album, Any Random Kindness, and shared a video for a new song from it, "Kyoto." Any Random Kindness is due out May 10 via Infectious. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as the band's upcoming tour dates, here.

Any Random Kindness is the band's second album, the follow-up to 2016's debut full-length, Full Circle, which was released via Matador. The album includes "Buried in the Sand," a new song the band shared back in October via a video (it was one of our Songs of the Week).

HÆLOS were originally a trio (Arthur Delaney, Dom Goldsmith, and Lotti Benardout), but have now added touring member Daniel Vildósola. On their debut the band pulled from '90s trip-hop sounds originated by Massive Attack and Portishead for inspiration and that vibe seems to continue on "Kyoto."

Orlando Leopard produced the album, which was recorded at Baltic Studios in East London and at their home studio. Matt Wiggins (Glass Animals) and Marta Salongi (The xx) mixed the album.

A press release points out: "The latter part of the recording was especially tense, with many near breakups. However, this process led to a new, optimistic perception of each other, and music that explored the push and pull of relationships. A new, increasingly dance-floor oriented direction to their sound emerged."

Read our 2015 article on HÆLOS.

4. Jenny Lewis: "Red Bull & Hennessy"

Back in December Jenny Lewis announced her new album, On the Line. At the time of its announcement, no songs from the album were shared and the exact release date, tracklist, and cover art were all TBA. This week Lewis shared the album's first single, "Red Bull & Hennessy," and announced the album's details. "Red Bull & Hennessy" has a bit of a Fleetwood Mac vibe. On the Line is now confirmed to be coming out on March 22 via Warner Bros. Check out the album's tracklist and much talked about cover art, as well as her tour dates, here.

On the Line is Lewis' first solo album in five years, since 2014's The Voyager. Lewis recorded On the Line at Capitol Records' Studio B with an impressive backing band featuring Beck, Benmont Tench, Don Was, Jim Keltner, Ringo Starr, and Ryan Adams.

5. Rose Elinor Dougall: "First Sign"

Yesterday Rose Elinor Dougall announced a new album, A New Illusion, and shared its first single, "First Sign." A New Illusion is due out April 5 via Vermillion. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art here.

A New Illusion is Dougall's third album and the follow-up to 2017's acclaimed Stelluar (which was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017). Back in November she shared the new song, "Make It With You," which was our #1 Song of the Week and is surprisingly not featured on the new album.

The album features her brother Tom Dougall of the band TOY, along with his bandmates Maxim Barron and Max Claps, as well as Euan Hinshelwood and Joe Chilton of Younghusband. Dougall had this to say about her collaborators in a statement: "It does feel like a really nice group effort - I didn't want to be over-prescriptive, so some of it is quite loose. I wanted to make it about musicianship."

Dougall had this to say about the album: "I just wanted to sit at the piano and play, I wanted to return to something essential. There's something comforting and solid about that instinctive relationship with music, with playing and singing."

"First Sign" was inspired during a trip to a remote part of Andalusia, in Southern Spain. Dougall explains: "I was trying to cut loose from a situation, and this song is about vainly attempting to shake oneself free. I was looking for a loose, hazy feeling to the music to sit with the imagery of the song. I wanted it to sound like the end of summer."

Dougall is also a former member of The Pipettes and Mark Ronson's band, as well as Innerspace Orchestra, a trio with Tom Furse of The Horrors and Cathy Lucas of Fanfarlo.

Read our 2017 interview with Rose Elinor Dougall on Stelluar.

6. Florence + the Machine: "Moderation" (Plus "Haunted House")

Florence + the Machine (aka Florence Welch and backing band) released a new album, High As Hope, just last June via Republic. Yesterday she already shared two new songs, the big-sounding James Ford-produced "Moderation" and the more stripped back Daniel Siskin-produced "Haunted House." Florence + the Machine is headlining New York's Governors Ball festival at the end of May.

Welch wrote, co-produced, and recorded the majority of High As Hope by herself, cycling to her studio in Peckham every day. It's the first time she's co-produced a Florence + the Machine album. Then she finished the songs in Los Angeles with her friend and co-producer Emile Haynie and mixed the album in New York. Her daily views of the New York skyline inspired the album's title, because, as a previous press release said, the NYC skyline is "often in stark contrast to the chaos of the wider world."

7. Foals: "Exits"

On Monday Foals officially announced two albums after previously teasing them online, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1 and Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 2, and shared a cinematic video for Part 1's first single, "Exits." They have also announced some tour dates. Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1 is due out March 8 via Warner Bros., with Part 2 due out this autumn. Check out Part 1's tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates, here.

The albums are the follow-up to 2015's What Went Down. Foals frontman Yannis 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 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 says 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 says. "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 adds: "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."

Albert Moya directed the "Exits" video, which features actors Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Game of Thrones) and Christa Théret, and was produced by CANADA.

Read our 2015 interview with Foals about What Went Down.

8. Murray A. Lightburn: "To the Top"

Murray A. Lightburn, frontman of Montréal's The Dears, is releasing a new solo album, Hear Me Out, on February 22 via Dangerbird. Yesterday he shared another song from the album, "To the Top," via a black & white video for the track. It sounds like vintage Dears in all the best ways (think No Cities Left era).

Previously Lightburn shared Hear Me Out's first single, "Belleville Blues" (which we premiered and was one of our Songs of the Week), which was followed by another song from the album, "Changed My Ways."

Lightburn had this to say about "To the Top" in a press release: "This track turned out to be a shout out to my family; an oath that I will never stop working to make our life together the best it can be. I wanted to make certain that it's on record, that no matter what is hurled at me or at us, I'm gonna keep at it and that everything I do... (in a raspy voice) "I do it forrr yooouuu..." I hope that as personal as all of this sounds, that anyone can relate to what I'm saying here.

"I played the tubular bells myself and the string arrangement I wrote for this is probably my favourite on the album. At the outset, Howard [Bilerman] seemed a bit less enthused by this track but he made some really valuable contributions while I worked really hard to convince him that this was the track; if you can convince him, you just might be on to something. There were many pivotal moments along the way in the production of this song. In the end his mix down of my absolutely cracking backing band made all my dreams come true. The only thing that would surpass that, is people all over the world bopping and toe-tappin' and singing along to this tune." 

Lightburn wrote and arranged all the songs on Hear Me Out, which was produced by Lightburn and Howard Bilerman (Leonard Cohen, Arcade Fire, Godspeed You Black Emperor!). It was recorded and mixed at Hotel2Tango in Montréal. Lightburn plays a lot of different instruments on the album: lead and background vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, organ, Mellotron, piano, tubular bells, vibraphone, tambourine, and maracas. The album also features guest vocals from Catherine McCandless of Young Galaxy and Ariel Engel of Broken Social Scene and La Force, as well as Hawksley Workman on bongos. Plus the album includes the following players: Jeff Luciani (drums), Rémi-Jean Leblanc (bass guitar), Steve Raegele (electric guitar and acoustic guitar), Gregory Burton (piano), and Liam O'Neil (piano and tenor saxophone).

9. Broken Social Scene: "All I Want"

On Tuesday Broken Social Scene announced a new EP, Let's Try the After - Vol. 1, and shared its first single, "All I Want." Let's Try the After - Vol. 1 is due out February 15 via Arts & Crafts. They have also announced some new shows in Los Angeles and Montreal. Check out the EP's tracklist and cover art, as well as the band's upcoming tour dates, here.

The EP includes "1972," a song they recently performed in a session for the Canadian music show The Strombo Show. The other new song they performed on the show, "Can't Find My Heart," is not featured on the EP (perhaps that's being saved for Vol. 2). "All I Want" features lead vocals by Andrew Whiteman, a core member of the band and also from Apostle of Hustle. Nyles Spencer produced and mixed the EP, apart from "1972," which was produced by the band's own Charles Spearin and Joe Chiccarelli. 

Frontman Kevin Drew had this to say about the EP in a press release: "The point is to keep going. We have more to give. These songs have lived beside us and become our commencement party while continuing together. We hope you enjoy this EP for you and me."

The band also released this more cryptic joint statement about the EP: "The ceremony of dying generations without any guidelines for how to move forward makes these times easy for the mirror wars to continue. We can hide in the beauty of what has been stolen from us because somewhere there is mystery in not knowing. How can the ruined survive without a back up plan? Let's try the after."

Broken Social Scene has partnered with PLUS1 for their upcoming shows. For their Los Angeles shows, $1 from every U.S. ticket will go to support Youth Speaks, "who provide life changing arts programs for vulnerable and disadvantaged youth across the country." For the Montreal shows the band has partnered with MusicCounts so that "$1 from every ticket will go towards putting musical instruments into the hands of kids who need them most."

Broken Social Scene's last album, Hug of Thunder, was released in July 2017 via Arts & Crafts. It was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017.

Read our 2017 interview with Broken Social Scene on Hug of Thunder.

10. Nilüfer Yanya: "In Your Head"

Nilüfer Yanya is a promising new 23-year-old London-based singer/songwriter/guitarist. On Tuesday she announced her debut album, Miss Universe, and shared a video for a new song from it, "In Your Head." Miss Universe is due out March 22 via ATO. It includes "Heavyweight Champion of the Year," which she shared back in November via a video for the track (it was one of our Songs of the Week). Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as her upcoming tour dates, here.

The "In Your Head" video was filmed in the Las Vegas desert and directed by longtime creative collaborator ENERGYFORCE. 

Nilüfer had this to say about "In Your Head" in a press release: "Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me and I get trapped. There's the things I need disguised as things I think I only want, things I think I'm choosing out of choice not necessity. Sometimes this only becomes clear in retrospect, or maybe it will never become clear. Some people may call that being paranoid. I think that's what I wrote the song about, but what's interesting to me, and what I think I was trying to get at, is the illusion of freedom."

A press release says that Miss Universe features "co-productions with both her former school guitar teacher The Invisible's Dave Okumu and her live bandmates Jazzi Bobbi and Luke Bower, as well as producers John Congleton, Oli Barton-Wood, Will Archer and M.T. Hadley."

11. Julia Jacklin: "Pressure to Party" 

Australian singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin is releasing her sophomore album, Crushing, on February 22 via Polyvinyl. Yesterday she shared another song from it, "Pressure to Party," via a video for the song. Jacklin co-directed the clip with frequent collaborator Nick Mckk, which features all her siblings.

Jacklin had this to say about the song in a press release: "When you come out of a relationship, there's so much pressure to act a certain way. First it's like, 'Oh, you've gotta take some time for yourself'...but then if you take too much time it's, 'You've gotta get back out there!' That song is just my three-minute scream, saying I'm going to do what I need to do, when I need to do it."

Jacklin had this to say about the video: "I went back to the house we shot my first music video 'Pool Party' in, as it felt like a good visual book end for the last 3 years. We shot the video in one take. It took a few practice runs but we managed to get it done in about 4 hours. We all swam in the pool after. It was a really special day. I managed to get all of my siblings in the clip, and we hadn't all been in the same room together for over 4 years. I also got one of my favorite bands Body Type to wear all my old music video outfits and pretend to be my band."

Previously Jacklin shared two songs from Crushing: "Body" (which was one of our Songs of the Week) and "Head Alone" (which was also one of our Songs of the Week), as well as a video for "Head Alone."

Jacklin released her debut album, Don't Let the Kids Win, on Polyvinyl in 2016. Last summer Jacklin released another album as part of the trio Phantastic Ferniture. Their self-titled album also came out via Polyvinyl.

12. Better Oblivion Community Center: "Dylan Thomas"

Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes) have teamed up as the new band Better Oblivion Community Center and yesterday they surprise released their self-titled debut album via Dead Oceans (it's out on CD/vinyl February 22). On Wednesday night they stopped by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to announce the project and perform the album's "Dylan Thomas," which has emerged as the album's main single. Stream the whole album below and also watch the Colbert performance here.

The album features the following players: Phoebe Bridgers (vocals, baritone guitar), Conor Oberst (vocals, piano), Nick Zinner (guitar), Carla Azar (drums, percussion), Anna Butterss (upright bass), Christian Lee Hutson (guitar), Andy LeMaster (samples), and Taylor Hollingsworth (sampled voice).

Phoebe Bridgers, Conor Oberst, and Andy LeMaster produced the album, which was engineered by LeMaster at Fivestar Studio in Los Angeles and mixed by John Congleton. Bridgers and Oberst wrote all the songs except for "Chesapeake" and "Forest Lawn," which were written by Bridgers, Oberst, and Christian Lee Hutson, and "Dominos," which was written by Taylor Hollingsworth.

The project was recently teased via a hotline you could call to get a strange answering machine message (check out the YouTube video of it below). The band will also be performing on CBS This Morning this Saturday, January 26. A press release promises that tour dates will be announced soon.

Bridgers released her debut album, Stranger in the Alps, back in September 2017 via Dead Oceans and then released a deluxe digital version in October 2018, also via Dead Oceans. Last year Bridgers also teamed up with fellow singer/songwriters Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus to form supergroup Boygenius, whose self-titled debut EP was released in October via Matador. Bridgers and Oberst have collaborated before, for example he sang on Stranger in the Alps' "Would You Rather" and appeared in the song's video.

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

Honorable Mentions: 

These six songs almost made the Top 10. TEEN came closest to making the main list.

American Football: "Uncomfortably Numb" (Feat. Hayley Williams)

Flight of the Conchords: "Iain and Deanna (Live)"

Mary Lattimore: "Never Saw Him Again (Julianna Barwick Remix)"

Stephen Malkmus: "Viktor Borgia"

Mercury Rev: "Tobacco Road" (Feat. Susanne Sundfør) (Bobbie Gentry Cover)

TEEN: "Runner"

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Ryan Adams: "Fuck the Rain" (Feat. John Mayer)

Apparat: "DAWAN"

Beck: "Tarantula" (Feat. Feist) (Colourbox Cover)

Bellows: "The Rose Gardener"

Bring Me The Horizon: "nihilist blues" (Feat. Grimes)

Brutus: "War (Live at Rain City)"

Chris Cohen: "Green Eyes"

Delicate Steve: "Selfie of a Man"

 

FACS: "In Time" 

 

Hand Habits: "can't calm down"

Lambchop: "Everything For You"

Mercury Rev: "Ode to Billie Joe" (Feat. Lucinda Williams) (Bobbie Gentry Cover)

Jessica Pratt: "Aeroplane"

 

Spiral Stairs: "HYP-NO-TIZED"

John Vanderslice: "I'll Wait For You"

Kurt Vile: "Timing Is Everything (And I'm Falling Behind)"

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