15 Best Songs of the Last Two Weeks: Neko Case, Mitski, Gruff Rhys, Tunng, Bernice, and More

Plus Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Ryley Walker, Arctic Monkeys, and a Wrap-up of the Last Two Weeks' Other Notable New Tracks

May 18, 2018 Bookmark and Share


We skipped Songs of the Week last week for various reasons, but now we're back with two week's worth of songs. For that reason, this week it's a Top 15, instead of our usual Top 10.

Six songs that almost made the Top 15: Courtney Barnett, Chromeo, The Essex Green, Lykke Li, Snail Mail, and Sons of An Illustrious Father.

Elsewhere on the website in the last two weeks: We posted our cover story with Courtney Barnett, as well as interviews with musicians Parquet Courts, Anna Burch, The Decemberists, Noel Gallagher, Elbow, Django Django, as well as with Congressional candidate Jess Phoenix. We also reviewed a bunch of albums (including the latest by Parquet Courts, Arctic Monkeys, Courtney Barnett, FAN, Ryley Walker, Brian Eno, Cardi B, Mark Kozelek, Beach House, Leon Bridges, The Sea and Cake, and others). Courtney Barnett was this week's Album of the Week and Beach House was last week's Album of the Week. We also posted three tributes to the late Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit, who passed away last week.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last two weeks, we have picked the 15 best the fortnight had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last couple of weeks. Check out the full list below.

1. Neko Case: "Curse of the I-5 Corridor" (Feat. Mark Lanegan)

Neko Case is releasing a new album, Hell-On, on June 1 via ANTI-. This week she shared another song from the album, "Curse of the I-5 Corridor." The 7-minute long song is a duet with Mark Lanegan. It gets the top spot partly because of the strong lyrics.

Previously Case shared the album's title track, "Hell-On" (which was one of our Songs of the Week), as well as a trailer for the album that featured her singing "Hell-On" while snakes slithered around her head. Then she shared another song from the album, "Bad Luck," as well as a short "Bad Luck" visual featuring Case in a burning house with the crown of cigarettes she wears on the album cover. "Bad Luck" was also one of our Songs of the Week. She also announced some September North American tour dates with support from Thao (of Thao & the Get Down Stay Down).

While recording Hell-On in Stockholm, Case got a phone call at 3 a.m. that her house had burned down after her barn had caught on fire. A friend had saved her dogs, but not much else. The lyrics to "Bad Luck" were written prior to the fire, but took on new meaning when she recorded the song the day after the fire.

Case had this to say about the fire in a previous press release: "If somebody burned your house down on purpose, you'd feel so violated. But when nature burns your house down, you can't take it personally." Her house burned down soon after Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico, and wildfires spread across California. "In the big picture, my house burning was so unimportant," Case added in the press release. "So many people lost so much more: lives and lives and lives."

It's been five years since Case's last solo album, 2013's lengthily titled The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You. Although she has also taken part in two New Pornographers albums since then and in 2016 she teamed up with k.d. lang, and Laura Veirs for the collaborative album case/lang/veirs.

Case self-produced Hell-On, although six tracks were co-produced with Bjorn Yttling of Peter Bjorn and John in Stockholm, Sweden. Case mixed the album in Stockholm with Lasse Martin. The album features a slew of special guests, including Beth Ditto, Mark Lanegan, k.d. Lang, AC Newman, Eric Bachmann, Kelly Hogan, Doug Gillard, Laura Veirs, and Joey Burns.

A previous press release said Hell-On "is simultaneously her most accessible and most challenging album, in a rich and varied career that's offered plenty of both. Hell-On is rife with withering self-critique, muted reflection, anthemic affirmation, and Neko's unique poetic sensibility."

 

2. Mitski: "Geyser"

This week, Mitski (full name Mitski Miyawaki) announced a new album, Be the Cowboy, and shared a Zia Anger-directed video for its first single, "Geyser." Be the Cowboy is due out August 17 via Dead Oceans.

The album is the follow-up to 2016's acclaimed Puberty 2 and was produced with longtime collaborator Patrick Hyland. In a press release, Mitski says she and Hyland were drawn to "the image of someone alone on a stage, singing solo with a single spotlight trained on them in an otherwise dark room. For most of the tracks, we didn't layer the vocals with doubles or harmonies to achieve that campy 'person singing alone on stage' atmosphere."

Mitski also says she "experimented in narrative and fiction" and had in mind "a very controlled icy repressed woman who is starting to unravel. Because women have so little power and showing emotion is seen as weakness, this 'character' clings to any amount of control she can get. Still, there is something very primordial in her that is trying to find a way to get out."

"I had been on the road for a long time," she adds, "which is so isolating, and had to run my own business at the same time. A lot of this record was me not having any feelings, being completely spent but then trying to rally myself and wake up and get back to Mitski."

Read our review of Puberty 2

3. Gruff Rhys: "Limited Edition Heart"

Gruff Rhys, Welsh frontman of Britpop outliers and survivors Super Furry Animals, is releasing a new solo album, Babelsberg, on June 8 via Rough Trade. The album was recorded with the 72-piece BBC National Orchestra of Wales and he previously shared a video for its first single, "Frontier Man" (which was one of our Songs of the Week). Last week he shared another song from the album, "Limited Edition Heart." He also announced some tour dates, including some U.S. and Canadian ones in October.

"Limited Edition Heart" was shared via an amusing black & white looped animated lyric video featuring Donald Trump sitting at a table with Jesus and taking photos of him with his phone.

Rhys had this to say about the song in a press release: "I wrote 'Limited Edition Heart' whilst walking along a polluted yet beautiful river. It has beautiful orchestral arrangements thanks to Stephen McNeff and the BBC NOW orchestra." 

Babelsberg's songs were originally recorded in a quick three-day session in 2016 at producer Ali Chant's studio just before it was demolished and featured drummer Kliph Scurlock (ex-Flaming Lips), along with multi-instrumentalists Stephen Black (aka Sweet Baboo) and Osian Gwynedd. Then 18 months later Swansea based composer Stephen McNeff finished orchestral scores for the songs and the album was completed with the 72-piece BBC National Orchestra of Wales. 

Rhys had this to say about the album in a previous press release: "I'd made a note of the word 'Babelsberg' after driving past a sign when I was on tour in 2014. Cut to a few years later and the studio where I recorded the album was being knocked down just a week after I finished to make way for a 'luxury' apartment development. I was looking for a name that evoked the Tower of Babel - people building towers to reach an idea of heaven (but maybe creating a kind of hell - I'm an atheist by the way!) In any case I had written Babelsberg down and when I listened to the songs together, it finally made sense why I'd done that."

Rhys' last solo album was 2014's American Interior (which was also a documentary film, a book, and an app).

Read our 2015 interview with Gruff Rhys about American Interior.

4. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: "An Air Conditioned Man"

Melbourne, Australia five-piece Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are releasing their debut album, Hope Dawns, on June 15 via Sub Pop. This week they shared a lyric video for another song from the album, "An Air Conditioned Man."

Singer Fran Keaney had this to say about the song in a press release: "This song follows the slow burning panic of a salary man. The world around him has become artificial and automated. A street triggers a realization of what he's lost."

When the album was announced the band shared a video for a new song, "Talking Straight" (which was one of our Songs of the Week). The album also includes the previously shared single "Mainland."

5. Tunng: "ABOP" 

This week Tunng announced a new album, Songs You Make At Night, which is due out August 24 via Full Time Hobby. It's the first album with the original lineup (including founding members Sam Genders and Mike Lindsay) since 2007's Good Arrows. They also shared a video for its new single, "ABOP."

Lindsay had this to say about the album in a press release: "We really wanted to do a Tunng record going back to the original line up, there was a real magic in the early records that we all wanted to capture again in this one."

Lindsay has also teamed with Laura Marling for the duo LUMP (see further down the list).

6. Bernice: "He's the Moon" 

Bernice is a promising new 5-piece from Toronto. Their new album, Puff LP: In the air without a shape, is due out May 25 via Arts & Crafts. Last week they shared another song from the album, "He's the Moon." 

Songwriter/vocalist Robin Dann had this to say about the song in a press release: "We recorded this song at the Banff Centre, so we were very spoiled with gear and grand pianos and microphones and wonderful people with lots of ideas. But we wanted a song with lots of space, to give room to the mood. I wrote this song about an afternoon I spent with some great friends on the Magdalen Islands, off the coast of PEI. We just wandered around. We played shoe fling. As I wrote the song it evolved to encompass some other meanings as well, bigger thoughts, but mostly I was remembering seagulls flying past my head, and grass bent under the wind, and ocean all around." 

7. Ryley Walker: "Spoil With the Rest"

Ryley Walker released a new album, Deafman Glance, this week via Dead Oceans. Last week he shared another song from the record, "Spoil With the Rest."

Previously he shared the album's lush flute-backed six-and-a-half-minute long first single, "Telluride Speed" (which was one of our Songs of the Week), as well as the second single, "Opposite Middle" (which was also one of our Songs of the Week).

Walker had this to say about the song in a press release: "'Spoil With the Rest' was, I think, the first or second tune written for the record in January of 2017. I think it's a really funny look at trying and failing. I tune the bottom two strings up a full step for this song. I always think I'm gonna break the strings when I play it live. Very fitting." 

Deafman Glance is the follow-up to 2016's Golden Sings That Have Been Sung and 2015's Primrose Green. Walker produced the album with LeRoy Bach, recording it at the Minbal (now JAMDEK) Studios in Chicago, at USA Studios, and in LeRoy's kitchen. Cooper Crain (Bitchin' Bajas, Cave) recorded and mixed the album and played synths on it. Bach played some guitar and piano on the album. Deafman Glance also features 6-string players Brian J Sulpizio and Bill Mackay, Andrew Scott Young and Matt Lux on bass, Mikel Avery and Quin Kirchner on drums/percussion, and Nate Lepine on flute and saxophone.

Walker previously issued this statement about the album: "I think more than anything the thing to take away from this record is that I appreciate what improv and jamming and that outlook on music has done for me, but I wanted rigid structure for these songs. I don't want to expand upon them live. There's a looseness to some of the songs I guess, but I didn't want to rely on just hanging out on one note. 

"I was under a lot of stress because I was trying to make an anti-folk record and I was having trouble doing it. I wanted to make something deep-fried and more me-sounding. I didn't want to be jammy acoustic guy anymore. I just wanted to make something weird and far-out that came from the heart finally. I was always trying to make something like this I guess, trying to catch up with my imagination. And I think I succeeded in that way - it's got some weird instrumentation on there, and some surreal far-out words. And it's more Chicago-y sounding. Chicago sounds like a train constantly coming towards you but never arriving. That's the sound I hear, all the time, ringing in my ears."

8. Arctic Monkeys: "Four Out of Five"

Arctic Monkeys released a new album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, last week via Domino. They didn't share any advance music ahead of the album, so fans got to discover the whole album for the first time upon its release. But "Four Out of Five" has now emerged as the album's first single. The band performed it last week on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and last weekend they shared a video for the song. Ben Chappell and Aaron Brown directed the clip, which was mainly shot on location at Castle Howard in the band's home county of Yorkshire, England. It has a kind of 1970s/early 1980s Stanley Kubrick vibe to it.

Previously they shared a trailer for the album. It's been five years since their last album, 2013's AM, but it had been expected that they would be releasing a new one this year. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is the British band's sixth album, was recorded in Los Angeles, Paris, and London, and was produced by James Ford and the band's own Alex Turner.

9. LUMP: "Late to the Flight" 

LUMP is a new band that teams up Laura Marling and Tunng's Mike Lindsay. Their self-titled debut album, LUMP, is due out June 1 via Dead Oceans. Previously they shared a video for its first single, "Curse of the Contemporary" (which was our #2 Song of the Week). Last week they shared the album's second single, and opening track, the atmospheric slow-burner "Late to the Flight." A press release says that on the song "Marling evocatively explores the notion of lucid dreaming and the hyper reality of being trapped within a public persona."

Marling and Lindsay met when Marling supported Neil Young at a London show in June 2016 and they discovered that they were mutual fans of each other's work. The collaboration grew from there.

A previous press release explained some of things that influenced Marling's lyrics for LUMP: "Inspired by early-20th-century Surrealism and the absurdist poetry of Edward Lear and Ivor Cutler, she wanted to slice through the apparent emptiness of contemporary life. Her resulting creation is a bizarre but compelling narrative about the commodification of curated public personas, the mundane absurdity of individualism, and the lengths we go to escape our own meaninglessness."

Marling's last album, Semper Femina, was released in 2017 via More Alarming Records, which is Marling's own label via Kobalt Music Recordings.

10. Jungle: "Happy Man" and "House in LA"

Last week London's Jungle (led by Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland) shared videos for two new songs, "Happy Man" and "House in LA." They are out now digitally and will be released as a double A-side 12-inch single on June 22 via XL.

It's been four years since Jungle's 2014-released Mercury Prize-nominated self-titled debut album. But now they have announced some more tour dates. The band performed "House in LA" on Last Call with Carson Daly, filmed during the band's performance at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles in December but broadcast in February.

A press release promises that "Happy Man" and "House in LA" are the first two songs from the band's sophomore album, which the band describe as "a post-apocalyptic radio station playing break up songs." 

The band moved to Hollywood to work on the album, but ended up finishing it back in London. As the press release explains: "If Jungle's first album was their imaginary soundtrack to the places they had never been, their new record captures the landscapes they had so often dreamed of. To write and record the new album, J and T swapped Shepherds Bush for the Hollywood Hills. Their romanticization of The California Dream clashed with the reality of living it-although the experience led them back home to London to finish the album, the journey itself ultimately defining the music it produced."

Read our 2014 interview with Jungle.

 

11. Chromatics: "Black Walls"

This week Chromatics shared a video for a new song, "Black Walls," and promised that their long-awaited album Dear Tommy will finally come out this fall via Italians Do It Better. The band self-directed the atmospheric video (with Rene Hallen as the director of photography).

Chromatics were supposed to release Dear Tommy in 2015 (it was announced in December 2014). Despite several songs from the album being released, the album never saw the light of day, continually being promised as coming soon. In May 2017, Alexis Rivera, the former manager for Chromatics' frontman Johnny Jewel, revealed in a series of tweets that Jewel had a near-death experience in Hawaii on Christmas Day 2015 and afterwards he destroyed all copies of Dear Tommy in order to re-record it to better capture the sound he was going for. The "Black Walls" video fittingly features a vinyl record cracked in half at one point. Then last May the band performed their previously shared single "Shadow" during the premiere of Showtime's Twin Peaks revival, performing the song in the show's Roadhouse bar, and they also shared a video for the song.

12. Christine and the Queens: "Girlfriend" (Feat. Dâm-Funk)

Christine and the Queens (aka Héloïse Letissier) made waves in their native France with their 2014 debut album, Chaleur humaine. A more English language version of the album, simply titled Christine and the Queens, was released in America (and other English speaking countries) in 2015 via Because Music. This week she returned with the first new song since that album, "Girlfriend," which features Dâm-Funk. She has also shared a French version of the song, titled "Damn, dis-moi." Listen to both versions below.

Letissier had this to say about the song in a press release: "I initially set out to smash against macho culture and macho men. I became obsessed with this idea of the macho man, and still being a woman. What does it mean if I'm this figure, and I'm a woman? Does it make me an aberration? Is it joyful?.... I felt I had to address female desire and it's diversity," she says. "How sometimes it's blacked out or ignored. It's still something quite suspicious or slightly dirty. I felt like it was important to be more unapologetic about that. There are hints of nights spent having sex and coming back covered in sweat. Like a male figure, the young hero who has love stories, and comes back in the morning and his friends are like: 'What happened to you?' I want to be that."

 

13. Nina Kinert: "Chapped Lips" (Feat. Future Islands' Samuel T. Herring) 

Swedish singer/songwriter Nina Kinert (who for awhile was just known as Nina K, but is now back to her full name) released a new album, Romantic, last week via V2. Just before the album's release she shared the album's second single, "Chapped Lips," via a video for the song. The song is a duet with Future Islands' frontman Samuel T. Herring, who also costars with Kinert in the video. Palmer Lydebrant directed the video, which features Kinert and Herring in old timey clothing in the wilderness and it has the feel of Jane Campion's movie The Piano, a favorite on Kinert's and an influence on Romantic.

Kinert had this to say about the album in a press release: "The songwriting was majorly triggered by two factors, having a baby and going to New Zealand. I visited a place of my dreams - the beach from Jane Campion's movie The Piano. I was 10 when I saw that film, and I desperately wanted to be just any of the characters. I was so happy someone once told me I looked like Anna Paquin who played Holly Hunter's daughter, haha. I learned how to play Michael Nyman's classic main theme to be able to actually feel it physically. Coming to New Zealand made me feel not only like a part of that film, but as a part of nature -wild and free as it can be when we let it."  

Kinert added this about how being a new parent influenced the album: "It's primitive becoming a parent, yet spiritual. Very dramatic at times, very romantic all the time. When I let myself go and follow my daughter, she shows me the world. If I can keep her safe, she will keep me wild."

Future Islands released a new album, The Far Field, a little over a year ago via 4AD. Last week they shared a brand new song, "Calliope." The Baltimore trio haven't announced a new album or EP, instead it was the latest installment in Adult Swim's Singles Program.

14. Gang Gang Dance: "J-TREE"

Gang Gang Dance are releasing a new album, Kazuashita, on June 22 via 4AD. Kazuashita is the band's first album in seven years, since 2011's Eye Contact, and previously they shared its first single, "Lotus" (which was one of our Songs of the Week). This week they shared another song from the album, "J-TREE."

Gang Gang Dance is Lizzi Bougatsos, Brian DeGraw, and Josh Diamond. DeGraw produced the album, which was recorded in several New York recording studios and art spaces and also features drummer Ryan Sawyer and Jorge Elbrecht (who contributed additional production and mixing duties).

DeGraw had this to say about the new song in a press release: "'J-TREE' has always been about open space to me. When I started writing the skeleton of the song I imagined it would only ever be played live in an outdoor setting. That was the goal: to create a song that was a sonic dialogue between ourselves and the majesty of wide open space in nature."

The song features a spoken word sample of Shiyé Bidziil of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe speaking out against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline through sacred Native American burial lands. DeGraw had this to say about that: "The Shiyé sample captures a point in time that is not only a historical moment in the struggle of humankind within a state of heightened political chaos, but also a reminder that Nature is not passive. This sacred open space possesses its own active consciousness and when we are spiritually aligned with its frequency a very direct alliance occurs. The stampede of buffalo was a reaction from the higher powers of Nature in response to the cries of a people who were fighting to maintain that spiritual alliance. Standing Rock was essentially a standoff between beings who believe that money is God versus beings who believe that Nature is God. I think Shiyé's moment was an example of the natural world confirming that the latter is much closer to the truth."

15. Melody's Echo Chamber: "Desert Horse"

Melody's Echo Chamber, the project of French musician Melody Prochet, is releasing her long-awaited second album, Bon Voyage, on June 15 via Fat Possum. Previously she shared a video for its first single, "Breathe In, Breathe Out" (which was one of our Songs of the Week). This week she shared another song from the album, "Desert Horse," via an animated video for the song.

Prochet had this to say about the song in a press release: "This track was a monster. It's the most sculptural and mad I guess. It embodies my difficult life journey these last few years through my own personal desert of heartaches, thirst, mirages, moving sands, disillusionment and of becoming an adult woman in a mad world. It's a little punk to me somehow."

Bon Voyage is her first album in six years, following her self-titled debut album from 2012, which was produced by Kevin Parker of Tame Impala. This album features a different crew of psych-rock enthusiasts: Dungen's Reine Fiske and The Amazing's Fredrik Swahn collaborated with Prochet on Bon Voyage, which also features Gustav Esjtes and Johan Holmegaard (both from Dungen) and Nicholas Allbrook of Pond. Dungen and The Amazing are from Sweden, whereas Pond hails from Australia. In a previous press release Prochet called the members of Dungen "soulmates and extreme beings, uncompromisingly intense and sensitive."

The album was recorded in the woods of Solna, Sweden. Prochet had this to say about the album in the previous press release: "Swedish nature helped me to breathe and soothed me in times of anxiety. I had a majestic forest with a lake three minutes' walk from my home. Recording sessions were a break in our lives, an escape from our frustrations as young adults, parents, musicians and embittered life jugglers. What transpired was a kind of modern fairytale full of duality: beautiful and disenchanted, happy and painful, internal and external, childish and mature, but also violent and measured. We had no structure and no limits and we stepped out of our comfort zones."

Last year Prochet was hospitalized after an undisclosed serious accident. She previously shared album opener "Cross My Heart" last year.

Other notable new tracks in the last two weeks include: 

77:78: "Chilli"

Anderson .Paak: "Bubblin"

Andre 3000: "Me&My (To Bury Your Parents)" and "Look Ma No Hands" (Feat. James Blake)

Arthur Buck: "Forever Waiting"

Courtney Barnett: "Sunday Roast"

Chromeo: "Bad Business"

Collections of Colonies of Bees: "Ruins"

Cornelius: "Passionfruit" (Drake Cover)

Juliana Daugherty: "Baby Teeth"

Death Grips: "Black Paint" and "Streaky"

 

Mac DeMarco: "She's My Sweet" and "Fuck the Tornado Raptors"

Disclosure: "Ultimatum" (Feat. Fatoumata Diawara)

The Essex Green: "The 710"

Fucked Up: "High Rise" (The Trainspotters Cover)

Tim Hecker: "Rose Light" 

James: "HANK"

Lord Huron: "The Night We Met" (Feat. Phoebe Bridgers)

 

Lykke Li: "utopia"

Luluc: "Heist"

Johnny Marr: "Hi Hello"

John Maus: "Running Man"

Mourn: "Fun at the Geysers"

Nine Inch Nails: "God Break Down the Door"

 

Orbital: "Tiny Foldable Cities"

Phantogram: "Saturday" (Sparklehorse Cover) and  "Someday" 

 

Ty Segall and White Fence: "Good Boy"

Snail Mail: "Let's Find An Out"

 

Sons of An Illustrious Father: "E.G."

Sorry: "Showgirl"

Wand: "True Romance"

Weaves: "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" (Arcade Fire Cover)

Devon Welsh: "I'll Be Your Ladder"

Westerman: "Edison"

Jess Williamson: "Wild Rain"

 

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RepRightSongs
May 19th 2018
9:03am

I checked out the “House In LA” video by Jungle and thought to myself how nice it would be to own that house that is on top of the mountain.

You would no longer have any more worries about what stresses you out daily because you would have all that freedom mindset of being literally on top of the world.

The fact that your life would feel so complete being up there instead of being next to noisey neighbors in the city. You would have so much time to think to yourself.

That is what I believe is the strongest feeling that anyone could have. Having the ability to think to yourself. I often feel like I would accomplish so much more in my life if I had that kind of freedom.

Ofcourse money comes into play when owning a house like that in that free of an area but it’s inspirational to see and have that to look forward to accomplishing one day.

It sets you in the right path of succeeding when you dream of something that high. Maybe you will end up in the middle somewhere but it will still give you something better than you ever had.

That’s why I listen to music. I believe it is the answer to happiness.