7 Best Songs of the Week: Karen O and Danger Mouse, Mercury Rev and Margo Price, and More Plus Ryley Walker | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, September 23rd, 2019  

7 Best Songs of the Week: Karen O and Danger Mouse, Mercury Rev and Margo Price, and More

Plus Ryley Walker; The Good, The Bad, & The Queen; The Twilight Sad; and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

Nov 16, 2018
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This the closest we've come in awhile to skipping Songs of the Week due to a lack of truly worthy songs. But we were able to at least come up with a Top 7 (as opposed to our usual Top 10), even if it includes two covers and two album tracks. One thing that saved it was our #1 song, which was released this morning.

Elsewhere on the website in the last week we posted interviews with Natalie Prass, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, a My Firsts interview with Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire, a Self-Portrait from Teleman, and a The End interview with Death Cab for Cutie.

We also had guest blogs from Helena Deland (on her "Claudion" video) and Madeline Kenney (on her favorite new band).

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Ryley Walker, Sun Kil Moon, Charles Bradley, Tomberlin, and Muse. Plus we posted reviews of various DVDs, Blu-rays, films, and TV shows, including a recap/review of the latest episode of The Good Place.

Don't forget that our current print issue, which features Kamasi Washington on the cover, is still out now.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the seven 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. Karen O and Danger Mouse: "Lux Prima"

This week Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O and Danger Mouse teamed up for a new song, "Lux Prima." The string-backed lush epic is nine minutes long, features vocals from Karen O, and embraces a funkier vibe at around three-minute mark. The duo promises that it's the first taste of a new collaborative album, although no details of the album have been given. The song is out now digitally via BMG but will also be released on December 14 via a limited edition white vinyl.

Karen O had this to say about the song in a press release: "Lux Prima is the first song we wrote for the record. After making music for the past 20 years and embarking on making this record with Danger Mouse I knew a couple things: one was that the spirit of collaboration between us was going to be a pure one, and two was that the more I live the less is clear to me. When you create from a blurry place you can go places further than you've ever been. I think we both were excited to go far out."

Danger Mouse had this to say: "With 'Lux Prima,' we were really looking for a place rather than a sound. It was our first shared destination so we thought we'd take our time getting there. The song itself is a bit of a journey, but all the parts felt like they needed each other. So it became our blueprint in a sense. We wrote the album in deliberate isolation. Along the way asking ourselves lots of questions. We didn't find many answers, but found it was more about the questions themselves."

Yeah Yeah Yeahs' last album was 2013's Mosquito and in 2014 Karen O released the solo album Crush Songs. Danger Mouse has been an in-demand producer for over a decade and also one half of the duos Gnarls Barkley (with CeeLo Green) and Broken Bells (with The Shins' James Mercer).

2. Mercury Rev: "Sermon" (Feat. Margo Price) (Bobbie Gentry Cover)

The week Mercury Rev announced a new album, The Delta Sweete Revisited, where they cover Bobbie Gentry's 1968 "country-rock opera" The Delta Sweete in its entirety, each with a different guest singer, and have shared its first single, a cover of "Sermon" featuring Margo Price. The Delta Sweete Revisited is due out February 8, 2019 via Partisan and Bella Union and also features guest vocals from Norah Jones, Phoebe Bridgers, Lucinda Williams, Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star), Vashti Bunyan, Rachel Goswell (Slowdive), Lætitia Sadier (Stereolab), Kaela Sinclair (M83), Susanne Sundfør, Beth Orton, and others. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art here.

Midlake's Jesse Chandler joined Mercury Rev's Jonathan Donahue and Grasshopper to produce, perform, and rearrange all the music on The Delta Sweete Revisited. The original The Delta Sweete was Gentry's second album and was released in 1968. It followed her 1967 debut album, Ode to Billie Joe, which was a #1 album, in part thanks to its hit single of a title track. The Delta Sweete, on the other hand, was much less of a success, only making it to #132 on the Billboard album charts. Mercury Rev's album includes as a bonus track a cover of "Ode to Billie Joe" featuring Lucinda Williams.

Price had this to say about the album in a press release: "Bobbie Gentry is one of the greatest writers and performers of our time. She was the definition of country funk and southern soul. Her songs were well-crafted, literary masterpieces. Bobbie produced so much of her own work that she didn't get credit for. Her influence on my music has been massive and her influence on the music world in general is earth shattering. Bobbie is iconic, original, eloquent and timeless. She is an elusive wonder in a world of plain spoken, worn out cliques. She has remained a strong voice and an eternal spirit of the delta, wrapped in mystery, yet forever here."

Mercury Rev's last album, The Light In You, came out in 2015 via Bella Union. This year they celebrated the 20th anniversary of arguably their most acclaimed and beloved album, 1998's Deserter's Songs, via some tour dates where they performed the album. Price released her sophomore album, All American Made, in October 2017 via Third Man.

3. Ryley Walker: "JTR" (Dave Matthews Band Cover)

 Ryley Walker released a great new album, Deafman Glance, only back in May via Dead Oceans. But today he released another new album, The Lillywhite Sessions, also via Dead Oceans. It's not your average follow-up album. Instead he has taken an unreleased Dave Matthews Band album from 2001 and covered it track-for-track. One of the album's most interesting tracks is "JTR" and it wasn't released as a single prior to the album's release, so we're highlighting it here. It takes Matthews' original and stretches it out to 11 minutes, with the last seven minutes being an exercise in free jazz. And while the original version did have a horn section, it sounded nothing like this.

Previously Walker shared the album's first two singles: "Busted Stuff" (which was one of our Songs of the Week) and "Diggin' a Ditch."

Here's some background on the album. Dave Matthews Band recorded the original The Lillywhite Sessions in 1999 and 2000 with producer Steve Lillywhite, as the follow-up to 1998's Before These Crowded Streets. The band's label rejected the album and Matthews instead teamed with producer Glen Ballard to write a new album, which only took them 10 days to write and resulted in 2001's Everyday. The Lillywhite Sessions leaked to the Internet soon after Everyday's release, in the days of Napster, and some fans preferred it to Everyday. The Lillywhite Sessions was never officially released, but most of its songs were reworked (sometimes with new lyrics) and re-recorded with producer Stephen Harris for the band's 2002 album Busted Stuff.

Dave Mathews Band have been very successful, all but their first two albums have debuted at #1 on the Billboard album charts, but they aren't what you would call a cool band, or at least one that's been all that embraced by indie rock fans and musicians. Walker, however, grew up listening to them. As a previous press release put it: "When he was a kid growing up in the Rust Belt suburbs of Chicago, worlds away from the city's cultural stronghold, the Dave Matthews Band taught him how to play and love music." The album features Walker's frequent collaborators Andrew Scott Young and Ryan Jewell.

To be honest, here at Under the Radar we were sent an advance promo copy of Walker's The Lillywhite Sessions a couple of months back and had no idea it was a Dave Matthews Band covers album until the album was announced and have been thoroughly enjoying it. Hopefully Walker fans won't be put off by the album's origin and Dave Matthews Band fans will discover Walker. When Walker performs in Charlottesville, VA on December 17 it will be interesting to see if longtime Charlottesville resident Dave Matthews shows up.

4. The Good, The Bad, & The Queen: "Lady Boston"

The Good, The Bad, & The Queen released their long-awaited sophomore album, Merrie Land, today via Studio 13. Now that it's out we can highlight an album track we like, "Lady Boston," which was not issued as a pre-release single. The beautiful and haunting male voice choir is what makes this song.

The band features Damon Albarn (of Blur and Gorillaz), Afrobeat legend Tony Allen, Paul Simonon (of The Clash), and Simon Tong (of The Verve).

Previously The Good, The Bad, & The Queen shared the album's title track (which was one of our Songs of the Week) and stopped by Later... with Jools Holland to perform it. Then they shared another song from the album, "Gun to the Head," via a video for the song that features a man pretending to be a puppet as he sings the song (it was our #1 Song of the Week).

The Good, The Bad, & The Queen released their debut album way back in 2007 and have long been teasing its follow-up (of course Albarn has kept very busy in the last 11 years). Merrie Land was produced by the band with Tony Visconti (David Bowie). A previous press release said the songs were written as Brexit was being negotiated and as the UK is attempting to leave the European Union, which creates "a reluctant good-bye letter, a series of observations and reflections on Britishness in 2018." 

The previous press release further described the album: "Merrie Land's focus moves beyond GBQ's London-themed first album to a wider land, with a beautiful and hopeful paean to the Britain of today, an inclusive Britain, currently in an Anglo-Saxostentialist crises at the end of a relationship, wondering what might be salvaged. Could there be a more perfect band - with their creative symbiosis of pasts and present and shared acclaimed music histories - to reflect on the anticipation, disorientation and confusion of current life."

Gorillaz released a new album, The Now Now, back in June via Warner Bros.

5. The Twilight Sad: "VTr"

Scotland's The Twilight Sad are releasing a new album, IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME, on January 18, 2019, via Mogwai's label, Rock Action. This week they shared another song from the album, "VTr." Previously they shared two songs from the album: "I/m Not Here [missing face]," a new song they shared back in July (it was one of our Songs of the Week), and album closer "Videograms," which they shared in September when the album was announced (it was also one of our Songs of the Week).

Frontman James Alexander Graham had this to say about "VTr" in a press release: "As I was walking my wife into the hospital as she was going into labor with our son, I looked down at the pavement and spray painted there was 'VTR.' I think the line 'there's no love too small' is one of the most hopeful I've ever written - seeing that song title on the ground as I was entering the hospital to have the most life-affirming moment in my life blew my mind. That line came into my head one dark day as all I could see was bad news all around me and all I needed was a bit of good news or compassion to get me through the day no matter how small. Unfortunately, I didn't see it so the lines 'I won't be surprised if it kills us all' came soon after."

Work on IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME began during the band's recent tours with The Cure. Guitarist Andy MacFarlane worked on demos in his London home. Six months later the band got together in November 2017 in a remote rehearsal space on Loch Fyne and then recorded the album in January of this year at Devon's Middle Farm Studios with live engineer Andy Bush. This the first album that sees long-time touring members Brendan Smith (The Blue Nile, The Unwinding Hours) and Johnny Docherty (Take a Worm For a Walk Week, RUNGS) officially join the band.

In a previous press release Graham had this to say about recording the album: "I've always seen Brendan and Johnny as part of the band and it's time to say that aloud. From the actual coming together of the demos to recording the final versions of these songs has probably been one of my favorite experiences of being in the band. All four of us were throwing ideas in, whereas before Andy had mapped it all out. Once he got past the point of making the demos his point of view was 'we need to make these even better. These need to take a step up from where they are.' He opened the floor to everybody.

"The results speak for themselves: an exhilarating listen, by turns cinematic and claustrophobic in its scope, the band dug deep to produce IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME, and it's perhaps their most raw and dynamic record to date. 

"It's a dark record but I think there are some uplifting moments to be had too. There are so many extremes here - there are moments that are harsh, then others that are quite melodic and others that are stripped right down. This album definitely comes with the extremes of every side of the band, I think. There's a certain direct openness and candor now but at the same time I want to keep some mystery. We don't like to throw things in people's faces and spell it out for them."  

6. Rustin Man: "Vanishing Heart"

Rustin Man is the project of Paul Webb, the former bassist of 1980s icons Talk Talk. In 2002 he released one album under the name Rustin Man, a collaborative record with Beth Gibbons of Portishead entitled Out of Season. This week Webb announced a new solo album as Rustin Man, Drift Code, and shared its first single, "Vanishing Heart," via a video for the song. Drift Code is due out February 1, 2019 via Domino.

Webb has been working on the album since Out of Season, recording it in a barn next to his home in Essex, England, while also raising his two daughters with his wife Sam.

Webb had this to say about the album in a press release: "Through the necessity of recording over a long period of time, the album has a kind of unfixed or uprooted quality. As if the songs belong nowhere so hopefully belong everywhere."

Of the album title he had this to say: "I called the album Drift Code as it's an oxymoron, a code is something fixed, but our instinct is to wander, to drift. I like the idea that life is a puzzle that can't be solved because the answer is always changing."

7. Girlpool: "Hire"

This week Los Angeles duo Girlpool (Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad) announced a new album, What Chaos Is Imaginary, and shared a new single from it, "Hire." What Chaos Is Imaginary is due out February 1, 2019 via ANTI-. It includes two songs the band shared last month, "Lucy's" and "Where You Sink." The album is the follow-up to 2017's Powerplant. Go here to check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as the band's upcoming tour dates (which include support from Hatchie).

Honorable Mentions:

These four songs almost made the Top 10.

Absolutely Free: "Still Life"

Helado Negro: "Please Won't Please"

Living Hour: "Bottom Step" 

Swervedriver: "Drone Lover"

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

And The Kids: "Champagne Ladies"

Bon Iver: "Do You Need Power? (Walk Out Music)"

The Chainsmokers: "Beach House"

 

Hannah Diamond: "True"

FEELS: "Car"

Fontaines D.C.: "Too Real"

Mary Lattimore: "It Feels Like Floating (Jónsi Healing Fields Remix)"

Mk.gee: "New Year"

Janelle Monáe: "High Tide or Low Tide" (Bob Marley & The Wailers Cover)

Perfume Genius: "Alan (Rework)"

Sade: "The Big Unknown" 

serpentwithfeet: "bless ur heart (acoustic)" and "messy (acoustic)"

Sir Babygirl: "Haunted House"

SPELLLING: "Haunted Water"

Superchunk: "Our Work Is Done" (Feat. Damian Abraham) and "Total Eclipse" (Klaus Nomi Cover)

Tiny Ruins: "School of Design"

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Daniel
November 17th 2018
12:08am

I know this is minor but I’ve seen this wrong information in print for decades. Bobbie Gentry’s masterpiece album, The Delta Sweet, peaked at# 111 on the Billboard top 200 album chart. I own all those old issues and it’s annoying to keep reading the wrong information.It stayed on the Billboard top 200 album chart for close to four months and had respectable sales( for the era) of about 100,000 copies: nowhere near the 1.5 million albums sold of Ode to Billie Joe but most female recording artists of that era would have been doing cartwheels to have an album sell 100k copies. More importantly, the music on, The Delta Sweete, seems fresh and vibrant 50 years on and not dated like so much from that era is. Mojo magazine named the Delta Sweet as one of the 500 greatest albums of all time in 2000.

ninadordev
November 17th 2018
5:34am

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