8 Best Songs of the Week: Anna Calvi, John Grant, Neneh Cherry, The Radio Dept., and More

Plus Muse, Brandon Coleman, Liars, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

Aug 31, 2018
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Last week's Songs of the Week was packed. It featured 13 songs as opposed to our standard 10, including three songs by boygenius, the new supergroup featuring Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, and Phoebe Bridgers. This week is sparser. Blame it on the run-up to the three-day Labor Day holiday weekend here in America, there simply weren't a lot of strong new tracks this week to choose from. The best we could muster was a Top 8, and that includes two songs by John Grant. Still, there are some gems below.

The big Under the Radar news this week is that today we officially announced our new print issue, which features Kamasi Washington on the cover and is out now.

Elsewhere on the website in the last week we posted a My Firsts interview with Northern Ireland's Girls Names. We also put up Anatomy of a Song posts on songs by Still Corners and Wild Nothing. Anna Calvi's Hunter and Wild Nothing's Indigo were this week's joint Album of the Week

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by IDLES, Animal Collective, Wild Nothing, The Love Language, and Blood Orange. Plus we posted reviews of various DVDs, Blu-rays, TV shows, books, and films.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 8 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. Anna Calvi: "As a Man"

Anna Calvi released a new album, Hunter, today via Domino. Yesterday, on the eve of the album's release she has shared one last pre-release single, the cinematic and bold "As a Man." There's also a video for "As a Man," but it's an Apple Music exclusive and can only be viewed over there.

Calvi had this to say to "As a Man" in a press release: "If a woman wants to be powerful she's expected to exhibit 'male' traits. The woman in the song is trying to understand a man by imagining becoming him, but as it progresses she asks the man to become more like her instead. There's been a lot of encouragement for women to become more like men if they want to get their voices heard, or be powerful. But there hasn't been enough effort to get men to become more like women. Men are brought up believing that to be feminine is to be weak. If there is to be equality, both sexes need to be able to move to the middle of the spectrum. This song is about finding freedom in the non-binary world."

Hunter was this week's joint Album of the Week (shared with Wild Nothing's Indigo).

Previously Calvi shared a video for a new Hunter song that examined gender, "Don't Beat the Girl Out of My Boy" (it was one of our Songs of the Week), as well as the album's title track, "Hunter" (which was our #1 Song of the Week), as well as a NSFW video for "Hunter."

Hunter is Calvi's third full-length album and the follow up to 2011's Anna Calvi and 2013's One Breath. That makes it her first album in five years. Nick Launay (Nick Cave, Grinderman) produced Hunter at Konk Studios in London, with some additional production in Los Angeles. Calvi's band was featured in the sessions: Mally Harpaz on various instruments and Alex Thomas on drums. Adrian Utley from Portishead also played keyboards and Martyn Casey from The Bad Seeds played bass.

In a previous press release Calvi said she wanted to express herself on Hunter while being "free from the story that either gender is given, free from worrying how people would judge me on what I want to do with my body and myself. For me, that's quite a utopian vision."

Pick up our just announced new print issue (Issue 64) to read our exclusive Self-Portrait feature with Calvi, where she takes a self-portrait photo and writes a list of six personal things about herself that her fans may not know. 

2. John Grant: "He's Got His Mother's Hips"

John Grant is releasing a new album, Love Is Magic, on October 12 via Partisan in the U.S. (and Bella Union in the U.K.). Previously he shared its six-and-a-half-minute long title track, "Love Is Magic," via a lyric video (it was one of our Songs of the Week), which was followed by a full-on video for "Love Is Magic" featuring lots of dogs. This week he shared two more songs from the album: the shiny and upbeat "He's Got His Mother's Hips" and the ballad "Touch & Go." "He's Got His Mother's Hips" is our favorite of the two, although "Touch & Go" makes an appearance just a little bit further down the list.

In a press release Grant says "He's Got His Mother's Hips" is "about a cheeseball doing all he can to get into a woman's pants, making a total ass of himself. It's a fun song built on disgust."

Love Is Magic is the follow-up to 2015's Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. Grant produced the album with analogue synth expert/collector Benge and Paul Alexander of Texas band Midlake. It was mainly recorded at Benge's MemeTune Studios in Cornwall, England.

A previous press release said the album "is a turbulent, riveting, often brutal collection that overlaps pitch black humor, fear, anxiety, and anger" and that "the instrumentation consists almost entirely of synthesizers and programming."

Grant had this to say about the album in the previous press release: "The lyrics aren't just the doom and gloom of the past. They're a snapshot of everyday life - the ridiculousness, the pain, the deep longing.... Each record I make is more of an amalgamation of who I am. The more I do this, the more I trust myself, and the closer I get to making what I imagine in my head."

Grant also had this to say about the album's title: "Love's a shitshow that requires work. It's not all lollipops and rainbows and '67 Dodge Dart Hemis and STD's and macaroni and cheese and John Carpenter. But nothing can distract from the fact that, in spite of it all, love is still magic."

Also be sure to read our in-depth 2013 article on Grant, one of the most honest and personal interviews we've ever done.

Also read our 2015 interview with John Grant on Grey Tickles, Black Pressure.

3. Neneh Cherry: "Shot Gun Shack"

This week Neneh Cherry announced a new album, Broken Politics, and shared a new song from it, "Shot Gun Shack." Broken Politics is due out October 19 via Smalltown Supersound and was produced by Four Tet. It includes "Kong," a new song she shared at the beginning of the month (it was one of our Songs of the Week).

"Shot Gun Shack" is named after a popular type of house in the Southern United States in the late 1880s and early 1990s. The song tackles gun violence and its title was inspired by a "half-remembered conversation Cherry had at the funeral of late jazz great Ornette Coleman." As Cherry explains in a press release: "I don't even remember who said it, but I was like, 'Shotgun shack! That's a cool term.'"

But Cherry explains that the song is far from lighthearted: "It's about gun culture-the notion of war zones and the tragedies that guns bring there. The dealing of arms. Street culture. The gun is a powerful thing-dangerous, but powerful."

Speaking of Broken Politics' album title and the album as a whole, Cherry says in the press release: "I'm very shy about taking on big themes with the airs that I've got a solution-who has the fucking solutions? I like writing from a personal perspective, and the time we live in is so much about finding your own voice. People have been left feeling misheard, misunderstood, and disillusioned. What the fuck can I do? Maybe politics starts in your bedroom, or your house-a form of activism, and a responsibility. The album is about all of those things: feeling broken, disappointed, and sad, but having perseverance. It's a fight against the extinction of free thought and spirit."

"Kong" was co-produced by Four Tet and Massive Attack's 3D and shared via a video directed by Jenn Nkiru (Kamasi Washington). Cherry's last album was 2014's Blank Project, which was also produced by Four Tet. Turner Prize winning Wolfgang Tillmans designed the Broken Politics' cover art. The album was recorded in Woodstock, NY.

4. The Radio Dept.: "Going Down Swinging"

Sweden's The Radio Dept. shared a new song today, "Going Down Swinging." It's currently a standalone single, which is available now on all digital platforms via their own label Just So! and follows another new song, "Your True Name," the band shared back in January (it was also one of our Songs of the Week). "Going Down Swinging" is a political song that is timed to the upcoming Swedish national elections. One line references Morrissey: "Nazis should be dealt with like in Normandie/Only inbreds join an alt right parade/Someone please tell that to Morrissey."

The band issued this statement about the song: "The Swedish national election is coming up and that means we're putting out a new single. What else could we do? There are references to church bells in the lyrics, listeners from outside of Sweden might want to know this: In May 2014 and on a couple of occasions since, churches in Sweden have been ringing their bells during Nazi marches to warn the public. Before 2014 this hadn't been done since 1939. Because of the huge problems we have with increasing racism in our country it is a very welcome gesture. Personally we don't believe in gods but we do believe Nazis and their peers - however they choose to present or disguise themselves - should be dealt with like in World War II."

"Going Down Swinging" Lyrics:

Church bells are ringing today
God is on the right side for once
We will go down swinging you say
Oh to die at the hands of a fascist dunce

These church bells
I love what they say
Nazis should be dealt with like in Normandie
Only inbreds join an alt right parade
Someone please tell that to Morrissey

Going down swinging now
Going down swinging now
Going down swinging now

Church bells are ringing today
God is on the right side for once
We will go down swinging you say
But I never fought anyone
I just got beat up you see
Can't give that pleasure to a nazi devotee

Going down swinging now
Going down swinging now
Going down swinging now

Do the right thing now
When you're in that moment
Do the right thing now
In your heart you know it
You're not fooling anyone
You know this is for real

The Radio Dept. released their last album, Running Out of Love, their fourth, in 2016 via Labrador.

Read our 2017 interview with The Radio Dept.

5. John Grant: "Touch & Go" 

John Grant's "He's Got His Mother's Hips" may have been #2 on this list, but his other new song this week, "Touch & Go," isn't too far behind. The ballad is a tribute to Chelsea Manning.

Manning was a United States Army private who was court marshaled in 2013 and sentenced to a 35 year jail sentence for violating the espionage act by leaking classified and sensitive materials to WikiLeaks (nearly three quarters of a million documents). The material exposed civilian deaths in Iraq due a U.S. helicopter attack, among many other things. She's also a trans woman. In January 2017 President Barack Obama commuted her sentence.

In the press release, Grant has this to say about Manning: "I was very touched by her incredible story. What kind of strength does it take to survive like that, hated by people who say she's a pervert who doesn't deserve to live?"

6. Muse: "The Dark Side"

Okay, okay, okay, we know, it's not hip to like Muse. You might be thinking this song has no place on our list and we could be snobby poseurs about it and agree with you or we could just give into the fact that it's a fun Muse-meets-Daft-Punk-sounding track with a kickass 1980s-styled Lance Drake-directed video (like something out of TRON). Plus it's a slow week for songs. So there we go, we're gonna own it, "The Dark Side" is our #6 favorite Song of the Week.

This week Muse announced a new album, Simulation Theory, which is due out November 9 via Warner Bros. Muse worked with several producers on the album, including Rich Costey, Mike Elizondo, Shellback and Timbaland. The album will be released in three formats: Standard (11 tracks), Deluxe (16 tracks), and Super Deluxe (21 tracks). Kyle Lambert did the cover artwork for the Standard and Deluxe editions and he has previously done the poster art for Stranger ThingsJurassic Park, and other films. Paul Shipper illustrated the Super Deluxe cover and his previous work includes posters for Star Wars: The Last JediAvengers: Affinity War, and others. 

Last year Muse shared a video for another new song, "Dig Down," which was also directed by Lance Drake and also had a retro sci-fi vibe, with frontman Matt Bellamy looking a bit like 1980s computer generated cult character Max Headroom. Then in February they shared another Lance Drake-directed video for the new song "Thought Contagion," which ended with a "Thriller"-like dance routine featuring various monsters. Then in July they shared another new song, "Something Human," also via a 1980s themed Lance Drake-directed video. All three songs are also featured on the album.

7. Brandon Coleman: "All Around the World"

Los Angeles-based Brandon Coleman is a keyboardist Kamasi Washington's band, but more than that, he's an old friend of Washington's and a solo artist in his own right. On September 14 he is releasing a new album, Resistance, via Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label. This week he shared another song from it, "All Around the World," via a video for the song that features him performing the song on the beach with a keytar and accompanied by song bikini clad women. By the way, Washington refers to Coleman as "Professor Boogie."

Okay, sure the song is a tad cheesy and a video featuring bikini models is less than progressive, but "All Around the World" is purely fun and funky and made us smile, so here it is at #7.

Coleman, who has also worked with the likes of Ciara, Mulatu Astatke, Childish Gambino, and Babyface, had this to say about Resistance in a press release: "I've been in the studio a lot in recent years, writing with this or that artist and I always felt constrained... like I had to compromise and submit to a 'pop' sensibility. This time I just wanted to create something that was really free... something original... to incorporate all the styles that I represent, because often when I've tried to do that in the past it's been met with resistance."

8. Liars: "Murdrum"

Liars (the project of Angus Andrew) released their last album, TFCF, in August 2017 via Mute. This week they announced a sequel album, Titles With The Word Fountain, and shared its first single, "Murdrum." Titles With The Word Fountain is due out digitally and on cassette September 21 via Mute (and on vinyl November 2).

While Titles With The Word Fountain was recorded at the same time as TFCF, Andrew doesn't regard it as a collection of left over material or outtakes. "To me it's more like a sequel," he says in a press release. "I chose the songs that appear on TFCF based on how well they addressed the trauma of a failed creative relationship, whereas the material on Titles With The Word Fountain is more playful despite revolving around the same sentiments."
 
TFCF was the first Liars release recorded just by Andrew and without founding member Aaron Hemphill. "There was a lot of pressure in producing TFCF as it was guaranteed to be framed by the lack of band members," Andrew comments in the press release. "With Titles With The Word Fountain I felt stripped of that burden and more free to include work that could be construed as unclear or abstract."

Earlier this year Mute released 1/1, Liars' first soundtrack, which was actually recorded when Hemphill was still in the band.

Honorable Mentions: 

These six songs almost made the Top 10.

Steven A. Clark: "On and On"

Hovvdy: "Easy"

It Looks Sad.: "Drool" 

MUNYA: "Hotel Delmano"

Haru Nemuri: "Kick In The World"

Tune-Yards: "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" (Eurythmics Cover)

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Advance Base: "Your Dog"

Liza Anne: "Dreams" (The Cranberries Cover)

Ava Luna: "Childish"

Babygirl: "Soft"

clipping.: "Stab Him in the Throat"

DJ Koze: "Hawaiian Souldier" 

Ezra Furman: "Unbelievers" (Vampire Weekend Cover)

Gabby's World: "Rear View" 

Gouge Away: "Ghost"

HALEY: "Infinite Pleasure Part 2"

Human People: "Jenny" 

Kikagaku Moyo: "Dripping Sun"

Kitten: "Mercury" and "Secrets"

Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers: "Apocalypse Now (& Later)"

Mirah: "Ordinary Day"

Munice Girls: "Clinic" 

Andrew Rinehart: "Off on a Roll with a Soul" 

Paul Simon: "René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War (2018 Version"

Richard Thompson: "My Rock, My Rope" 

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs: "Body Move"

Yowler: "Angel" 

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