9 Best Songs of the Week: Braids, The Dears, Jess Williamson, Hinds, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, November 28th, 2020  

9 Best Songs of the Week: Braids, The Dears, Jess Williamson, Hinds, and More

Plus HAIM, Khruangbin, Protomartyr, Glass Animals, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

May 01, 2020
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Welcome to the seventeenth Songs of the Week of 2020. It’s another week under quarantine, the same as the last week. Some states, most notably Georgia, are starting to open up again, even though most experts say it’s too soon. Musicians are doing late night TV performances from home (Thom Yorke even debuted a new song that way) and there are so many live streams and cover songs, so many. The new music keeps on coming as well, with plenty to choose from for this week’s Songs of the Week. Still, we couldn’t quite come up with 10 songs we truly loved this week, so we have a Top 9 instead. The two artists who top this week’s list at #1 and #2 are both from the same city.

This week we posted more interviews in our COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In series, including with NZCA LINES, Ellen Kempner of Palehound, Peter Baylis of Pottery, Hazel English, and Luke Temple (aka Art Feynman) of Here We Go Magic.

We also posted a My Firsts interview with TOPS, as well as an interview with Tamas Nadas and Lou Ferrigno (of The Incredible Hulk) on the new comedy short film PERPS

Plus, we posted an in-depth interview with Evan Stephens Hall of Pinegrove on their new album Marigold, COVID-19, and the presidential election.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Trace Mountains, Margaret Glaspy, Ringo Deathstarr, Rina Sawayama, and Austra. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows).

This week we also posted the latest episode of our Why Not Both podcast, featuring Local Natives.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the nine 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. Braids: “Just Let Me”

Montreal trio Braids are releasing a new album, Shadow Offering, on June 19 via Secret City. On Thursday they shared another song from the album, “Just Let Me,” via a video co-directed by the band’s singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston in her directorial debut. She co-directed it with cinematographer Derek Branscombe. The band isn’t featured in the video, instead it stars two male dancers, Stephen John Quinlan and Justin De Luna, who act out the song’s emotive themes and lyrics, as Standell-Preston repeatedly sings “where did our love go?” 

The band had this to say about “Just Let Me” in a press release: “The song was born of a desire to get through to one’s partner, to work through those feelings of complacency, stagnation, of pointless arguments; when you feel your partner, though sitting across the table from you, is further away than if they were not there at all. It's a yearning to understand how a love that was once there and so clear, could slip away. It asks the universal question that so many relationships encounter along their journey—where did our love go?”

Standell-Preston had this to add: “I am grateful to have been able to explore this very question with two incredible dancers and dear friends Stephen John Quinlan, Justin De Luna, and choreographer Axelle Munezero. It was an emotional yet liberating experience—a lot of sweat, tears, and laughter went into this. I have to say, it’s one of the things I am most proud of having a part of.”

Shadow Offering was due out on April 24 via Secret City, but in March it was pushed back to June 19 due to COVID-19. The album was produced by former Death Cab for Cutie guitarist/producer Chris Walla. Shadow Offering includes “Eclipse (Ashley),” a new song Braids shared last December. When the album was announced the band shared another song from it, “Young Buck,” via a video for the track. “Young Buck” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then Braids shared another new song from the album, the nine-minute “Snow Angel,” via a Kevan Funk-directed video for the epic track. “Snow Angel” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list.

Summing up the album, Standell-Preston had this to say in a previous press release: “There's more hopefulness in this record than anything else I've written. I think the songs are more human, more tangible, more honest.”

 

2. The Dears: “I Know What You’re Thinking and It’s Awful”

Montréal’s The Dears are releasing a new album, Lovers Rock, on May 15 via Dangerbird. This week they shared another song from the album, “I Know What You’re Thinking and It’s Awful,” via a video for the song. The video features frontman Murray Lightburn and his bandmate/wife Natalia Yanchak performing the song in a studio.

Lightburn had this to say about “I Know What You’re Thinking and It’s Awful” in a press release: “This is a song that came in rather suddenly. I woke up one morning and there it was, playing in my head. The news story of a manhunt for a couple of teenage kids who were charged with second degree murder played in the background. I finished the song as news broke that two male bodies found were believed to be them. I am not at all saying the song is about this story, only that I was totally obsessed with the story as I wrote this song.”

Yanchak adds: “This is our ‘The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get’—a dark, unsettling, and unlikely pop ballad.”

Previously The Dears shared the album’s first single, “The Worst of Us,” via a lyric video for the new song. “The Worst of Us” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then they shared another song from the album, dramatic album opener “Heart of An Animal,” via a strange Sinbad Richardson-directed lyric video for the song. “Heart of An Animal” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Read our recent interview with Lightburn about what his COVID-19 quarantine experience has been like so far.

The Dears’ last album was 2017’s Times Infinity Volume Two, which was the follow-up to 2015’s Times Infinity Volume One. Since those two albums frontman Murray A. Lightburn also released a new solo album, Hear Me Out, in 2019 via Dangerbird.

The Dears are as ever led by Lightburn on vocals and guitar and his wife Yanchak on vocals and piano. For Lovers Rock they were joined by longtime drummer Jeff “Looch” Luciani (who's been with them since 2011’s Degeneration Street) and two musicians who performed on Lightburn’s last solo album, Steve Raegele (guitar) and Rémi-Jean LeBlanc (bass). Sam Roberts also has a cameo and there’s saxophone from both Alex Francoeur and The E Street Band’s Jake Clemons (on “Stille Lost”). 

In a previous press release Lightburn says that Lovers Rock has much in common with No Cities Left, their 2003-released sophomore album that probably remains their most beloved record.

“There’s a direct line between the sort of doominess of No Cities Left and this album,” said Lightburn. “You could go straight from Lovers Rock to No Cities Left and it’s like they're interlocked. But it's a different kind of doom. Around 2001, it felt like, ‘We have no control. We don't know what's going to happen next.’ Now it’s a doom that's within our grasp. It’s in the air. It’s between us. But we do nothing about it.”

3. Jess Williamson: “Smoke”

Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Jess Williamson is releasing a new album, Sorceress, on May 15 via Mexican Summer. On Thursday she shared another song from it, album opener “Smoke,” via a self-directed video for the track. The video was shot under quarantine on her iPhone and features animation by Alex Tults.

Williamson had this to say about “Smoke” in a press release: “This song is about a codependent relationship. It’s told from the perspective of the person who keeps giving and giving, and, on some level, they like it.”

A press release further describes the video’s concept as such: “In the video, directed by Williamson and filmed at home on her iPhone during quarantine, lit incense is the main character—its smoke sets the stage for an animated mushroom dance (by Alex Tults), a la Fantasia. The video speaks to the stir craziness we're all feeling in quarantine, and it very much emerged from that space: Working with what she had on hand, Williamson put on a funny outfit she found in her closet, grabbed her phone, danced around with incense, and lost her mind a little bit.”

Previously Williamson shared the album’s first single, “Wind on Tin,” via a video for the track. “Wind on Tin” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared another song from it, “Infinite Scroll,” via a video for the track where she played a runaway bride, but then there was a sci-fi twist. “Infinite Scroll” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Sorceress is the follow-up to 2018’s Cosmic Wink, also released by Mexican Summer. The album was written in Los Angeles and was mainly recorded at Gary’s Electric in Brooklyn. The finishing touches were put on Sorceress at Dandysounds, a home studio on a ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas, where Williamson recorded Cosmic Wink.

4. Hinds: “Just Like Kids (Miau)” 

Spanish quartet Hinds are releasing a new album, The Prettiest Curse, on June 5 via Mom + Pop. On Tuesday they shared another new song from it, the energetic “Just Like Kids (Miau),” via a playful and colorful Keane Shaw-directed video for the track. The song tackles some of the sexiest comments the band has gotten over the years. “To be fair I don't know you but a friend of mine does,” Hinds sing. “He said you were successful cause your legs are nice.”

Hinds collectively had this to say about “Just Like Kids (Miau)” in the press release: “‘Miau’ is a cocktail of all the comments and ‘advice’ we’ve had to listen to during all this years in the band. From random strangers, ‘friends,’ and industry. Oh wait…the guy sitting next to you in the bus probably has an opinion too! If you wondered how does it feel to be a girl in a band, here you go.” 

The Prettiest Curse was due out April 3, but in March it was pushed back to June 5 due to COVID-19.

Read our recent COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In interview with Ana Perrote of Hinds.

The Prettiest Curse includes “Riding Solo,” a new song the band shared in December via a video for the track (it was one of our Songs of the Week). Then when the album was announced Hinds shared another song from it, “Good Bad Times,” via a video that featured the band as superheroes. “Good Bad Times” was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then Hinds shared another new song from the album, the layered ballad “Come Back and Love Me<3,” which features Spanish guitar and which the band says “is the most romantic song we’ve ever done.”

Jenn Decliveo produced The Prettiest Curse. It features some songs where the band members sing in their native language for the first time. Hinds’ last album was 2018’s I Don’t Run, also released via Mom + Pop. The band features Ana Perrote, Carlotta Cosials, Amber Grimbergen, and Ade Martin.

5. HAIM: “I Know Alone”

On Wednesday Los Angeles sister trio HAIM shared a new song, “I Know Alone,” via a video for the track, and confirmed a new release date for their upcoming album, Women In Music Pt. III. HAIM were releasing Women In Music Pt. III on April 24 via Columbia, but then the band announced in March that they were postponing it to the summer. Now it has a new release date of June 26. The “I Know Alone” video features the Haim sisters on a basketball court doing a tightly choreographed dance routine. Jake Schreier directed the video remotely and it was choreographed remotely by Francis and the Lights and the band.

On Wednesday night for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert they also performed “I Know Alone” separately and remotely from their individual homes while under quarantine. All three members are visible at the same time and towards the end of the song the band bust out some flashing lights and smoke effects. Watch that here.

HAIM consists of sisters Danielle, Alana, and Este Haim. Women In Music Pt. III is the band’s third full-length album, the follow-up to 2017’s Something to Tell You. The album includes three singles the band shared last year: “Summer Girl,” “Now I’m In It,” and “Hallelujah.” Danielle Haim, Rostam, and Ariel Rechtshaid all produced the album and regular collaborator, and noted film director, Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood) shot the album cover.

In a previous press release Danielle said the album title “came to me in a dream and I woke up laughing so I told my sisters.”

Alana added: “I liked it because we are literally women in music and we always get written about that way, so it seemed cool to make it our own and control the narrative. It made me think about some of our experiences more.”

Este also had this to say: “I just thought it was funny, plus the initials are WIMP3. Wimp is a hilarious word.”

In July 2019 HAIM shared a brand new song, “Summer Girl,” via a video directed by frequent collaborator Paul Thomas Anderson. It was one of our Songs of the Week. Then in October 2019 they shared another brand new song, “Now I’m In It,” again via a video directed by Anderson. “Now I’m In It” made it to #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then in November 2019 they shared another new song, “Hallelujah,” via a striking video also directed by Anderson. The song was co-written with singer/songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr. and was also #1 on our Songs of the Week list.

When the album was announced they shared another song from the album, “The Steps.” It was shared via video for the track co-directed by the band’s Danielle Haim and Anderson. “The Steps” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

In August 2019 HAIM also teamed with Charli XCX for “Warm,” a new song on her recent album, simply titled Charli.

In December 2019 HAIM also did a “Piano Session” for BBC Radio 1 where they covered Robyn’s “Show Me Love” and performed “Hallelujah.”

In March HAIM stopped by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to perform the album’s “Summer Girl,” only a day after they performed another song, “The Steps,” on the show and took part in a short musical sketch with Fallon.

In March HAIM also played a series of shows in Delis in New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles. The Women In Music Pt. III album cover was shot at Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles, which is where the band played their first show.

Since the release of Something to Tell You HAIM have collaborated with Twin Shadow and Vampire Weekend, and appeared on Jenny Lewis’ telethon.

6. Khruangbin: “Time (You and I)”

On Monday Texas psych-rock trio Khruangbin announced a new album, Mordechai, and shared its first single, “Time (You and I),” via a Felix Heyes and Josh R.R. King-directed video for the new song. Mordechai is due out June 26 via Dead Oceans, in association with Night Time Stories. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Khruangbin consists of bassist Laura Lee Ochoa, guitarist Mark Speer, and drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson. Whereas previously the band were more instrumental in nature, Mordechai finds them embracing vocals prominently on most songs on the album. In terms of full-lengths, Mordechai follows 2018’s Con Todo El Mundo and 2015’s debut, The Universe Smiles Upon You. Although, earlier this year they released Texas Sun, a collaborative EP with Leon Bridges. Mordechai was recorded at the band’s farmhouse studio in Burton, Texas. 

7. Protomartyr: “Worm in Heaven”

Detroit-formed post-punkers Protomartyr were releasing a new album, Ultimate Success Today, on May 29 via Domino, but this week they pushed its release back to July 17 due to COVID-19 and also cancelled all their upcoming tour dates. On Tuesday they also shared another new song from the album, “Worm in Heaven,” via a video for the track. Trevor Naud directed the abstract video, which was inspired by the 1962 Chris Marker short film La Jetée and was made via a 35mm film camera and shot without a crew. 

Naud had this to say about the video in a press release: “The idea is a sort of dream chamber that has lured its creator into a near-constant state of isolation. She lives out her days trapped as the sole subject of her own experiment: the ability to simulate death. It is like a drug to her. Everything takes place in a small, claustrophobic environment. With soft, yet sterile visuals. Perhaps a strange combo to reference, but imagine the cover of The Rolling Stones’ Goat’s Head Soup and the character of Carol White in Todd Haynes’ 1995 film Safe.

“I'd been experimenting with shooting multiples of still photographs and stitching them together so that there's subtle movement, almost like a 3-D camera effect, but awkward and sort of unsettling—like looking at a photograph under shallow water. I shot upwards of 700 still frames on a Nikon F Photomic camera. I embraced the lines and artifacts from the film scans, which give a sort of Xerox quality to some of the images. All the special effects were done in-camera using mirrors, projectors and magnifying glasses.”

Previously Protomartyr shared Ultimate Success Today’s first single, “Processed By the Boys,” via a video for the song. “Processed By the Boys” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Ultimate Success Today is the band’s fifth album and the follow-up to 2017’s Relatives in Descent and 2018’s Consolation E.P., both also released by Domino. Last year they also put out a deluxe reissue of their debut album, No Passion All Technique.

The band co-produced Ultimate Success Today with David Tolomei (Dirty Projectors, Beach House), who also mixed it. It was recorded at Dreamland Recording Studios, a late 19th century church in Upstate New York

Protomartyr is Joe Casey (vocals), Greg Ahee (guitars), Alex Leonard (drums), and Scott Davidson (bass guitar). Ultimate Success Today also features various guest musicians: Nandi Rose aka Half Waif (vocals), Jemeel Moondoc (alto sax), Izaak Mills (bass clarinet, sax, flute), and Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello).

Casey had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “The re-release of our first album had me thinking about the passage of time and its ultimate conclusion. Listening to No Passion All Technique again, I could hear myself hoping for an introduction and a long future, but also being cognizant that it could be ‘one and done’ for us. So, when it came time to write Ultimate Success Today, I was reminded of that first urgency and how it was an inverse of my current grapple with how terribly ill I’ve been feeling lately. Was that sick feeling coloring how I felt about the state of the world or was it the other way around?

“This panic was freeing in a way. It allowed me to see our fifth album as a possible valediction of some confusingly loud five-act play. In the same light I see it as an interesting mile marker of our first decade of being a band – a crest of the hill along a long highway. Although just to cover my bases, I made sure to get my last words in while I still had the breath to say them.”

Read our 2017 interview with Protomartyr.

8. Glass Animals: “Dreamland” 

Today British four-piece Glass Animals announced a new album, Dreamland, and shared its first single, title track “Dreamland,” via a video for the new song. The “Dreamland” video was made by frontman Dave Bayley while under quarantine via instructions from director Colin Read. Dreamland is due out July 10 via Republic. Check out the album’s cover art here.

Dreamland is the follow-up to 2016’s How to Be a Human Being. It’s the band’s first album 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. While the tracklist has yet to be shared, it’s expected to include “Your Love (Déjà vu),” a new song the band shared in February that was one of our Songs of the Week. The band also features guitarist/keyboardist Drew MacFarlane and bassist/keyboardist Ed Irwin-Singer.

Bayley had this to say about the album in a press release: “The idea for this album came at a time of confusion and uncertainty. My best friend was in the hospital. I didn’t know if he’d make it. The future was damn scary and completely unknown. During those weeks in the hospital, it was so difficult to look forwards that I found myself looking backwards. Digging around in my mind, pulling up old memories, finding comfort in them even if they were uncomfortable in themselves. Speaking to friends and family, I’ve realized that a lot of people are experiencing a similar sort of confusion now. Everything that we thought we could see clearly in front of us has been thrown into the air, and all the while, we can’t be out finding our footing. We can’t be out creating new memories, so…we’re diving back head-first into the old ones. I hear that in conversations. I see it in what people are watching on TV. In what we’re listening to. In what we’re eating. In dreams.”

Speaking about the themes on the album, Bayley had this to say: “This album goes through many of the most confusing moments in my life. It’s about growing up, from my first memories as a little kid to now. Quite often those moments are funny, sometimes awkward, sometimes heart-breaking, sometimes it’s about love or hate or sexuality. It’s about realizing it’s ok to not have answers and it’s ok to not know how you feel about things and that it’s ok to be and look vulnerable. In fact, all of that is quite exciting. So often life asks us for binary yes or no answers. It asks us to conform and to fit in. But the world is so much more interesting and colorful than that…it’s a much more fluid and uncertain place.”

With Seaward recovered, Glass Animals returned to touring earlier this year, but obviously the rest of their touring plans for 2020 are up in the air due to COVID-19. Bayley comments in the press release: “I spent weeks devastated that our big plans to bring this album to you in real life on a stage were shattered…but, somehow, in all the uncertainty and before all the unknowns…right now seems like the most insane, but also the most apt time to reveal this record. Growing up is a strange time, the hospital was a strange time and here we are in a strange time again.” 

Glass Animals also recently launched the Quarantine Covers series, where they have covered such songs as Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” and Lana Del Rey’s “Young & Beautiful.”

Read our 2016 interview with Glass Animals here.

9. Art Feynman (aka Luke Temple): “The Physical Life of Marilyn” 

Here We Go Magic frontman Luke Temple is releasing a new album under the name Art Feynman, Half Price at 3:30, on June 26 via Western Vinyl. On Wednesday he shared another song from the album, “The Physical Life of Marilyn.”

Previously Temple shared the album’s first single, “I’m Gonna Miss Your World,” via a Caroline Sallee-directed stop-motion video for the new song. “I’m Gonna Miss Your World” was one of our Songs of the Week.

A previous press release laid out the Art Feynman persona and the album as such: “As Feynman, Temple uses his dual persona like a needle and thread to stitch art pop, Nigerian highlife, worldbeat, and other less-heard genres into a musical quilt that displays his unmistakable guile and eccentric songcraft.”  

In terms of Temple’s solo work, the album is the follow-up to 2019’s Both-And, 2016’s A Hand Through the Cellar Door, and 2013’s Good Mood Fool, all underappreciated works. In 2017 Temple released his first Art Feynman album, Blast Off Through the Wicker.

Honorable Mentions:

These eight songs almost made the Top 10.

BADBADNOTGOOD: “Goodbye Blue” and “Glide (Goodbye Blue Pt. 2)”

Big Thief: “Love In Mine”

 

Empty Country: “Andi” and “10 Year” 

Oasis: “Don’t Stop… (Demo)” 

serpentwithfeet: “This Hill” and “Psychic” 

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

!!!: “I’m Sick of This”​ and ​“So We Can Fuck”

2nd Grade: “Dennis Hopper In Easy Rider”

Aluna: “Body Pump” 

Arca: “Nonbinary”

Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin: “Heaven Torn Low II (The Toll)”

Bowerbirds: “Endless Chase” and “Hazel Eyes”

 

Bully: “About a Girl” (Nirvana Cover) and “Turn to Hate” (Orville Peck Cover)

Nick Cave: “Cosmic Dancer” (T. Rex Cover)

Clairo: “Brown Trout Blues” (Johnny Flynn Cover) 

Lucy Dacus: “Tom Courtenay” (Yo La Tengo Cover)

Dashboard Confessional: “Circles” (Post Malone Cover)

Daughter of Swords: “What Wondrous Love Is This?”

Disheveled Cuss: “Oh My God”

Dixie Chicks: “Julianna Calm Down” 

Drive-By Truckers: “Quarantine Together”

I’m Glad It’s You: “Silent Ceremony” 

Infant Island: “Content”

 

K A G: “Ode to Billie Joe” (Bobbie Gentry Cover) and “Wolf Like Me” (TV On The Radio Cover)

Kehlani: “F&MU” 

Land of Talk: “Compelled”

Jessy Lanza: “Face”

Gia Margaret: “apathy” & “body”

Amber Mark: “1894”

Megan Thee Stallion: “Savage (Remix)” (Feat. Beyoncé)

Metz: “Acid” and “Slow Decay”

 

Moby: “Too Much Change” (Feat. Apollo Jane)

 

Mourn: “Call You Back”



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