9 Best Songs of the Week: Jack White, Madeline Kenney, Field Music, Jay Som, and More

Plus Lord Huron, Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee, Franz Ferdinand, Loma, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Jan 26, 2018
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After two weeks of a plethora of tracks vying to be one of our Songs of the Week, this week the pickings were slimmer. Thus this week we have only nine best songs, instead of 10. There were also a lot of covers this week.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last seven days, we have picked the nine best this week had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared this week. Check out the full list below.

1. Jack White: "Corporation"

Jack White is releasing a new solo album, Boarding House Reach, on March 23 via Third Man and Columbia. Previously White shared two songs from Boarding House Reach: "Connected By Love" (via a video) and "Respect Commander." Now here's a third one, "Corporation," shared this week. The funky '70s sounding song starts with a drumbeat akin to a slowed down version of the one that opens Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song." "Corporation" doesn't feature any real vocals until over halfway through, when White sings, "I'm thinking about starting a corporation/Who's with me?" It's a kind of crazy, love it or hate it type of song. We kinda love it, so it's this week's #1.

White also announced this week that you can't use your phone at any of his shows.

Boarding House Reach was written in a sparse Nashville apartment with few distractions on the same type of basic equipment White had when he was 15, including a four-track recorder. A previous press release promised that "the album explores a remarkable range of sonic terrain -- crunching rock 'n' roll, electro and hard funk, proto punk, hip hop, gospel blues, and even country -- all remapped and born anew to fit White's matchless vision and sense of restless experimentation." 

White self-produced the album, which was recorded in Nashville at Third Man Studio, at Sear Sound in New York, and at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. White plays acoustic and electric guitars, drums, organ, and synthesizers on the album. The press release listed an extensive list of other musicians who contributed to the album: "drummer Louis Cato (Beyoncé, Q-Tip, John Legend, Mariah Carey), bassists Charlotte Kemp Muhl (The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger) and NeonPhoenix (Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z), synthesizer players DJ Harrison and Anthony 'Brew' Brewster (Fishbone, The Untouchables), keyboardists Neal Evans (Soulive, Talib Kweli, John Scofield) and Quincy McCrary (Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Pitbull), percussionists Bobby Allende (David Byrne, Marc Anthony) and Justin Porée (Ozomatli), and backing vocalists Esther Rose and Ann & Regina McCrary of Nashville's beloved gospel trio, The McCrary Sisters, as well as longtime collaborators like drummers Daru Jones (Nas, Talib Kweli) and Carla Azar (Autolux, Depeche Mode, Doyle Bramhall II). Singer-songwriter C.W. Stoneking also appears, contributing a stirring spoken word performance to the album's 'Abulia and Akrasia.'"

There will be a limited edition vinyl version of the album available via Third Man's Vault series. The press release described it as such: "The 180-gram, blue and black swirl vinyl edition features exclusive Vault-only cover art which dramatically depicts White's stylized face and is printed on arresting holographic foil paper in the classic Stoughton tip-on style. The LP is further accompanied by a unique-to-this-package 12" x 24" insert featuring the complete album lyrics. The Boarding House Reach Vault package also includes a two-song demo 7-inch single, offering up embryonic versions of 'Connected By Love' and the album track, 'Why Walk a Dog?' The former take - billed here under its original title, 'Infected By Love' - was recorded entirely by White in the aforementioned Nashville apartment." You have until January 31 to order the limited edition.

Back in December White shared a video for a new sound collage he was calling "Servings and Portions From My Boarding House Reach." Clearly it was a teaser for the new album. Pasqual Gutierrez directed the "Connected By Love" video, which features White and various strangers preparing for the end of the world. Both "Connected By Love" and "Respect Commander" are available digitally now and as a 7-inch single.

2. Madeline Kenney: "Still Learning" (Feat. Naytronix)

Madeline Kenney released her debut album, Night Night at the First Landing, back in September via Company. (It was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017.) Now she has shared a brand new song, "Still Learning." It features Naytronix (aka Nate Brenner of Tune-Yards) and is out now via Carpark.

Kenney had this to say about the song in a press release: "This track took about a year to make, not because it was particularly complex or elusive, but rather because Nate and I would do a lot more hanging out, drinking beer, and eating pizza than tracking every time we got together. If this song had a flavor it would be mushroom pizza by the slice. Featuring Derek Barber on what some may call a guitar."

Read our recent Pleased to Meet You interview with Madeline Kenney.

3. Jay Som: "O.K., Meet Me Underwater"

Bay Area singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jay Som (aka Melina Duterte) released a fantastic album, Everybody Works, last March via Polyvinyl. (It was also one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017.) Today she has released, via Polyvinyl, the new Pirouette 7-inch featuring two songs recorded during the Everybody Works sessions that didn't make the album: "Pirouette" and "O.K., Meet Me Underwater." Previously she shared its A-side, "Pirouette." Now you can stream the B-side, "O.K., Meet Me Underwater."

Duterte had this to say about the song in a press release: "I wrote 'O.K., Meet Me Underwater' entirely around one of my favorite drum grooves - there's just something so funky and special about that beat. The general theme of the song is about the pain and acceptance of change within interpersonal relationships."

Duterte also had this to say about the 7-inch in a previous press release: "Both of these tracks were made during the spring of 2016 - the first demo stages for Everybody Works. They were fun to write and record but felt out of place on the track list during the finalization of the album. These tracks remain close to my heart and I'm really grateful they're finally out in the world."

Read our 2017 Pleased to Meet You interview with Jay Som.

4. Field Music: "Share a Pillow"

Britain's Field Music (anchored by brothers Peter and David Brewis) are releasing a new album, Open Here, on February 2 via Memphis Industries. Previously they shared a teaser trailer video for the album and its first full single "Count It Up," which was followed by another song from the album, the six-minute flute-inflected "Time in Joy" (which was one of our Songs of the Week, as "Count It Up" would've been if we'd done a Songs of the Week the week it was released). This week the band shared the album's third and final single, the three-minute long "Share a Pillow."

Peter Brewis had this to say about "Share a Pillow" in a press release: "This one was inspired by my son creeping into my bed during the night - and him and I having to have a talk about why he needs to be in his own bed. I'd say 'There's no room / You have your own bed etc.' And, he'd often reply with, 'it's fine dad, we can share a pillow,' 'I'm lonely in my room,' 'it's too late to go back to bed.' I thought it could come across in a few different ways so I just wrote some of this stuff down without being specific with what it was about...and set then it to the 'Uptown Girl' drum beat!"

Open Here is the follow-up to Commontime, which was released in 2016 via Memphis Industries. "Where Commontime felt like a distillation of all of the elements that make up Field Music, this feels like an expansion," said David Brewis in a previous press release, "as if we're pushing in every direction at once to see how far we can go."

Open Here was recorded at the band's own studio in Sunderland and also features the following musicians: Sarah Hayes on flute and piccolo, Liz Corney (Cornshed Sisters) on vocals, Pete Fraser on saxophone, Simon Dennis on trumpet and flugelhorn, and a string quartet of Ed Cross, Jo Montgomery, Chrissie Slater, and Ele Leckie. A previous press release described the album as such: "The result is a record that is bigger in scale, and grander than anything Field Music have done before. A lush and imaginative release that fits neatly into the lineage of late '70s and early '80s pop experimentalists like Godley & Creme, XTC and Todd Rundgren, while applying a sonic palette, production aesthetic and worldview that is distinctly forward looking." 

5. Lord Huron: "Ancient Names (Part I)" and "Ancient Names (Part II)"

Today Lord Huron announced a new album, Vide Noir, and shared two new interconnected songs from it: "Ancient Names (Part I)" and "Ancient Names (Part II)." Vide Noir is due out April 20 via Whispering Pines/Republic Records. The band have also announced some tour dates. We're counting the two tracks as one song, as they blend into each other and the second part is only two-minutes long.

Vide Noir is the Los Angeles-based band's third album and the follow-up to 2015's Strange Trails. The album was written and recorded over the past two years at Lord Huron's Los Angeles studio, Whispering Pines (which a press release describes as the band's "informal clubhouse"). Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips/MGMT) mixed the album, which was engineered by Sonny DiPerri (Portugal. The Man, Animal Collective).

Lord Huron's singer/songwriter/producer/founder Ben Schneider says in a press release that he found inspiration for the album by wandering around Los Angeles, his adopted home, at night. "My nighttime drives ranged all over the city-across the twinkling grid of the valley, into the creeping shadows of the foothills, through downtown's neon canyons and way out to the darksome ocean," he says. "I started imagining Vide Noir as an epic odyssey through the city, across dimensions, and out into the cosmos. A journey along the spectrum of human experience. A search for meaning amidst the cold indifference of The Universe."

The album's tracklist and cover art are still forthcoming and its first official single is also due to be shared soon.

6. Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee: "Farewell Transmission" (Jason Molina Cover)

Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee (aka Katie Crutchfield) have teamed up to cover two songs by Jason Molina, who died in 2013. The digital 7-inch is being released via Dead Oceans, with proceeds going to MusiCares, which "was established by the Recording Academy to safeguard the health and well-being of all music people." The duo covers two songs by Molina's band Songs: Ohia, "Farewell Transmission" (from 2003's The Magnolia Electric Co.) and "The Dark Don't Hide It" (from 2005's What Comes After the Blues). "Farewell Transmission" was the stronger track, so we're going with that one (find "The Dark Don't Hide It" further below).

Morby issued the following statement about the covers: "My love for Jason Molina began only a few years ago. I had overlooked him for years, too overwhelmed by his many monikers and sprawling catalogue. Then on a European tour in 2016 our driver put on Magnolia Electric Company and my mind was blown - and so began my obsession with the man and his music. A few months after hearing him I was on tour with Waxahatchee where Katie and I bonded over our mutual love for Molina, and we got the idea to record two of our favorite Songs: Ohia songs - which is what you have here today; 'Farewell Transmission' b/w 'The Dark Don't Hide It.'
 
"These were recorded in Upstate New York with my live band at my drummer's studio, The Chicken Shack, with both Katie and I splitting vocals duties. We would record all day, eating eggs from all the chickens running around, taking breaks to read old articles and watch live footage of Jason and his band. He's a true inspiration and there's no other songwriter or vocalist quite like him. We are deeply honored to be able to sing his songs, and we do hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed creating them. The cover art was done by William Schaff, who is responsible for the iconic Magnolia Electric Co. album art. All proceeds of the digital sales will go to MusiCares - an organization that provides support and community services to musicians in need of medical, personal & financial assistance - and also helped Jason in his struggle with addiction, as well as paid to have a polyp removed from my vocal chords in 2014. A truly wonderful cause."

Morby released a new album, City Music, in 2017 via Dead Oceans (which followed 2016's Singing Saw). Waxahatchee released a new album, Out in the Storm, in 2017 via Merge. Both City Music and Out of the Storm made our Top 100 Albums of 2017 list.

7. Franz Ferdinand: "Lazy Boy"

Scotland's Franz Ferdinand are releasing a new album, Always Ascending, on February 9 via their longtime label Domino. Previously they shared its fun and dance-y title track, "Always Ascending," as well as a video for the song, plus the album's second single, "Feel the Love Go." They also stopped by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to perform "Always Ascending." This week they shared the third single from the album, the upbeat and fun "Lazy Boy." Lyrically, the song is pretty basic (frontman Alex Kapranos sings about being lazy and that's about it), but musically it's a whole lotta fun. 

Always Ascending was recorded at RAK Studios in London and Motorbass in Paris, with French producer Philippe Zdar (Cassius, Phoenix, The Beastie Boys). The current lineup of the band is Alex Kapranos (vocals, guitar), Bob Hardy (bass), Paul Thomson (drums), Julian Corrie (keyboards, guitar), and Dino Bardot (guitar). Kapranos refers to the sound of the album as "simultaneously futuristic and naturalistic."

Franz Ferdinand's last album was 2013's Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, although last year they shared a new anti-Donald Trump song, "Demagogue." The band also joined forces with Sparks to form FFS and release a self-titled album in 2015. And frontman Alex Kapranos was part of the supergroup BNQT with the four members of Midlake, along with Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell, Grandaddy's Jason Lytle, and Travis' Fran Healy. BNQT's debut album, Volume 1, came out in April 2017 via Dualtone/Entertainment One/Bella Union.

8. Unknown Mortal Orchestra: "American Guilt"

This week New Zealand's Unknown Mortal Orchestra shared a new song, "American Guilt," and announced some tour dates for the spring. There have been hints that a new album is on the way, including a recent preview article in British music magazine Uncut that says the album is called Sex & Food and that the band "channel Prince and Scritti Politti" on it. If there is a new album, it will be the follow-up to 2015's excellent Multi-Love.

Read our 2015 interview with Unknown Mortal Orchestra about Multi-Love.

9. Loma: "Joy" 

Loma is a new band consisting of Shearwater singer Jonathan Meiburg and the two members of Cross Record (Emily Cross and Dan Duszynski). They are releasing their self-titled debut album on February 16 via Sub Pop. They previously shared a video for the album's closing track, "Black Widow," as well as the audio for the Krautrock-y "Relay Runner," and then a video for "Relay Runner." This week they shared another song from the album, "Joy."

Meiburg had this to say about the song in a press release: "There was something special about the combination of the three of us, and very different from either of our bands. But I think we were afraid to say so out loud, for fear of jinxing it. I remember the hairs on the back of my neck standing up when Emily hit that high, screaming note on the clarinet on 'Joy'; it sounded like a human voice." 

Meiburg met Cross Record when the duo opened for Shearwater in 2016. "I couldn't believe all that sound was coming out of two people," Meiburg said in a previous press release. "They were mesmerizing.... I fell in love with their music, and I wanted to know how they did it."

Other notable new tracks this week include:

Beck: "I'm Waiting for My Man" (The Velvet Underground Cover)

James Blake: "If the Car Beside You Moves Ahead"

Camp Cope: "How To Socialise & Make Friends" 

Car Seat Headrest: "Cute Thing"

Deerhoof: "Live to Tell" (Madonna Cover)

DJ Koze: "Seeing Aliens" and "Nein König Nein"

 JB Dunckel: "Transhumanity"

Hop Along: "How Simple"

Lo Moon: "Real Love"

Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee: "The Dark Don't Hide It" (Jason Molina Cover)

Amanda Palmer: "The Mess Inside" (The Mountain Goats Cover)

Rostam: "Pink Moon" (Nick Drake Cover)

Justin Timberlake: "Say Something" (Feat. Chris Stapleton)

The Voidz: "Leave It In My Dreams" and "QYURRYUS"

Johanna Warren: "Hopelessness Has Done Nothing For Me"

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