9 Best Songs of the Week: Squid, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Guerilla Toss, SASAMI, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019  

9 Best Songs of the Week: Squid, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Guerilla Toss, SASAMI, and More

Plus Vagabon, Cigarettes After Sex, Iggy Pop, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

Aug 30, 2019
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Welcome to another Songs of the Week. Usually we have a Top 10, but last week it was a Top 13 and the week before it was a Top 12. This week, however, the pickings were slimmer and the best we could muster was a Top 9.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Whitney; Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Bryce Dessner & Eighth Blackbird; Ezra Furman; TC&I; The Futureheads; and Black Belt Eagle Scout. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows).

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 9 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. Squid: "Match Bet"

Promising new Brighton, England-formed five-piece Squid are releasing a new EP, Town Centre, digitally on September 6 via producer Dan Carey's Speedy Wunderground, with a physical release on November 15. This week they shared another song from it, "Match Bet," which cements their status as a band to definitely keep tabs on. The four-minute song feels much longer than its runtime, as it ducks and dives into different unexpected sections, from scream-y vocals to jazzy horns against a Krautrock-beat before the song's triumphant collapse. 

The band have a post-punk sound, with comparisons to Talking Heads and Television fairly warranted. Previously Squid shared the EP's seven-and-a-half minutes long "The Cleaner," which was one of our Songs of the Week.

The band features Ollie Judge (drums, lead vocals), Louis Borlase (guitars, vocals), Arthur Leadbetter (keyboards, strings), Laurie Nankivell (bass, brass), and Anton Pearson (guitars, vocals).

Judge​ had this to say about the song in a press release: "'Match Bet' revolves around a character that lives within the same universe as 'The Cleaner.' The song is told from the perspective of a Sonic Youth super fan living with mental illness, whom was a regular at a shop I used to work in. His harmless demeanor and manic, long conversations about gambling, his relationship with Her Majesty The Queen and love for Sonic Youth was extremely helpful for me in that period of my life. I found it interesting how his manic-ness opened me up a bit in a time where I could have quite easily just blended into the paintwork and kept quiet."

2. Black Belt Eagle Scout: "Run It to Ya"

Black Belt Eagle Scout (aka Katherine Paul) released a new album, At the Party With My Brown Friends, today via Saddle Creek (stream it here). This week she shared the album's third and final pre-release single, "Run It to Ya," via a Evan James Benally Atwood-directed video for the track.

Also, this week we posted our review of At the Party With My Brown Friends and you can read that here.

Paul is an indigenous queer musician who grew up in a small Indian reservation, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and is based in Portland. She had this to say about the video in a press release:

"It felt natural for the 'Run It to Ya' music video to star queer indigenous womxn and show their love story unfold. The setting is a queer Indigenous prom, a space where we can truly be ourselves without the ridicules of white settler colonialism. It's a realm where we can reimagine what our lives look like as queer Indigenous people; what is normally a heteronormative space turns into a magical place where people have the freedom to safely love how they choose.
 
"Throughout my work, I intend to show the thriving lives of Indigenous people, and how we are often excluded from mainstream rock music and the media. This exclusion is detrimental to our health and our existence. I am trying to show what my life is like so that other people can see how we have the right to thrive in this world and have the ability to decolonize."

Previously Paul shared At the Party With My Brown Friends' first single, album opener "At the Party" (which was one of our Songs of the Week). Then she shared the album's second single, "My Heart Dreams," via a video for the track (it was also one of our Songs of the Week). 

Black Belt Eagle Scout's debut album, Mother of My Children, came out last September via Saddle Creek, so this is a quick turnaround for a sophomore album. Back in April she shared a video for a new song, "Loss & Relax," that was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Alas that song is not on the new album.

A previous press release described the new album as such: "At the Party With My Brown Friends is a profound and understated forward-step. The squalling guitar anthems that shaped its predecessor are replaced by delicate vocals and soft keys, sentiments spoken and unspoken, presenting something shadowy and unsettling; a stirring of the waters. Paul recalls specific memories - an impromptu beach trip with her friend Haley Heynderickx, her eternal love for her mother, and leaving one love and desperately wanting to find another. The end result presents a captivating about-face that redefines Paul's singular artistic vision."

"At the Party" was written in Paul's bedroom and the press release said it "is a reflection on self-navigation and the comfort that comes from a close-knit group of friends."

Paul had this to say about "At the Party" in the press release: "Within my conscious self, there is always a sense of questioning the legitimacy of the world when you grow up on an Indian reservation. We are all at the party (the world), trying to navigate ourselves within a good or bad situation. I happen to be at the party with my brown friends- Indigenous, Black, POC who always have my back while we walk throughout this event called life."

Read our interview with Black Belt Eagle Scout on Mother of My Children.

Read our 2018 politically themed interview with Black Belt Eagle Scout.

3. Guerilla Toss: "Plants"

This week New York five-piece Guerilla Toss announced a new EP, What Would the Odd Do?, and shared its first single, "Plant." What Would the Odd Do? is due out November 15 via NNA Tapes. Check out the EP's tracklist and cover art, as well as the band's tour dates, here.

The EP is the follow-up to 2018's full-length Twisted Crystal (released on DFA). What Would the Odd Do? was borne out of truly trying times for Guerilla Toss singer/songwriter/bandleader Kassie Carlson: in 2017 she had open heart surgery to "remove a dangerous blood clot caused by a severe opiate addiction."

Carlson explains further in a press release: "Only recently have I really begun to open up about everything that's happened to me in the last few years. These songs mean a lot to me; anyone in recovery knows that going through an opiate addiction and beating it is a big deal. I am living proof that it can happen to anyone. I've always written abstract lyrics that have eluded to my personal struggles, but this time I try to provide context to my metaphors and allegories. In this way, I hope to help other people who are struggling, and anything else that is a result of a corroded society that has left so many people in the dust - especially women. Drugs are such a dude-associated thing, which has made it even harder for me to talk about. I felt gross, other-ed, and alone. I didn't think anyone would be able to understand or relate. Experiencing severe trauma as a child creates different parameters for normalcy, and inclusion. Statistically, women are more likely to hide addiction and keep feelings inside, making it potentially much more festering and toxic. Drugs affect people of all backgrounds, regardless of race, class or gender. Addiction hits us all, and it hits hard."

Carlson ended up having a month and a half stay in a hospital in Brooklyn. 

"It was very intense," she admits in the press release. "Had I not had Medicaid I would have been completely fucked. I've never had money - I grew up poor - with a single mother in sketchy neighborhoods living paycheck to paycheck - sometimes one never came. We lived in motels and run-down homes until we got kicked out, never staying in the same place for very long. My father died suddenly and unexpectedly when I was a teenager. As a child, I never had financial help and usually held down multiple jobs while still attending school. At the time of my surgery, my income was low enough that I qualified for full coverage of all medical expenses, including a six-week stay in the hospital. My muscles were gone and I had to re-learn how to walk. Even simple tasks made me exhausted, but I have since greatly recovered."

Since then things have improved. Carlson has moved to Upstate New York with her partner, Guerilla Toss drummer Peter Negroponte, and the press release says she "has never felt more inspired." 

4. SASAMI: "Take Care"

SASAMI (aka Los Angeles based musician Sasami Ashworth) released her self-titled debut album, SASAMI, back in March via Domino. This week she shared a brand new song, "Take Care," via a self-directed video for the cut that features Ashworth on a row boat, burning things in the desert, and in a smashed up car.

She has also shared a new version of SASAMI's "Free" featuring backing vocals by Tim Presley of White Fence (Devendra Banhart sang on the original version). Check that one out further below.

Read our Pleased to Meet You interview with SASAMI.

When the album was announced she shared a self-directed video for the new song "Jealousy," which was one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared a video for another new song from the album, "Free." The song featured backing vocals from Devendra Banhart, although he's not in the video, and was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then Ashworth shared a video for "Morning Comes" that featured her grandmother hosting a cooking show where she teaches you to make kimichi. The album includes the previous singles "Not the Time" and "Callous."

 

5. Vagabon: "Water Me Down"

Vagabon (aka Lætitia Tamko) is releasing a new self-titled album on October 18 via Nonesuch. This week she shared another song from it, "Water Me Down."

Tamko had this to say about the song in a press release: "I wrote 'Water Me Down' in a stream of consciousness way in the few minutes following a frustrating phone call with someone. Coincidentally, I was at my friend Eric Litmann's house who has a recording setup in his bedroom. I sat on his bed on a winter NYC night with a standard 58 mic up close to my face, and laid down the bulk of this song that night. We then went in and collaborated on the different textures... I tackled drums, arrangement, melodies and production. Eric played the synths and handled co-production. My intention with 'Water Me Down' was to create a playground in which to explore difficult feelings with confidence, triumph and foresight."

Previously the album was titled All the Women in Me and due out September 27, but last week she announced that the album title and release date were both changing. Also, the album's first single was originally titled "Flood Hands" but is now just titled "Flood" and another track from the album had a title change from "All The Women" to "Every Woman." The lyrics for both songs were also changed. This was all because a poet wouldn't give Tamko her blessing to reference her work in the songs.

"My original album title and two lyrics were inspired by and referenced poetry by a writer I greatly admire, Nayyirah Waheed," Tamko said in a press statement about the changes to her album. "When I learned that she preferred I not quote her words, I made changes out of respect for her wishes."

Vagabon is Vagabon's second album, the follow-up to her 2017-released debut Infinite Worlds, and is her first for Nonesuch. Tamko wrote and produced the entire album herself. "Flood Hands" (or "Flood" now) was one of our Songs of the Week.

In a previous press release Tamko set the scene for where she was at prior to recording the new album: "I was in a pretty tortured headspace when I returned home from touring Infinite Worlds. That album contained some of the first songs I'd ever written, and more people than I could have ever imagined heard it. I was proud to become a full-time musician and recognized how rare of a thing that is, but was also debilitated by the very same fact. Fear overtook me and I couldn't write. I felt stagnant and unsure of what to do next."

Unlike Infinite Worlds, Vagabon has less of a straight up indie rock guitar sound, with more electronic textures. "With this album, I wanted to impress myself," Tamko said in the previous press release. "I wanted to be curious and I wanted to make big leaps as a producer. All I had access to on the road was my computer and Logic, so naturally I started writing songs electronically with what was at hand."

Tamko added: "The drums and vocal forward approach I took on [Vagabon] is drawn from my love for rap and hip-hop production as well as R&B and folk storytelling. That's the music that got me excited about writing again."

6. Cigarettes After Sex: "Heavenly"

This week Cigarettes After Sex announced a new album, Cry, and shared its first single, "Heavenly," which has a bit of a Twin Peaks vibe. Cry is due out October 25 via Partisan. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as the single's cover art and the band's upcoming tour dates, here.

Cigarettes After Sex are a trio featuring frontman/guitarist Greg Gonzalez, as well as Jacob Tomsky (drums) and Randy Miller (bass). Cry is the follow-up to their self-titled debut album, released in 2017. The album was recorded in Mallorca, Spain, self-produced and engineered by Gonzalez, and mixed by Craig Silvey (Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs). A press release says Cry is influenced by the films of Éric Rohmer, the songs of Selena and Shania Twain, and "the burgeoning love of a new relationship."


In a press release Gonzalez says recording in Mallorca very much influenced the album: "The sound of this record is completely tied to the location for me. Ultimately, I view this record as a film. It was shot in this stunning, exotic location, and it stitches all these different characters and scenes together, but in the end is really about romance, beauty, and sexuality. It's a very personal telling of what those things mean to me."

Gonzalez describes "Heavenly" as "inspired by the overwhelming beauty I felt watching an endless sunset on a secluded beach in Latvia one summer night."

7. Iggy Pop: "Sonali"

Iggy Pop is releasing a new album, Free, on September 6 via Loma Vista. This week he shared another song from the album, the relaxed and jazzy "Sonali."

Previously Pop shared Free's first single, short title track "Free." Then he shared the album's second single, "James Bond." The song features additional vocals from Faith Vern of the British band PINS and was one of our Songs of the Week. Then Pop shared a video for "James Bond."

Free is the follow-up to 2016's Post Pop Depression, which was produced by Josh Homme of Eagles of Death Metal and Queens of the Stone Age, who also co-wrote the album with Pop and played on it. In 2018 Pop also teamed up with the iconic British dance duo Underworld (Karl Hyde and Rick Smith) for the collaborative four-song EP, Teatime Dub Encounters. Free was made with help of Leron Thomas and Noveller. A previous press release called the album a "uniquely somber and contemplative entry in the Iggy Pop canon." 

Pop had this to say about the album in the previous press release: "This is an album in which other artists speak for me, but I lend my voice...
 
"By the end of the tours following Post Pop Depression, I felt sure that I had rid myself of the problem of chronic insecurity that had dogged my life and career for too long.      
 
"But I also felt drained. And I felt like I wanted to put on shades, turn my back, and walk away. I wanted to be free. I know that's an illusion, and that freedom is only something you feel, but I have lived my life thus far in the belief that that feeling is all that is worth pursuing; all that you need - not happiness or love necessarily, but the feeling of being free.  

"So this album just kind of happened to me, and I let it happen."

8. Algiers: "Can The Sub_Bass Speak?"

This week Algiers shared a new song, "Can The Sub_Bass Speak?" It is an intense piece about race that also seems to tackle some of the criticism the band has received in the past. It's a combination of spoken word vocals from frontman Franklin James Fisher mixed with free-jazz backing provided by saxophonist Skerik and drummer D'Vonne Lewis.

The song was paired with an auto-visual piece put together by filmmaker Sam Campbell and typographer Farbod Kokabi and features production from duo Randall Dunn and Ben Greenberg. It's part of bigger web-installation: www.thereisnoyear.com.

Fisher had this to say about the song in a press release:

"Who has the cultural authority to designate origin and authenticity? 'Can the Sub_Bass Speak?' is a frustrated regurgitation; a re-contextualization; a re-appropriation; a shield and a mirror that projects back onto the world a lifetime of interpellating language rooted in weaponized ignorance and supremacist privilege.

"The improvised punctuation is provided by Skerik on the tenor saxophone and D'Vonne Lewis on drums and percussion. The underlying cacophony traces the evolution of African-American music, experience and identity.

"This is not for the mercenary architects: the Jacks and Queens of simulated experience. This is for anyone who has found themselves on the sharp end of insidious, rhetorical prying: 'Where are you from?' 'What are you?' This is for anyone who has had their identity assigned and determined by the agents of patriarchy. This is for the Subaltern."

Algiers' last album was 2017's The Underside of Power.

Read our 2017 interview with Algiers on The Underside of Power.

9. Comet Gain: "Mid 8Ts"

This week Comet Gain announced a new album, Fireraisers Forever!, and shared its first single, "Mid 8Ts." Fireraisers Forever! is due out October 11 via Tapete. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art here.

Comet Gain is a British indie pop band led by David Feck, who has been the sole permanent member. The band formed in 1992. Fireraisers Forever! is the band's first album in five years, since 2014's Paperback Ghosts. "Mid 8Ts" is accompanied by a lyric video featuring old footage of London.

Read our 2009 interview with Comet Gain.

Honorable Mentions:

These 5 songs almost made the Top 10.

Black Marble: "Feels"

Bombay Bicycle Club: "Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)"

Corridor: "Topographe"

Konradsen: "Television Land"

Pinegrove: "Moment"

Other notable new tracks in the last week include: 

!!!: "Couldn't Have Known"

Animal Collective (Avey Tare and Geologist): "Ballad of Reverend War Character" (Silver Jews Cover)

Charli XCX: "Warm" (Feat. HAIM)

Chromatics: "I Want to Be Alone" (Jackson C. Frank Cover)

Miles Davis: "Give It Up"

A. G. Cook: "Lifeline" (Feat. Caroline Polachek)

Floating Points: "Last Bloom"

Idlewild: "There's a Place for Everything (Acoustic)"

Mark Lanegan Band: "Night Flight to Kabul"

Liam The Younger: "Charcoal Gray"

LIFE: "Bum Hour"

mxmtoon: "dream of you"

SASAMI: "Free (Band Version)" (Feat. Tim Presley)

Sudan Archives: "Confessions"

Vetiver: "To Who Knows Where"

White Reaper: "1F"

Neil Young with Crazy Horse: "Milky Way"

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