Eight Best Songs of the Week: Julien Baker, The War on Drugs, LCD Soundsystem, Wolf Alice, and More

Plus Alvvays, Ariel Pink, Yumi Zouma, Madeline Kenney, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

Aug 18, 2017
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Charlottesville, Virginia is only just over an hour a way from Under the Radar's headquarters. It's the best local city to see shows in and it's a great little progressive college town that we visit often. So we watched in horror, disbelief, and disgust last weekend as the violent and tragic events in Charlottesville surrounding the white supremacist rally dominated the news. And then President Trump's response to the whole thing sickened us further, as he at first failed to fully denounce the KKK and Neo-Nazis, then reluctantly did so, before taking it all back again and equally blaming the anti-racism protestors, even though it was a white supremacist who drove his car into a crowd of people, killing Heather Heyer and injuring others. Our thoughts go out to Heyer's family and friends, as well as others affected by the violence in Charlottesville.

Now onto the Songs of the Week. There were lots of strong contenders this week and the #1 spot could have easily gone to either Julien Baker or The War on Drugs, but since we've honored The War on Drugs with the #1 spot a couple of other times recently, we gave it to Baker.

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

1. Julien Baker: "Appointments"

This week singer/songwriter Julien Baker announced her new album, Turn Out the Lights, and shared its first single, "Appointments." "Appointments" earns all sorts of adjectives (touching, moving, beautiful, powerful) and is a strong opening statement from the new album. Try not to choke up towards the end, when Baker's vocals really soar.

Turn Out the Lights is due out October 27 via Matador, her first for the label. The album was recorded at the Ardent Studios in Baker's hometown of Memphis, TN. Baker wrote and produced the album, which was mixed by Craig Silvey (The National, Arcade Fire, Florence & the Machine). It is Baker's sophomore full-length, the follow-up to Sprained Ankle, which was released by 6131 Records in 2015.

A press release describes the album like this: "Turn Out the Lights expands upon the sound and vision of Sprained Ankle while retaining the haunting, confessional songwriting style for which she has become known. Throughout the album, she reflects on experiences of her own and those closest to her, exploring the internal conflicts that wrestle inside us all: how we deal and cope with our struggles, and how it all impacts both ourselves and our relationships of all kinds. The result is a deeply empathetic album that embraces the grays and complex truths of humanity and mental health." 

Baker announced back in January that she had signed to Matador after interest from most of the important American indie labels. Matador previously released a new Baker 7-inch and shared both its A-side, "Funeral Pyre," and B-side, "Distant Solar System," an unreleased track from the Sprained Ankle sessions.

Read our 2016 interview with Baker and our 2015 Artist Survey interview with her.

2. The War on Drugs: "Up All Night"

The War on Drugs are releasing a new album, A Deeper Understanding, next Friday (August 25) via Atlantic, their first for the label (previously they were on Secretly Canadian). This week the band shared the album's six-minute long glorious opening track, "Up All Night" and it was another winner and almost the Song of the Week. They have now shared five tracks from the album, which is half the album!

Previously The War on Drugs shared the 11-minute long A Deeper Understanding cut (and Record Store Day single) "Thinking of a Place" and announced a fall tour. Then they shared another song from the album, "Holding On," as well as performing the song on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and sharing a video for "Holding On" featuring actor Frankie Faison (The Wire, Luke Cage, The Silence of the Lambs). Then the band shared two other songs from the album, atmospheric slow-burner "Strangest Thing" and the expansive "Pain." The band also shared a cover of Warren Zevon's 1979 song "Accidentally Like a Martyr," recorded for a Spotify session. Then they stopped by Jimmy Kimmel Live! to perform "Pain."

Pick up our current print issue (Summer 2017) to read our new interview with The War on Drugs on A Deeper Understanding.

3. LCD Soundsystem: "tonite"

Now that's more like it! LCD Soundsystem are releasing their long-awaited new album, American Dream, on September 1 via Columbia/DFA. It includes two songs the band released in May, "Call the Police" and title track "American Dream." They also performed them both on Saturday Night Live in May. Those two songs were a bit underwhelming, but this week James Murphy and band have finally shared another song from the album, "tonite," via a retro 1980s looking video of the band performing the song on a revolving stage. And it's without a  doubt the strongest offering we've heard from the album thus far. Joel Kefali directed the video.

4. Wolf Alice: "Beautifully Unconventional"

Britain's Wolf Alice are releasing their sophomore album, Visions of a Life, on September 29 via Dirty Hit/RCA. This week they have shared another song from it, the short and poppy "Beautifully Unconventional," which sounds very little like the other two singles released from the album thus far, "Yuk Foo" and "Don't Delete the Kisses." But that diversity between songs is what made their debut album, 2015's My Love Is Cool, an Under the Radar favorite.

Previously the band shared a lyric video for the album's punky and profanity-laden first single, the two-minute long "Yuk Foo," in which frontwoman Ellie Rowsell declares in the chorus "you bore me, you bore me to death, well you bore me, no I don't give a shit." (It was our #1 song of the week.) Then the band showed the more melodic and produced side of their sound with the album's atmospheric second single, "Don't Delete the Kisses." (It was also our #1 song of the week.) Then they shared a fierce video for "Yuk Foo," as well as a romantic video for "Don't Delete the Kisses" directed by big time music video director Sophie Muller (Beyoncé, Radiohead, Blur) that chronicled a relationship purely via shots of the couple on public transport in London (mainly on the Tube, aka London's subway system).

5. Alvvays: "Plimsoll Punks"

Toronto-based indie-pop four-piece Alvvays are releasing a new album, Antisocialites, on September 8 via Polyvinyl. Previously the band shared its first single, album opener "In Undertow," as well as a trippy lo-fi video for the song, and its second single, "Dreams Tonite." This week they shared another song from the album, "Plimsoll Punks," and it might be the best of the three singles. A press release says the song is the band's answer to Television Personalities' "Part-Time Punks." 

Antisocialites is the follow-up to their well-received 2014-released self-titled debut album. "This record is a fantasy breakup arc and my life nearly imitated art," said Rankin in a previous press release.

Pick up Under the Radar's current print issue (Summer 2017/Issue 61) to read our new interview with Alvvays or download the digital version to read an extended Q&A with the band.

6. Ariel Pink: "Feels Like Heaven"

Ariel Pink is releasing a new album, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, on September 15 via Mexican Summer. Previously he shared the album's first single, "Another Weekend," as well as a video for the song, which was followed by "Time to Live." This week he shared another song from the album, the dreamy "Feels Like Heaven." A press release describes it as "a lovelorn insta-classic paying tribute to the promise of romance."

Pick up our current print issue (Summer 2017) to read our new joint interview between Ariel Pink and Slowdive's Neil Halstead.

Dedicated to Bobby Jameson's title is in reference to a real-life Los Angeles musician who was long thought dead, but who resurfaced online in 2007 after a 35-year gap to write his autobiography and "tragic life story in a series of blogs and YouTube tirades," as a previous press release put it. As Pink said in the previous press release: "His book and life resonated with me to such a degree that I felt a need to dedicate my latest record to him." Jameson died in 2015.

Read our 2015 joint interview between Ariel Pink and Panda Bear.

7. Yumi Zouma: "Depths (Pt. I)"

New Zealand indie-pop band Yumi Zouma are releasing a new album, Willowbank, on October 6 via Cascine. Previously they shared the album's first single, the truly wonderful pop song "December," which was one of our favorite Songs of the Week. Now they have shared another delicious pop nugget from the album, album opener "Depths (Pt. I)." The album ends with "Depths (Pt. II)."

The band's Charlie Ryder had this to say about the song in a press release: "'Depths' is a song about life, love and temporary loss, and all the little moments in between that drag us to the edge of our existences. The people that take your crazy and run with it, turning life upside down in the process, with no regard for the consequences when they forget about you for the day. In parallel, the song explores the ways that we hopelessly fight against this process, as we try to cling onto reality and our sense of self, when really, we should all be letting go before it's too late."

8. Madeline Kenney: "Big One"

Madeline Kenney's upcoming debut album, Night Night at the First Landing, was produced by Toro Y Moi's Chaz Bear (formerly known as Chaz Bundick), but there's nothing chillwave or dance-y about it. Instead Kenney is more in vein of Angel Olsen or Marika Hackman, with some dream-pop touches thrown in. The album is due out September 1 via Company Records (an offshoot of Carpark spearheaded by Bear). Previously "Rita" was one of our Songs of the Week. This week she shared another song from the album, "Big One."

Other notable new tracks this week include:

alt-J: "Deadcrush (Ben De Vries Remix)"

Car Seat Headrest: "War Is Coming (If You Want It)"

Cut Copy: "Airborne (Harvey Sutherland Version)" and "Airborne (Harvey Sutherland JDF Dub Version)" 

 

 

Death From Above: "Never Swim Alone"

The Dodos: "Mirror Flake"

Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton: "Statuette"

Hundred Waters: "Fingers"

Daniele Luppi & Parquet Courts: "Soul and Cigarette"

 

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: "My Only"           

Robert Plant: "The May Queen" 

 

Protomartyr: "My Children"

Quilt: "Black Night Woman" (F.J. McMahon Cover)

Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions: "Sleep" 

Phil Selway: "Let Me Go"

Gabrielle Shonk: "Raindrops"

Weezer: "Mexican Fender"

Wilco: "All Lives, You Say?"

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