Nine Best Songs of the Week: Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, The National, Baxter Dury, and More

Plus Alex Lahey, Jessie Ware, Mathew Dear + Tegan and Sara, Ted Leo, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

Sep 01, 2017
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What a packed week for great new tracks. We could have easily done a Top 15. Some artists that almost made the cut include A. Savage, Bully, John Maus, Father John Misty (remixed by The Haxan Cloak), Tricky, Wolf Parade, and Zola Jesus. In the end we settled on a Top 9, one more than usual.

Now onto the actual Songs of the 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. Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile: "Over Everything"

Australian singer/songwriter/guitarist Courtney Barnett and American singer/songwriter/guitarist Kurt Vile previously announced they were teaming up for a new collaborative album, as well as a collaborative fall tour featuring an "all-star band." At the time no further details were given about the album, but this week they announced the title, release date, cover art, and tracklist. It's entitled Lotta Sea Lice and is due out October 13 via Matador. They have also shared a video for the album's first single, the 6-minute long "Over Everything." And it was the perfect synthesis of the two artist's sounds and really everything you could hope for from such a collaboration. It just all feels so effortless.

Danny Cohen directed the "Over Everything" video, which was beautifully filmed in black & white. Cohen shot Barnett in Australia and Vile in America, as they both perform the song out in the country and in towns, sometimes in very long shots. But in a twist Barnett sings Vile's part and Vile sings Barnett's part. This fits the vibe of the album, as on two songs they each cover each other's songs. As a press release explains, Vile delivers "a delicious, souped-up version of 'Outta the Woodwork' backed by Barnett herself," and Barnett takes on Vile's "Peepin' Tomboy" "completely solo, to spine-tingling result." Plus on the album cover Vile is positioned underneath Barnett's name and Barnett is positioned underneath Vile's name.

Lotta Sea Lice also features special guests Mick Turner and Jim White of Dirty Three, Stella Mozgawa from Warpaint, and Mick Harvey. The album was recorded in eight non-consecutive days spread out over the course of 15 months.

On tour the duo will be backed by "The Sea Lice," which is "a revolving cast of musicians" that includes Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Wild Flag), Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint), Rob Laakso (The Violators, The Swirlies, Mice Parade), and Katie Harkin (Harkin, Sky Larkin, and touring member of Sleater-Kinney and Wild Beasts). In a previous press release Vile called it "a cookin' band and an intercontinental country duo for the ages-minus the country."

Barnett had this to say about the collaboration in a previous press release: "In 2014 I scored a support slot opening for Kurt at the Abbotsford Convent [outside Melbourne]. We met briefly after the show but I was a bit nervous and didn't wanna bother him, just grateful for the gig. Years later we started bumping into each other on the festival circuit all around the wide world and we became friends. He hit me up when he was coming to Melbourne next and said he thought we could work together."

Barnett later added: "I'm a huge Kurt fan. Smoke Ring was one of my first purchases on vinyl. I was getting over a big break-up, unemployed and drifting and I would just lie on my bed and listen to 'Peepin' Tom' on repeat. One of the most beautiful and luscious albums I ever heard. Me and Jen fell in love to that album." 

Vile had this to say in a previous press release: "I just love her voice in general... great lyrics of course... I love all her music but the song that really hit me was 'Depreston'-I know it's popular but her voice is so good in that song and it's so pretty and sincere... I'm a sucker for that kinda song: instant classic. It started out as, maybe we'll do a split 7" together but then I figured let's make it a 12" so it doesn't get lost in the world, shoot for 5 songs. It wasn't until I had another KV tour booked for the following summer in Oz that we thought we should record as much as we can, just see what happens, no major goal to make it a full length, but it came together that way 'cause the vibe was so strong with everyone."

2. Baxter Dury: "Miami"

This week Baxter Dury announced a new album, Prince of Tears, and shared a video for its first single, "Miami." The song just exudes pure swagger and cool. Prince of Tears is due out October 27 via Heavenly. It features two special guests: Jason Williamson from Sleaford Mods on "Almond Milk" and Rose Elinor Dougall on "Porcelain."

Dury and Ash Workman (Metronomy) co-produced Prince of Tears, which was mixed by Craig Silvey (Arcade Fire, New Order, Florence & the Machine) and recorded at Hoxa Studios. The "Miami" video features a character called "Miami" created by Dury, which a press release describes as "a foul-mouthed and cocksure character created by Baxter, centered on the delusions that can come with heartbreak." Or as Dury puts it: "He thinks he's got swagger, he thinks he's someone, but he's not."

Dury is the son of the late Ian Dury, lead singer of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, who are known for, among other things, the 1978 single "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick," which hit #1 on the U.K. singles chart.

3. The National: "Day I Die"

The National are releasing a new album, Sleep Well Beast, on September 8 via 4AD. Previously the band shared videos for the album's first three singles, "The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness," "Guilty Party," and "Carin at the Liquor Store." This week the band shared another song from the album, "Day I Die," via a video directed by Casey Reas. It is made up of over 5,000 photos of the band captured by photographer Graham MacIndoe while the band were rehearsing in Paris in June. Reas then put the photos together into a time lapse video.

Reas had this to say about the video in a press release: "Graham MacIndoe captured 18 time-lapse photo series during rehearsals at Le Centquatre in June 2017 in Paris. Hours of rehearsal are compressed into a few minutes. Over 5,000 of these photographs were brought together to create the final video. I wrote custom software to collage multiple photographs together and to compile them into videos. A flickering color layer abstracted from broadcast television signals augments the black and white footage. The images are played back at 12fps, near the threshold of the persistence of vision."

Pick up Under the Radar's current print issue (Summer 2017/Issue 61) to read our new interview with The National on Sleep Well Beast.

4. Alex Lahey: "Lotto in Reverse"

Alex Lahey is a promising new Australian singer/songwriter. She is releasing her debut album, I Love You Like a Brother, on October 6 via Dead Oceans. Previously we posted the video for "Every Day's the Weekend." This week she shared another spirited song from the album, "Lotto in Reverse," via a lyric video.

5. Midnight Sister: "Clown"

Midnight Sister, the exciting new Los Angeles-based duo of Juliana Giraffe and Ari Balouzian, are releasing their debut album, Saturn Over Sunset, on September 8 via Jagjaguwar and we've loved everything we've heard from it. Previously they shared videos for their first two singles, "Leave You" and "Blue Cigar," as well as the audio for "Daddy Long Legs." This week they shared another song from the album, "Clown," via its video. Ari Balouzian directed the video, which features Giraffe dressed as a clown (though more of a French one, than one from It or Ronald McDonald) as she sings the song in a motel parking lot at night and dances with an older man dressed as a woman (played by Arthur Roberts).

Pick up Under the Radar's current print issue (Summer 2017) to read our Pleased to Meet You feature on Midnight Sister.

Midnight Sister's art-pop would appeal to fans of Broadcast, influential '60s pioneers such as The United States of America and The Free Design, and Charlie Hilton. The duo is based in the San Fernando Valley. Giraffe is 23 and the daughter of a Los Angeles disc jockey. A previous press release said she "was raised almost exclusively on disco and Bowie. Her lyrics and lyrical melodies, informed very much by her filmmaking background, were composed gazing out from a tiny retail window on Sunset Boulevard. Her Rear Window-like longing allowed her imagination to run wild and cook up the wild narratives that would fill Balouzian's compositions." It's her first time writing and performing music. Balouzian is 27 and a classically trained musician who has done arrangements for Tobias Jesso Jr. and Alex Izenberg, this is his first real attempt at playing true pop music.

6. Ted Leo: "Can't Go Back"

Ted Leo is self-releasing a new album, The Hanged Man, on September 8. Previously he shared the album's first single, "You're Like Me." Now here's another one, the delightful "Can't Go Back," which is aided by piano and backing vocals.

Leo hasn't released a solo full-length album or one with The Pharmacists in seven years, since 2010's The Brutalist Bricks, but earlier this year he announced a Kickstarter campaign for a new one and shared a five-minute sampler of songs.

The Hanged Man is Leo's 13th album, but the first credited solely to his name (rather than Ted Leo and the Pharmacists). Leo described in a previous press release the recording of the album as a time of "personal desolation that felt fallow but was actually very fertile." Acclaimed graphic novelist Emil Ferris (My Favorite Thing Is Monsters) did the cover art. Despite not releasing a solo album in seven years, Leo did team up with Aimee Mann for 2014's collaborative album The Both.

 

7. Yumi Zouma: "Persephone"

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, as well as the album opener "Depths (Pt. I)" (the album ends with "Depths (Pt. II)"), which was also one of our Songs of the Week. Now they have shared another pop delight from the album, "Persephone," and I guess they are three for three!

8. Matthew Dear: "Bad Ones" (Feat. Tegan and Sara)

This week Matthew Dear shared a new song, "Bad Ones," that features the vocals of Tegan and Sara (as well as his vocals). The song is out now digitally via Ghostly International. It follows "Modafinil Blues," a moody new single Dear released back in late June. It's not the first time Dear and the Quin sisters have teamed up, in 2013 they all covered Tears For Fears' "Pale Shelter."

Tegan and Sara's Sara Quin had this to say about the collaboration in a press release: "I heard the piece of music Matthew sent through while driving to get a haircut in West Hollywood. I always feel like an interloper on that side of town and the phrase 'freaking out and paralyzed' was suddenly looping in my head. I couldn't stop thinking about how finding someone who loves the more complicated parts of you is a relief, especially when they're not turned off by your socially awkward insecurities or tendencies to retreat inward. Matthew's music has always been my go-to for late night bus rides in headphones and I still geek out that we made this together!"

Matthew Dear had this to say: "I have been a fan of Tegan and Sara since first hearing 'Walking With a Ghost.' My interest was greater piqued with their album Heartthrob. I sent a message that I loved it to find out they were fans of mine. This led to a remix and a collaboration on a Tears For Fears cover in 2013. The connection was made, and we discussed future collaborations. When working on new songs I had them in mind. I had a loop for 'Bad Ones' and thought they'd be great on it. Tegan and Sara eagerly accepted the challenge to write more, so I sent it over. Practically overnight, they returned with the verse and the chorus, written from scratch over my loop. I spent the next month working on it, turning a demo into a full-fledged song. Working with Tegan and Sara reminds me the best songs are born from an open and free process. Often times, we need to get out of our own way to let the magic happen, and this song is a bold reminder of that."

It's been five years since Matthew Dear's last album under his own name, 2012's Beams, although he released a second album under his Audion alias last year. There's no word on if and when a new album from Dear is on the way.

Tegan and Sara, meanwhile, are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their album The Con with a tour and The Con X: Covers (an album due out October 13 in which other artists cover each song on The Con, with all net proceeds going to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, which works in support of LGBTQ girls and women).

9. Jessie Ware: "Selfish Love" 

Jessie Ware recently shared a brand new song, "Midnight" (it was our #1 Song of the Week). She also shared a film noir video for "Midnight," which was filmed on the Spanish island of Mallorca and described as the second part of a two-part story. This week she shared a video for another new song, "Selfish Love," that is the first part of the story. Tom Beard directed both videos and the "Selfish Love" one tells a tale of infidelity that turns violent.

Ware had this to say about the song in a press release: "'Selfish Love' is a track that reminds me why I enjoy singing so much. Even though it's coming at the end of the summer, I hope you play it in the heat."

"Midnight" and "Selfish Love" are the first tastes of her third album, which has yet to be officially announced. Ware's last album, sophomore effort Tough Love, was released in 2014 via PMR/Friends Keep Secrets/Interscope. Since then she's had a baby, which partly explains the gap between albums. In May 2016 Ware shared the new song, "Till the End," which was written for the soundtrack to the film, Me Before You.

Read our 2014 interview with Jessie Ware.

Other notable new tracks this week include:

Arcade Fire: "Comfort My Sleng Teng (Geoff Barrow Mix)"

 

A. Savage: "Wild, Wild, Wild Horses"

Bully: "Running"

Patrick Carney and Michelle Branch: "A Horse With No Name" (America Cover)

Charli XCX: "Boys (Acoustic Version)"

Coldplay: "Houston #1"

Death From Above: "Holy Books"

 

Deradoorian: "Mountainside" 

Father John Misty: "Things It Would Have Been Helpful To Know Before The Revolution (The Haxan Cloak Remix)"

Godspeed You! Black Emperor: "Undoing a Luciferian Towers"

Hiss Golden Messenger: "Domino (Time Will Tell)" and "When the Wall Comes Down"

 

Ibeyi: "Deathless" (Feat. Kamasi Washington)

LCD Soundsystem: "pulse (vol. 1)"

Madlib: "10 Summers Old" 

John Maus: "The Combine"

 

Kele Okereke: "Do U Right"

 

OCS (fka Thee Oh Sees): "Memory of a Cut Off Head"

Amanda Palmer: "Drowning in the Sound"

Robert Plant: "Bodies of Saints"

The Rural Alberta Advantage: "Brother"

St. Vincent: "All You Need Is Love" (The Beatles Cover)

Tricky: "Running Wild" (Feat. Mina Rose)

U2: "The Blackout"

Wolf Parade: "You're Dreaming"

Zola Jesus: "Siphon"

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