10 Best Songs of the Week: Anna Calvi, Spiritualized, Petite Noir, Neneh Cherry, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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10 Best Songs of the Week: Anna Calvi, Spiritualized, Petite Noir, Neneh Cherry, and More

Plus Phosphorescent, Moses Sumney, Robyn, Jaakko Eino Kalevi, Teleman, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

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Lots of strong Songs of the Week contenders this week. We were tempted to do a Top 12 again like last week, instead of our usual Top 10, but resisted the excess. There are lots of Europeans in this week’s list.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 10 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. Anna Calvi: “Hunter”

Anna Calvi is releasing a new album, Hunter, on August 31 via Domino. Previously she shared a video for a new song that examined gender, “Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy” (it was one of our Songs of the Week). This week she shared the album’s title track, “Hunter,” via a visual for the song.

A press release says, “‘Hunter’ sees Calvi celebrating the transcendent aspects of pleasure and finding a home and community in queer spaces.”

In the press release Calvi says the song is about “exploring a more subversive sexuality, which goes further than what is expected of a woman in our patriarchal heteronormative society.”

Hunter is Calvi’s third full-length album and the follow up to 2011’s Anna Calvi and 2013’s One Breath. That makes it her first album in five years. Nick Launay (Nick Cave, Grinderman) produced Hunter at Konk Studios in London, with some additional production in Los Angeles. Calvi’s band was featured in the sessions: Mally Harpaz on various instruments and Alex Thomas on drums. Adrian Utley from Portishead also played keyboards and Martyn Casey from The Bad Seeds played bass.

In a previous press release Calvi said she wanted to express herself on Hunter while being “free from the story that either gender is given, free from worrying how people would judge me on what I want to do with my body and myself. For me, that’s quite a utopian vision.”

Calvi released a longer statement about the album: “I’m hunting for something - I want experiences, I want agency, I want sexual freedom, I want intimacy, I want to feel strong, I want to feel protected and I want to find something beautiful in all the mess.

“I want to go beyond gender. I don’t want to have to chose between the male and female in me. I’m fighting against feeling an outsider and trying to find a place that feels like home.

“I believe that gender is a spectrum. I believe that if we were allowed to be somewhere in the middle, not pushed to the extremes of performed masculinity and femininity, we would all be more free. I want to explore how to be something other than just what I’ve been assigned to be. I want to explore a more subversive sexuality, which goes further than what is expected of a woman in our patriarchal heteronormative society. I want to repeat the words ‘girl boy, woman man,’ over and over, to find the limits of these words, against vastness of human experience.

“I believe in the female protagonist, who isn’t simply responding to a man’s story. I go out into the world and see it as mine - I want something from it, rather than just being a passive product of it. I’m hungry for experiences. Sometimes things seem clear, and other times I feel lost. I feel strong and yet vulnerable; I wear my body and my art as an armor, but I also know that to be true to myself is to be open to being hurt.

“The intent of this record is to be primal and beautiful, vulnerable and strong, to be the hunter and the hunted.”

2. Spiritualized: “Here It Comes (The Road) Let’s Go”

Spiritualized (aka Jason Pierce and backing band) is releasing a new album, And Nothing Hurt, on September 7 via Fat Possum (and Bella Union in the U.K.). Previously they shared two songs from it, “I’m Your Man” and “A Perfect Miracle,” as well as a video for “I’m Your Man.” The two songs both made our Songs of the Week list. This week Pierce has shared another song from the album, the fairly relaxed “Here It Comes (The Road) Let’s Go.”

The album is the follow-up to 2012’s Sweet Heart Sweet Light. Pierce recorded most of the album at home, which is amazing to think about once you listen to the lush first two singles (which are also the album’s opening tracks). They don’t sound a million miles away from Spiritualized’s best work on 1997’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space and 2001’s Let It Come Down.

Here’s what Pierce had to say about recording the album in a previous press release: “Making this record on my own sent me more mad than anything I’ve done before. We’d been playing these big shows and I really wanted to capture that sound we were making but, without the funds to do, I had to find a way to work within the constraints of what money I had. So I bought a laptop and made it all in a little room in my house…

“The biggest thing for me was to try to make it sound like a studio session. There are bits that I went to a studio to record - mainly drums and percussion. I mean, there’s no way I’m going to get timpani up my stairs. When I came to terms with how I was going to make the record, I assumed it was going to sound like Lee Perry - all flying in from different angles; all extraordinary and not hi-tech in construction. But I was new to it all, I didn’t have all the short cuts people use when they’re making records - I just sat there for weeks… for months… moving every level up bit by bit just to try to get the sounds right…

“With a bit of trial and lot of error, I found ways of doing something that’s quite simple, if you’ve got the resources. I spent two weeks listening to classical records and strumming the chord that I wanted on my guitar. When I found something to match what I wanted, I’d sample that bit and go for the next chord and try to match that. It took weeks, trying to put together and layer convincing string sounds. But, if I’m honest, all I wanted was for someone to come and play the part and bring their own thing to the record.”

Pierce previously said that this could be the last Spiritualized album, that he found it too frustrating to replicate the sounds in his head. He comments on this in the press release: “I was quite sincere about that and I still feel like it might be the case. It was such hard work. I found myself going crazy for so long. It’s not like there’s no coming back, I’m fine now…it’s just such a hard thing to do, to make a record like this on your own. It’s almost as if, if I’m not pushing myself to point of madness, it’s not going to be right. I think the biggest goal is to make something that’s worthy of all that time and effort. And the more time and effort, the bigger the goal. I knew I had to make something that was good enough that it should be made. And a massive positive about making the record is that we get to play it live. That’s always the most joyous thing; this amazing thing that seems to come right through the roof.”

Read our 2008 interview with Jason Pierce.

3. Petite Noir: “Blame Fire”

Petite Noir (aka half-Congolese, half-Angolan, Cape Town-residing artist Yannick Ilunga) released his debut album, La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful, in 2015 via Domino. This week he announced a new mini-album, La Maison Noir / The Black House, and shared its first single, “Blame Fire.” La Maison Noir / The Black House is due out October 5 via Roya.

Ilunga had this to say about the single in a press release: “‘Blame Fire’ is a phrase that I made up, meaning ‘Thank God.’ I poetically referenced times in history that God showed up as ‘fire’ i.e. the burning bush in the story of Moses and comparing that to the passion, the drive that we all have inside of ourselves to be successful in life. So basically, don’t blame me, Blame Fire for all that I have. In short, it means, all glory to God.”

Also read our 2015 Pleased to Meet You interview with Petite Noir.

4. Neneh Cherry: “Kong”

This week Neneh Cherry returned with a brand new song, “Kong.” The song was co-produced by Four Tet and Massive Attack’s 3D. It was shared via a video directed by Jenn Nkiru (Kamasi Washington). Cherry’s last album was 2014’s Blank Project, which was also produced by Four Tet. The single is out now via Smalltown Supersound. If you ever wanted to hear what a Massive Attack song fronted by Neneh Cherry might sound like, well here you go.

5. Phosphorescent: “New Birth in New England”

This week Phosphorescent (aka Matthew Houck) announced a new album, C’est La Vie, and shared its first single, the gospel-tinged “New Birth in New England.” C’est La Vie is the first Phosphorescent album in five years and is due out October 5 via Dead Oceans. He’s also announced some tour dates, which are here.

Phosphorescent’s last album was 2013’s Muchacho. In the five years since, Houck fell in love, had kids, and moved from New York to Nashville. Once there he built is own studio from scratch, Spirit Sounds Studio. C’est La Vie was recorded there and was produced by Houck. Houck mixed the album with Vance Powell (Jack White, Chris Stapleton, Arctic Monkeys).

A press release describes the album as such: “With a focus on translating these profound experiences to music as intuitively as he could, Houck pushes the boundaries of what a Phosphorescent record can sound like, balancing the earthy and the incandescent, the troubled and the serene, creating his own musical cosmos in the process.”

6. Moses Sumney: “Rank & File”

Moses Sumney released his debut full-length album, Aromanticism, last September via Jagjaguwar. It was our #1 Debut Album of 2017 and one of our overall Top 100 Albums of 2017. This week he announced a brand new three-song EP, Black in Deep Red, 2014, and shared its first single, “Rank & File.” The Black in Deep Red, 2014 EP is due out soon, next Friday August 10, via Jagjaguwar.

Sumney had this to say about the EP in a press release: “Black in Deep Red, 2014 was ignited by the first and last time I attended a protest. It was in the fall of 2014, after a grand jury decided not to charge the offending officer in the Mike Brown murder, delivering the verdict just in time for them to get home for Thanksgiving. I felt like a camouflaged outsider at the protest, like an anthropologist performing a study amongst his own kind. I took to the mountains soon after that and wrote these songs, wondering if power was a transferable device that could change hands through the vocalizing of unrest. The EP’s title is inspired by a 1957 Mark Rothko painting by the same name.”

Read our 2017 interview with Moses Sumney on Aromanticism.

7. Jaakko Eino Kalevi: “Emotions in Motion”

This week Finnish multi-instrumentalist Jaakko Eino Kalevi announced a new album, Out of Touch, and shared a video for its first single, “Emotions in Motion.” Out of Touch is due out October 12 via Domino imprint Weird World. Ieva Kabasinskaite directed the “Emotions in Motion” video, which was filmed in Paris on 35mm and 16mm film, and can be watched below.

Out of Touch is Kalevi’s fifth solo album and the follow-up to 2015’s self-titled album. Kalevi wrote and produced the album, which was recorded in studios in Helsinki and Berlin, where he currently lives. He plays every instrument on the album, including the saxophone. A press release says the album draws inspiration from some time Kalevi spent in Athens and “broadens his horizons while focusing on his inner self.”

Kalevi had this to say about the album in the press release: “Everyone knows the meaning of out of touch and it usually has negative connotations, such as lacking the latest information. But to be out of touch can be the most ideal state.”

Kabasinskaite had this to say about the video for “Emotions in Motion” in the press release: “The ‘Emotions in Motion’ video is inspired by the techniques used by smugglers of counterfeit luxury goods. In the video, Jaakko Eino Kalevi plays someone who is well-versed in these techniques and we see him going through these meticulous procedures. Through a bizarre visual complicity between the organic containers and their opulent content, the value of these things, as well as where they come from, is being questioned.”

Kalevi adds about the video: “We shot the first part of the video in a busy market in Belleville. I thought I would’ve been more nervous about shooting among people but in the end I wasn’t. I wanted to buy a tracksuit but after the shoot the seller had disappeared.”

Read our 2015 interview with Jaakko Eino Kalevi.

8. Mutual Benefit: “Shedding Skin” (Plus “Come to Pass”)

Mutual Benefit (aka Jordan Lee) is releasing a new album, Thunder Follows the Heart, on September 21 via Transgressive. Previously he shared two songs from it, “New History” and “Storm Cellar Heart” (“Storm Cellar Heart” was one of our Songs of the Week), as well as live videos for both songs that were filmed at his apartment. This week he shared two more songs from it, “Come to Pass” and “Shedding Skin.” “Come to Pass” was nice enough, but “Shedding Skin” is the one that makes this list.

Lee had this to say about the songs in a press release: “These songs came about at the same time on a busted five string guitar when I shut off my phone and declared my bedroom a makeshift ‘artist residency’ for a week. I had just returned from a tour that did a lot of meandering around the Appalachian Mountain region right as the ‘Make America Great Again’ signs started popping up more and more. ‘Come to Pass’ is a refutation of the idea that there was ever a golden age to return back to. Both personally and politically I’m afraid of this sort of constructed nostalgia that keeps us looking backwards instead of a having a powerful enough imagination to see the hard truths of the present but work
towards a better future…. With ‘Shedding Skin’ I kept thinking about a town where I saw hundreds of these translucent cicada bodies from where they had clung to a tree, hardened, and then burst out of their own shell. This ghostly sight made me pay more attention to how things naturally regenerate, how loss is part of the fuel of growth. It became a powerful reminder that things shouldn’t stay the same, including parts of ourselves.”

The album is the follow-up to 2013’s Love’s Crushing Diamond and 2016’s Skip a Sinking Stone.

9. Robyn: “Missing U”

This week Robyn shared a new song, “Missing U.” It’s her first solo song since her 2010 album Body Talk. The song finds the Swedish musician teaming up Joseph Mount (Metronomy) and long-time collaborator Klas Åhlund (Robyn, Charli XCX, Madonna) to write and produce the track. It’s out now via Konichiwa/Interscope. Listen below via a lyric video. She’s also shared a short film directed by Danilo Parra that features Robyn reconnecting with fans in New York at her club night. Watch that below too.

Robyn had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Missing U’ is a song about this trippy thing that happens when people disappear, it’s like they become even more clear and you see them everywhere.”

She adds that the song is “also a little bit of a message to my fans, that I’ve missed them.”

10. Teleman: “Song For a Seagull”

England’s Teleman are releasing their third album, Family of Aliens, on September 7 via Moshi Moshi. This week they shared the album’s third single, “Song For a Seagull,” via a video for the song. The video features the band live streaming as the travel around London in the back of a taxicab. Their fans comment with the lyrics in sync with the song.

In a press release, Teleman’s lead vocalist/guitarist Tom Sanders says “Song For a Seagull” “explores the idea of doing everything you can to escape on your own to somewhere far away, somewhere better, but then having no one to experience it with. The person is present but absent, they are miles away. They don’t belong in the world.”

Family of Aliens is the follow-up to 2016’s Brilliant Sanity and 2013’s Bernard Butler-produced Breakfast.

Sanders also had this to say about Family of Aliens in the press release: “We want to keep evolving and keep discovering. This band is one long journey for us, and we never want to stop developing and finding new ways of creating music. I’m always wanting to better what we’ve done before. To go deeper, to find something more beautiful, more catchy, more challenging, more interesting…just more.”

Read our 2013 interview with Teleman.

Honorable Mentions:

These five songs almost made the Top 12.

CHVRCHES: “Out of My Head” (Feat. Wednesday Campanella)

Death Cab for Cutie: “Autumn Love”

House of Feeling: “Touchscreen” (Feat. Meredith Graves)

Interpol: “Number 10”

Ultra Beauty: “Get Pure”

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Advance Base: “Dolores & Kimberly”

Sky Ferreira: “Voices Carry” (‘Till Tuesday Cover)

Neil & Liam Finn: “Ghosts”

GØGGS: “Pre Strike Sweep”

Tim Hecker: “This Life”

Maroon 5: “Girls Like You (St. Vincent Remix)” (Feat. Cardi B)

Emma Ruth Rundle: “Darkhorse”

Silk City: “Loud” (Feat. Goldlink & Desiigner)

Sleaford Mods: “Stick in a Five and Go”

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