10 Best Songs of the Week: Father John Misty, Arlo Parks, Phoenix, Carly Rae Jepsen, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024  

10 Best Songs of the Week: Father John Misty, Arlo Parks, Phoenix, Carly Rae Jepsen, and More

Plus IAN SWEET, Angel Olsen, Tomberlin, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Aug 21, 2020 Father John Misty Bookmark and Share

Welcome to the 33rd Songs of the Week of 2020. The Democrats had a virtual Democratic National Convention and made a convincing case against reelecting Donald Trump and for electing Joe Biden. Not that we needed convincing.

It was an underwhelming week for new songs. There just wasn’t all that much we were truly blown away by, to be honest. But there are a few good songs below.

This week on our website we also posted My Favorite Album interviews with Jason Mantzoukas and Lower Dens. We also posted interviews with 1970s legend Suzi Quatro, writer Shea Serrano, Proper., and actor Kyle MacLachlan.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Bright Eyes, The Lemon Twigs, The Stooges, Old 97’s, Alison Mosshart, Kutiman, NZCA LINES, Fiona Apple, and Katie Malco. 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 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. Father John Misty: “To S.”

Earlier this year, Father John Misty (aka Josh Tillman) and Moor Mother (aka Camae Ayewa) released exclusive 7-inch singles for Sub Pop’s Singles Club. On Monday those songs became available on all digital streaming platforms. Father John Misty’s 7-inch was a double A-side release featuring “To S.” and “To R.” and the former was our favorite. While not as biting, witty, or clever as some of Tillman’s most memorable tracks, “To S.” is wonderfully produced and arranged.

Moor Mother’s release was a two-part song collectively titled Forever Industries and can be heard further below in our list of other songs also released this week.

Father John Misty’s songs were recorded in Los Angeles, with production by Dave Cerminara and Adan Ayan. The singles are up to par with other FJM releases. Grandiose string arrangements end the lament of “To S.” “Guess what I love you, but somebody’s gotta clean up the mess,” he sings. On “To R.” Tillman announces “God is Dead,” and rocks to a relaxed drum-beat and accompanied piano. Find “To R.” as an honorable mention below.

Father John Misty hasn’t released much since 2018’s God’s Favorite Customer—you can read our review of the album, which was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2018. In March he released his first live album Off-Key in Hamburg and in July he threw together Anthem +3, a cover album for Bandcamp Friday. He raised over $100,000 for both efforts, with funds going to The Recording Academy’s MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund, CARE Action, and many others.

Before that, Father John Misty released Pure Comedy in April 2017 via Sub Pop (it was Under the Radar’s #1 Album of 2017 So Far in our midyear wrap up and #9 in our final Top 100 Albums of 2017 list). Father John Misty appeared on the cover of Under the Radar’s Spring 2017 Issue. Read our 2017 cover story interview with Father John Misty. By Samantha Small

2. Arlo Parks: “Hurt”

This week promising new British musician Arlo Parks shared a new song, “Hurt,” via a video for the track. “Oh wouldn’t it be lovely, to feel something for once?/Yeah wouldn’t it be lovely, to feel worth something whole?” Parks sings in the song, reassuring that it won’t “hurt so much forever.” Molly Burdett directed the video.

Parks had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Hurt’ surrounds the possibility of healing from pain and the temporary nature of suffering. It is supposed to uplift and comfort those going through hard times.”

“Hurt” follows her cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” and her singles “Black Dog” and “Eugene” (the latter landed on a Michelle Obama playlist). In 2019 Parks released a pair of EPs: Sophie and Super Sad Generation. Parks grew up in South West London. She’s half Nigerian, a quarter Chadian, and a quarter French and cites King Krule as a major influence.

3. Phoenix: “Identical”

On Wednesday Phoenix shared a brand new song, “Identical,” that’s taken from the soundtrack to On the Rocks, a new film directed by Sofia Coppola​and starring Bill Murray, Rashida Jones, and Marlon Wayans. The film will be in theaters in October via A24, as well as streaming on Apple TV+. Check out the song and the film’s trailer (which also features the song) here. While “Identical” doesn’t break any new ground for the band, it’s a pleasing and welcome return.

In On the Rocks, Jones plays a woman who fears her husband (played by Wayans) is having an affair. Enter her dad (played by Murray), a womanizer who helps Jones investigate if her husband really is unfaithful. Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars is married to Coppola and hence their music is often in her films. And it remains a family affair, as Coppola’s brother, Roman Coppola, directed the video for “Identical.”

Phoenix’s last album, Ti Amo, came out back in 2017 via Glassnote. A press release says the band are working on a new album.

Read our 2017 interview with Phoenix about Ti Amo.

4. Carly Rae Jepsen: “Me and the Boys in the Band”

Pop princess Carly Rae Jepsen is back with a new single and accompanying video for “Me and the Boys in the Band,” a track all about, well, missing touring with her boys in the band (who are featured in the video). The song was shared on Tuesday.

In a press release Jepsen says of the song: “On the road. That was the life. I miss travel and performing and my band mates who over the years have become my adopted brothers. Through romantic relationships good and bad I have always found myself again in the late-night conversations with my band. Here’s to all the shows we have played and have yet to play. The late-night dancers we turn into on the long bus drives and the tourists we become in the early mornings. Here’s to nostalgia city and keeping close the ones that know you best. Can’t wait for more. Till then a from home ‘pick me up’ song from all of us to you.”

Jepsen’s last album was Dedicated Side B, a collection of deep cuts that didn’t make it onto 2019’s Dedicated. By Jennifer Irving

5. IAN SWEET: “Dumb Driver”

As of this week, IAN SWEET, the project of Jilian Medford has found a new label. “Welcome to the family, IAN SWEET,” tweeted Polyvinyl. And the only way to properly celebrate is with a new song, “Dumb Driver,” shared on Thursday.

In the song, Medford knows her relationship isn’t good for her. “I’m a dumb driver/when I’m in love/I run all the red lights,” she sings over mid-tempo drums and regretful synths. Eventually the music swells as she admits her folly: “I want to stop, I want to,” she sings, engaging the full band for a mini-breakdown.

“‘Dumb Driver’ is an examination and grieving of, both during and after, a broken relationship,” Medford says in a press release. “It describes the toxic cycle of being so overtaken by your love for someone that you put yourself in harm’s way for it—like a car crash you can’t look away from. On ‘Dumb Driver’ I am pleading with myself to stop the car, pull over, and get out of the situation before the damage is irreversible.”

Along with “Dumb Driver,” Medford releases the disco-esque track “Sword” this summer. Prior to this, Medford released her Sophomore LP, Crush Crusher. Like “Dumb Driver,” the record tracked everything from manipulative relationships to social idealism. However, she teases that her unannounced third LP will be different.

“After pulling myself from some massive wreckage, I want to throw a party and sing about it,” she says.

Read our COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In with IAN SWEET. By Samantha Small

6. Angel Olsen: “Waving, Smiling”

A few weeks ago Angel Olsen announced a new album, Whole New Mess, and shared its first single, title track “Whole New Mess,” via a video for it. On Tuesday she was back with another single, “Waving, Smiling.” She also shared a video of her performing the song live from Asheville’s Masonic Temple. Check out both the song and live video below.

“‘Waving, Smiling’ in my head is the last scene, a slow motion realization of love not lost but at peace somewhere within myself,” says Olsen in a press release. “It’s the bittersweet end of a chapter of my life­­­—it is the final acceptance that despite coming to an end all of that time was not lost or wasted.”

“Whole New Mess” was one of our Songs of the Week. At the end of July, Olsen performed “Whole New Mess” on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” Check out the performance here.

The album mainly features stripped down versions of the songs found on last year’s acclaimed All Mirrors album, but also features two new songs (“Whole New Mess” and “Waving, Smiling”). While Whole New Mess was recorded before All Mirrors, these are not demos for that album; Olsen purposefully recorded two versions of these songs, always intending to release them separately. Olsen has also announced that on release day she will be doing the third concert in her Cosmic Streams livestream series, performing from the Hazel Robinson Amphitheater in her current hometown of Asheville, NC.

With the aid of audio engineer Michael Harris, Olsen went to a studio in the small town of Anacortes, Washington called The Unknown, in search of a space where, as she puts it in a press release, “vulnerability exists.” The Unknown is a former Catholic church converted by Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum and producer Nicholas Wilbur. “I hadn’t been to The Unknown, but I knew about its energy. I wanted to go sit with the material and be with it in a way that felt like a residency,” Olsen says in a press release. “I didn’t need a lot, since it was just me and a guitar. But I wanted someone else there to hold me accountable for trying different things.”

Olsen also had this to say about the themes of the album: “I had gone through this breakup, but it was so much bigger than that—I’d lost friendships, too. When you get out of a relationship, you have to examine who you are or were in all the relationships. I wanted to record when I was still processing these feelings. These are the personal takes, encapsulated in a moment.”

All Mirrors was our #1 Album of 2019. It also our Album of the Week and we previously posted a rave 9/10 review of the album.

Also, don’t forget that Olsen was on the cover of our last print issue, the My Favorite Album Issue (you can still buy a copy directly from us here).

7. Tomberlin: “Wasted”

Tomberlin, the project of Sarah Beth Tomberlin, released her debut album At Weddings back in 2018—we even gave it Album of the Week. Now, the singer/songwriter is back with a new EP Projections, co-produced by none other than indie rock singer Alex G and bandmate Sam Acchione. On Tuesday, she shared the first single “Wasted” via video. Projections is due out October 16 via Saddle Creek. Check out the EP’s tracklist and cover art here.

Directed by Busy Phillips the “Wasted” music video is sweet. Tomberlin and a gang of two young girls traverse a lush landscape—which Tomberlin’s dress so happens to match. The song itself is delicate as Tomberlin reckons with what to do about a confusing crush. A hopeful bass underscores the bouncing drums and staccato stringed rhythm. “How come you only say I’m cute when you’re wasted,” the singer wonders.

Tomberlin had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Wasted’ was the most fun song to record. I brought the song with the guitar part and knew I wanted drums, but wasn’t sure what kind of beat I wanted. Alex played this drum beat for me and was all ‘kinda left field but maybe this would be cool.’ It took the song to a whole new level. Sad song or summer banger? You tell me. The video was made with the help of Busy Philipps (who directed) and Marc Silverstein (who shot it), who are more like family then friends at this point. I was quarantined with them and their girls in South Carolina and we came up with the idea and shot it in about four days on an iPhone.”

Philipps had this to say about directing the video: “It was such a collaborative and intimate experience- We’d been listening a lot to the EP in the house. The concept evolved from how striking SB looked in that dress, combined with the lushness of the greenery and watching our pre-teen daughter and her friend having this kind of magical few weeks of freedom and childhood in the middle of what has been such a heavy time, obviously. Being able to just shoot it on our phones meant we could do it whenever the girls were up for it, or when the light was perfect or even right after the hurricane cleared. We would just run out and do it. I would hold up my little beats pill and play the music on repeat and we would just get stuff. Honestly, it was magic. I feel like it comes through when you watch the video.”

At Weddings was rated one of the best debut’s of 2018—you can read the review here.

Also check out our My Firsts interview with Tomberlin. By Samantha Small

8. London Grammar: “Baby It’s You”

On Wednesday British trio London Grammar returned with a new song, “Baby It’s You,” which is their first new single in three years, since the 2017 release of their sophomore album, Truth Is a Beautiful Thing.

The band co-produced the song with George FitzGerald. There’s no word as to whether or not there’s a new album on the way, right now it’s just a standalone single.

Truth Is a Beautiful Thing was the follow-up to 2013’s debut, If You Wait, and was produced by Paul Epworth (Florence and the Machine, Bloc Party), Greg Kurstin (Sia, Beck), Tim Bran and Roy Kerr, and Jon Hopkins.

Read our 2017 interview with London Grammar about Truth Is a Beautiful Thing.

Also read our 2013 interview with London Grammar.

9. Death Valley Girls: “Hold My Hand”

Rock and roll isn’t dead—just listen to Death Valley Girls. From LA, the goth rockers are gearing up for the release of their opus Under the Spell of Joy, out October 2 via Suicide Squeeze. The new LP is set to be a funky journey into time and space. And new single “Hold My Hand,” is just one stop on an extraordinary ride. The band shared a video for the track this week.

For a band about earthly interconnectedness, the music video for “Hold My Hand” hits the nail on the head. Andi Avery and Kate E. Hinshaw of Analog Cookbook allocated over 61 entries from different artists across North American, all painting and animating their interpretation of the track over 16mm film.

And the visuals are a great accompaniment to the track. A ’70s inspired riff cuddles up nicely against acoustic guitar while the drums push the momentum forward. Lead singer Bonnie Bloomgarden’s shouted vocals force your hand to move and she screams “Hold My Hand.” Because of the song’s energy, one must assume the subject obliged.

In a press release Bloomgarden shared a statement regarding the new track:

“Relationships are really tricky and can be super messy and complicated! I used to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. I realized it’s cause I thought relationships were an agreement you made with another person. And that meant giving away my power to the other person and letting them navigate our way along our path. Then I realized things either happen to you or for you! Any relationship you have is an opportunity to make an agreement with yourself! It’s a chance to learn to be more compassionate and to grow stronger and more powerfully into the person you want to be and are meant to be! Hopefully, the other person will help along the way and grow with you! If not, peace and next, please.”

Death Valley Girls recently released the album’s first single “The Universe,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. In June, the band also released an EP, Breakthrough, featuring a cover of Atomic Rooster’s 1971 song of the same name, along with a cover of the late Daniel Johnston’s “Rock ‘N’ Roll / EGA.” By Samantha Small

10. HÆLOS: “Hold On”

Today London-based HÆLOS released a video for their newest summer single, “Hold On.” Elliot Gonzo directed the black and white video, which features two dancers performing to the track. HÆLOS recently released two other singles, “Unknown Melody” and “Perfectly Broken.”

The band collectively had this to say about “Hold On” in a press statement: “We were inspired to celebrate those around us who wave the flag urging people to hold on. It could be friends, family, or public figures standing up for what you believe in. Just that appreciation to feel hope.”

HÆLOS’ last album was 2019’s Any Random Kindness, which was the band’s second album, the follow-up to 2016’s debut full-length, Full Circle. Any Random Kindness includes “Buried in the Sand” (which was one of our Songs of the Week) and “Kyoto” (it was also one of our Songs of the Week). Then they shared another new song from the album, “Boy / Girl.” That was followed by “End of the World Party” (which also made our Songs of the Week list). Then they shared another song from it, “Another Universe,” which was the album’s last pre-release single and also made our Songs of the Week list.

HÆLOS were originally a trio (Arthur Delaney, Dom Goldsmith, and Lotti Benardout), but have since added touring member Daniel Vildósola. On their debut the band pulled from ’90s trip-hop sounds originated by Massive Attack and Portishead for inspiration.

Read our 2019 Self-Portrait interview with HÆLOS’ Lotti Benardout. Also read our 2015 article on HÆLOS. By Jennifer Irving

Honorable Mentions:

These four songs almost made the Top 10.

Will Butler: “Close My Eyes”

CHAI & Hinds: “United Girls Rock‘n’Roll Club”

Dirty Projectors: “Holy Mackerel”

Father John Misty: “To R.”

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Amine: “Hello” (Feat. Empire of the Sun’s Luke Steele)

Annie: “Dark Hearts”

BTS: “Dynamite”

Cabaret Voltaire: “Vasto”

Bill Callahan: “Cowboy”

Mariah Carey: “Save The Day”

Deftones: “Ohms”

DMA’s: “Criminals (The Avalanches Remix)”

Gunn-Truscinski Duo: “Valley Spiral”

Paddy Hanna: “Colosseum”

H.C. McEntire: “River’s Jaw”

Joensuu 1685: “The Most Luckiest Man”

Mary Lattimore: “Pine Tree”

Lisel: “Die Trying”

Lomelda: “Hannah Sun”

Lydia Loveless: “Wringer”

Luna: “Marquee Moon” (Television Cover)

METZ: “Hail Taxi”

Moor Mother: “Forever Industries” (Side A and B)

Nation of Language: “Gouge Away” (Pixies Cover)

Open Mike Eagle: “Bucciarati” (Feat. Kari Faux)

Pharrell: “Entrepreneur” (Feat. Jay-Z)

Pine Barons: “Sputter”

Pink Siifu and Fly Anakin: “Dollar Dr. Dream”

Radio Wolf and Parallels: “Let Me In”

Roosevelt: “Echoes”

Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou: “Ancestral Recall”

Moses Sumney: “thank u, next” (Ariana Grande Cover)

Tame Impala: “Is It True (Four Tet Remix)”

Thor & Friends: “Dies In Paris” (Feat. Bill Callahan)

Thyla: “Fade”

Total Revenge: “The Lawn”

Triathalon: “Garden 2” and “Alone”

White Reaper: “Only a Shadow” (Cleaners From Venus Cover)

(Special thanks to Jennifer Irving for also helping to put this week’s list together.)

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