10 Best Songs of the Week: Fontaines D.C., Cassandra Jenkins, Loma, John Grant, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, July 14th, 2024  

10 Best Songs of the Week: Fontaines D.C., Cassandra Jenkins, Loma, John Grant, and More

Plus Good Looks, Hana Vu, Belle and Sebastian, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Apr 19, 2024 Bookmark and Share

Welcome to the thirteenth Songs of the Week of 2024. This week Andy Von Pip, Caleb Campbell, Scott Dransfield, and Stephen Humphries helped me decide what should make the list. We seriously considered over 20 songs this week and narrowed it down to a Top 10.

This week we announced our new print issue, The ’90s Issue, featuring The Cardigans and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth on the covers. Buy it from us directly here.

In the past few weeks we posted interviews with Cheekface, Chastity Belt, Elbow, Julia Holter, Ride, Slowdive, and others.

In the last week we reviewed some albums.

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, followed by some honorable mentions. Check out the full list below.

1. Fontaines D.C.: “Starburster”

On Wednesday, Irish five-piece Fontaines D.C. announced a new album, Romance, and shared the album’s first single, “Starburster,” via a music video. Romance is due out August 23 via XL, their first for the label. Aube Perrie directed the “Starburster” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

Romance is the band’s fourth album, the follow-up to 2022’s acclaimed Skinty Fia (which was #1 on both the UK and Irish album charts), 2020’s Grammy-nominated A Hero’s Death, and 2019’s Mercury Prize-nominated Dogrel. It finds them working with producer James Ford for the first time.

The band was formed in Dublin but is now based in London and features Grian Chatten (vocals), Carlos O’Connell (guitar), Conor Curley (guitar), Conor Deegan (bass), and Tom Coll (drums). Ideas for the new album started to form while they were touring the U.S. and Mexico with Arctic Monkeys. Then the band members went their separate ways for a while, before reconvening for a three weeks of pre-production in a North London studio and one month of recording in a chateau near Paris.

In a press release, Deegan says of the album title: “We’ve always had this sense of idealism and romance. Each album gets further away from observing that through the lens of Ireland, as directly as Dogrel. The second album is about that detachment, and the third is about Irishness dislocated in the diaspora. Now we look to where and what else there is to be romantic about.”

Chatten relates the theme of the album to Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s 1988 anime movie classic Akira, where, as the press release puts it, “the embers of love develop despite a maelstrom of technological degradation and political corruption around its characters.”

“I’m fascinated by that—falling in love at the end of the world,” he says. “The album is about protecting that tiny flame. The bigger Armageddon looms, the more precious it becomes.”

O’Connell adds: “This record is about deciding what’s fantasy—the tangible world, or where you go in your mind. What represents reality more? That feels almost spiritual for us.”

In 2023 Chatten released his debut solo album, Chaos For the Fly. Read our interview with him about it here. By Mark Redfern

2. Cassandra Jenkins: “Only One”

On Tuesday, Cassandra Jenkins announced a new album, My Light, My Destroyer, and shared its first single, “Only One,” via a music video. My Light, My Destroyer is due out July 12 via Dead Oceans, her first album for the label (which also announced her signing). Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

My Light, My Destroyer follows Jenkins’ acclaimed 2021-released breakthrough album, An Overview on Phenomenal Nature, and its companion album, An Overview on (An Overview on Phenomenal Nature), released later in 2021. Both were released via Ba Da Bing.

In a press release, Jenkins says that An Overview on Phenomenal Nature was her “intended swan song,” that she was going to give up touring and releasing new music, but then was taken aback by the positive reception to that album and the attention it garnered her.

“I was channeling what I knew in that moment—feeling lost,” Jenkins says. “When that record came out, and people started to respond to what I had written, my plans to quit were foiled in the most unexpected, heartening, and generous way. Ready or not, it reinvigorated me.”

But when it came time to record a follow-up album, Jenkins initially had difficulty recreating the magic in the studio, saying that after two years of touring she was “running on fumes.”

“I was coming from a place of burn out and depletion, and in the months following the session, I struggled to accept that I didn’t like the record I had just made. It felt uninspired,” she explains, “so I started over.”

She abandoned the original sessions for the new album and with the help of producer, engineer, and mixer Andrew Lappin (L’Rain, Slauson Malone 1), Jenkins began My Light, My Destroyer anew.

“When we listened back in the control room that first day, I could see a space on my record shelf start to open up, because the songs were finding their home in real time,” she says on the second attempt to record the album. “That spark informed the blueprint for the rest of the album, and its completion was propelled by a newfound momentum.”

A press release mentions Tom Petty, Annie Lennox, Neil Young, David Bowie’s final album Blackstar, David Berman, and albums in her “high school CD wallet” (Radiohead’s The Bends, The Breeders, PJ Harvey, and Pavement) as influences on My Light, My Destroyer. And the album also features a large number of collaborators, including: Palehound’s El Kempner, Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy, Isaac Eiger (formerly of Strange Ranger), Katie Von Schleicher, Zoë Brecher (Hushpuppy), Daniel McDowell (Amen Dunes), producer and instrumentalist Josh Kaufman (of Jenkins’ An Overview), producer Stephanie Marziano (Hayley Williams, Bartees Strange), and director/actor/journalist Hailey Benton Gates.

Returning home to New York City after being on the road for so long also inspired the album.

“I feel most energized when I’m out in the world, in the mix of things,” Jenkins says. “Coming back home to New York, being with my close friends and community, riding the subway, and going to live shows made me want to channel the palpable feeling of the electricity in a room full of people—I need to be fully immersed in my environment. New York City is endlessly stimulating, and I’m very impressionable.”

Of My Light, My Destroyer’s album title, Jenkins explains: “Awe is a function of nature that keeps us from losing connection. Staying in touch with awe, that light, is the best antidote to fear, and the powers that try to control us with fear. So in that sense, staying in touch with awe is to keep my light intact, and that is my greatest tool for destroying and dismantling the parts of myself and the world around me that have the potential to cause harm. Frankly, this is what keeps me from quitting—it serves as a reminder to pause and appreciate my time on earth, for all its chaos and its beauty.”

And of the album’s first single, “Only One,” Jenkins explains: “It’s about a Groundhog Day effect, finding yourself in the same situation over and over again, not knowing how to get out of that loop—and in some sense, an unwillingness to break a cycle because you’re blinded by your circumstances.”

Jenkins was one of the artists who took part in our 20th anniversary Covers of Covers album, where she covered Animal Collective’s “It’s You.”

Read our 2021 interview with Jenkins, where she discusses An Overview on Phenomenal Nature. By Mark Redfern

3. Loma: “How It Starts”

On Tuesday, Loma announced a new album, How Will I Live Without a Body, and shared its first single, “How It Starts,” via a music video. How Will I Live Without a Body is due out June 28 via Sub Pop. The band’s Emily Cross directed the video and stars in it. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

Loma consists of Shearwater singer Jonathan Meiburg, alongside Emily Cross (of Cross Record) and Dan Duszynski. How Will I Live Without a Body follows 2020’s Don’t Shy Away.

The pandemic found the band living on different continents, with Duszynski in central Texas, Cross in Dorset, England (she’s a UK citizen), and Meiburg in Germany to research a book. Remote sessions didn’t work and an attempt to reconvene in Texas after the pandemic didn’t garner much fruit when it was cut short due to illness.

“We got lost,” says Meiburg in a press release, “and stayed that way.”

“It’s like a demon enters the room whenever we get together,” laments Cross.

Then, at Cross’ suggestion, they gathered in a tiny stone house in England, a house that used to a coffin-maker’s workshop and where Cross works as an end-of-life doula. They turned it into a makeshift studio, with a vocal booth made from a coffin woven from willow branches.

“There was a sense of, well, this is it,” Meiburg says of the stone house sessions. “And when the ice storm swept in I thought: here we go again, even the elements are against us. But sitting in our heavy coats around a little electric radiator, we realized how much we’d missed each other—and that just being together was precious.”

Legendary artist Laurie Anderson offered Loma an opportunity to work with an AI trained on her full body of work. The AI sent the band two poems in the style of Anderson, in response to a photo Meiburg sent from his book-in-progress about Antarctica. “We used parts of them in a few songs,” he says. “And then Dan noticed that one of its lines, ‘How will I live without a body?’ would be a perfect name for the album, since we nearly lost sight of each other in the recording process.”

Anderson gave her blessing for the band to use the title for their new album. “I think she was tickled that her AI doppelganger is running around naming other people’s records,” says Meiburg.

At the end of the day, the band’s resilience paid off.

“Making this record tested us all,” says Duszynski. “I think that feeling was alchemized through the music.”

“Somehow, out of the chaos, we made something that sounds very relaxed,” Cross says.

“I’ve never run a marathon,” she adds. “But I can imagine it’s kind of what that feels like.”

Read our 2018 interview with Loma. By Mark Redfern

4. John Grant: “The Child Catcher”

John Grant is releasing a new album, The Art of the Lie, on June 14 via [PIAS]. On Wednesday he shared its second single, “The Child Catcher,” which has an ominous Blade Runner-like undercurrent.

Grant had this to say about the song in a press release: “I’m sure many of you remember the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Terrified me when I was a kid. Of course he’s a metaphor. Anyway, here’s ‘The Child Catcher’ from my upcoming record The Art of the Lie, which is also a love letter to both Dead Can Dance and Vangelis, I suppose, two of my all-time favorites.”

Previously Grant shared the album’s first single, “It’s a Bitch,” via a music video. “It’s a Bitch” was one of our Songs of the Week.

The Art of the Lie is the follow-up to 2021’s Boy from Michigan (which was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2021). Grant worked with producer Ivor Guest on the album. The two met when Grant performed at the Meltdown Festival that was curated by Grace Jones and was produced by Guest. Guest produced Jones’ Hurricane and Brigitte Fontaine’s Prohibition. “Grace and Brigitte are two very big artists for me,” explains Grant in a press release. “I love the albums he did for them. Hurricane is an indispensable piece of Grace’s catalogue.”

This led to Grant suggesting to Guest that they work together. “I said, ‘I really think you should do this next record with me.’ He said, ‘I think you’re right,’” says Grant.

The press release compares the album to Laurie Anderson, The Art of Noise, Vangelis’ soundtrack for Blade Runner, and “The Carpenters if John Carpenter were also a member.”

The album’s title and its themes are inspired by the current political climate.

“Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal, is now seen by MAGA disciples as just another book of the Bible and Trump himself as a messiah sent from heaven. Because, God wants you to be rich,” Grant explains. “This album is in part about the lies people espouse and the brokenness it breeds and how we are warped and deformed by these lies. For example, the Christian Nationalist movement has formed an alliance with White Supremacist groups and together they have taken over the Republican party and see LGBTQ+ people and non-whites as genetically and even mentally inferior and believe all undesirables must be forced either to convert to Christianity and adhere to the teachings of the Bible as interpreted by them or they must be removed in order that purity be restored to ‘their’ nation. They now believe Democracy is not the way to achieve these goals. Any sort of pretence of tolerance that may have seemed to develop over the past several decades has all but vanished. It feels like the U.S. in is free-fall mode.”

In 2023, Grant teamed up with Midlake for two new songs: “Roadrunner Blues” and “You Don’t Get To.” He also guested on the CMAT song “Where Are Your Kids Tonight?”

Be sure to read our in-depth 2013 article on Grant, one of the most honest and personal interviews we’ve ever done.

Also read our 2015 interview with John Grant on Grey Tickles, Black Pressure.

Plus read our The End interview with John Grant. By Mark Redfern

5. Good Looks: “Self-destructor”

Austin, Texas four-piece Good Looks are releasing a new album, Lived Here For a While, on June 7 via Keeled Scales. On Wednesday they shared its second single, “Self-destructor,” via a music video. They have also announced some new tour dates. Check out the dates here.

A press release describes the themes of the song in more detail: “The track is a breakup song in a way, about frontman Tyler Jordan’s breakup with a former bandmate, relating to where they come from and where they are going, before ultimately deciding to part ways. ‘Didn’t like your ideas / I like you just fine,’ Jordan sings, expressing the frustration that comes when you’re unable to overcome creative differences despite caring for them as a person.”

Previously the band shared its first single, “If It’s Gone,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.

Lived Here For a While is the band’s second album and the follow-up to 2022’s Bummer Year.

The album was influenced by an accident lead guitarist Jake Ames had just after the band’s hometown record release show for Bummer Year, when he was hit by a car outside the venue and ended up in the hospital with a fractured skull and tailbone, along with short-term memory issues.

“We were in the hospital with him every day,” says frontman Tyler Jordan in a press release. “It wasn’t clear how bad it was gonna be for Jake. We had no idea how this traumatic brain injury would affect him until the swelling went down. We even wondered if we’d ever play music together again.”

Luckily Ames made a full recovery and joined by drummer Phil Dunne and bassist Robert Cherry, they set out to record Lived Here For a While at Texas’ Dandy Sounds with producer/engineer Dan Duszynski (of Loma and Cross Record). Harrison Anderson has since joined the band as their new bassist. By Mark Redfern

6. Hana Vu: “22”

Los Angeles-based musician Hana Vu is releasing a new album, Romanticism, on May 3 via Ghostly International. On Wednesday she shared another song from it, “22.”

Vu had this to say about the song in a press release: “Being young, there’s so much that I experience for the first time, all the time. But as I experience more things, I become more desensitized to those things. You get wiser––I feel quite wiser––but less fervent, less hopeful…. ‘22’ is about how I was paralyzed by grief and memories and by being 22; all at once a baby and the oldest I’ve ever been. But now I’m 23 and I’ll probably be 24 by the time I’ll get to perform this song for people.”

Previously we posted the album’s “Hammer,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.

Romanticism follows Vu’s 2021 debut album, Public Storage. By Mark Redfern

7. Belle and Sebastian: “What Happened to You, Son?”

On Tuesday, Scotland’s Belle and Sebastian shared a new song, “What Happened to You, Son?,” that was originally intended for their last album, 2023’s Late Developers. It has been released via Matador ahead of the band’s North American tour, which starts next week.

Frontman Stuart Murdoch had this to say about the song in a press release:

“‘What Happened to You, Son’ got pulled rather randomly from the last LP because the LP felt one track too long. Out it came.

“The song is about my youth, and the funny hole I fell into in my late teens. I was failing at my university course, failing in almost everything I tried around then. I was obsessed with the music of the time, I used to hang so much on the lyrics and message and feeling of certain bands of the ’80s era – it probably wasn’t healthy.

“So although the theme of this song is a little accusatory, the fault is with the beholder. I could have switched off at any time. Instead I let the singers become my penpals and my deities.

“The song tries to address what happens when the pop stars grow up, and change, and go a different way, and seem to betray the stance they held when you loved them the most.

“The song finishes hopefully, however. There’s always a way forward, always a light to guide you if you look closely, if you give up part of yourself, if you let yourself flow and change.”

Belle and Sebastian released a new album, Late Developers, in January 2023 via Matador. It was the quick follow-up/companion album to 2022’s A Bit of Previous album.

In June 2023, the band teamed up with Suki Waterhouse to release a new song, “Every Day’s a Lesson in Humility,” for the Sub Pop Singles Club.

Stream A Bit of Previous here and read our review of it here.

A Bit of Previous was the band’s first proper full-length album in seven years. But in that time they had released EPs (plus an album that collected all the EPs), a soundtrack, and a live album. Their last regular album before that was 2015’s Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. In late 2017 and early 2018 Belle and Sebastian released three interconnected EPs via Matador, all titled How to Solve Your Human Problems. Then all three EPs were collected in a vinyl box set and CD compilation that came out in 2018. In 2019 they released the soundtrack for the indie film Days of the Bagnold Summer. In 2020 they released the live album, What to Look for in Summer.

Read our interview with Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch on How to Solve Your Human Problems.

Read our review of How to Solve Your Human Problems.

Read our interview with Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch on Days of the Bagnold Summer. By Mark Redfern

8. Yannis & The Yaw: “Walk Through Fire”

This week, Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis announced a new EP he recorded with the late Afrobeat legend Tony Allen and has shared its first single, “Walk Through Fire.” The Lagos Paris London EP is credited to Yannis & The Yaw and is due out August 30 via Transgressive.

Philippakis collaborated with Allen via a mutual a friend, recording at a studio in Paris in 2026. They recorded for two days alongside Allen’s regular collaborators Vincent Taeger (percussion, marimba), Vincent Taurelle (keys), and Ludovic Bruni (bass, guitar). While an EP’s worth of material was recorded, and the songs were further developed in subsequent sessions, the project wasn’t completed before scheduling conflicts and COVID restrictions got in the way. And then Allen died in April 2020 at age 79. Philippakis remained determined to finish the EP in Allen’s honor.

“There was an imperative to finish it in a way that I had never felt with another record,” he says in a press release. “There was a deep duty to do it, to finish it as well as possible, and to pay respect to him by getting it out there. Going through some of the drum takes was a moving experience because those recordings were some of the last pieces of music he ever worked on. There’s an eternal quality to these drum tracks, and you feel a continuity of his life and energy through them. He wanted people to hear this, and it’s good to be able to do it for him—but of course it’s slightly bittersweet.”

The plan is that Philippakis will use the Yannis & The Yaw moniker for future collaborations outside of Foals.

Foals’ last album, Life Is Yours, came out in 2022 via ADA/Warner UK Ltd.

Check out our interview with Foals on their 2019 album Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1. By Mark Redfern

9. Strand of Oaks: “Party at Monster Lake”

Strand of Oaks (the project of Timothy Showalter) is releasing a new album, Miracle Focus, on June 7 via Western Vinyl. On Tuesday, he shared its second single, “Party at Monster Lake,” via a music video, and also announced some tour dates.

Ruud Gielen directed the song’s video, which was filmed in Nijmegen, Netherlands. He had this to say in a press release: “When Tim asks to embody having the best time of your life on video. There is only one way to go, do it while making memories with loved ones. ‘Party at Monster Lake’ feels like how we want to relive our memories. Golden sunsets, the best weather, no clock ticking and smiles for days.”

Previously Showalter shared the album’s first single, “More You,” via a music video. “More You” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Miracle Focus follows 2021’s In Heaven and 2019’s acclaimed Eraserland. The album was recorded with producer Kevin Ratterman, which marks Showalter’s third collaboration with Ratterman. Showalter made the album while also making his acting debut, starring as a villainous biker on two seasons of the FX show Mayans M.C., which was shot in Los Angeles, while he would fly home to Austin to work on the album.

A press release says the new album was influenced by “Ram Dass, yoga, Freddie Mercury, Alice Coltrane, and the Beastie Boys.”

“Every moment on Miracle Focus is a piece of the architecture that fits together to form a temple of peace in my life,” says Showalter in a press release. “Acceptance of who you are, gratitude of being part of a connected universe, and ultimately I hope it creates one hell of a dance party.”

Read our 2019 My Firsts interview with Strand of Oaks.

Read our 2019 interview with Strand of Oaks on Easerland.

Read our 2020 COVID-19 Quarantine Check-In interview with Strand of Oaks.

Read our My Favorite Album interview with Strand of Oaks. By Mark Redfern

10. Home Counties: “Dividing Lines”

London’s Home Counties crackle with infectious energy on “Dividing Lines,” the final single before their debut album, Exactly As It Seems, arrives in stores on May 3 via Submarine. This electrifying track serves as a launchpad for the band’s sound, promising an album bursting with diverse influences and a “fun, exploratory way of thinking.”

Inspiration for “Dividing Lines” struck vocalist Will Harrison during lockdown walks in the English countryside. Witnessing restricted access to land sparked a thought-provoking exploration of social exclusion, both in land ownership and within the music industry itself.

Sonically, “Dividing Lines” fuses a 2000s pop sensibility with the infectious energy of Confidence Man, anchored by the alt-dancefloor mastery of LCD Soundsystem and the artistic spirit of Talking Heads’ Remain In Light/”Speaking In Tongues” era. Home Counties certainly appear to be a collective unafraid to push boundaries and forge their own distinct sonic identity.

With a UK headline tour kicking off in May and festival appearances at The Great Escape, Deer Shed, and Dot to Dot already secured, Home Counties are poised for a busy year. Check out the band’s tour dates here. By Andy Von Pip

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 10.

Been Stellar: “Sweet”

The Folk Implosion: “Moonlit Kind”

Joe Goddard: “Moments Die” (Feat. Barrie)

The Joy Hotel: “Jeremiah”

King Hannah: “Davey Says”

of Montreal: “Rude Girl on Rotation”

RINSE: “Kiss Me (Kill Me)” (Feat. Hatchie)

This Is Lorelei: “I’m All Fucked Up”

Jamie xx: “Baddy on the Floor” (Feat. Honey Dijon)

Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 10 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions:

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