10 Best Songs of the Week: MGMT, Björk and Rosalía, Ducks Ltd., The Jesus and Mary Chain, and More | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, February 29th, 2024  

10 Best Songs of the Week: MGMT, Björk and Rosalía, Ducks Ltd., The Jesus and Mary Chain, and More

Plus Katy Kirby, Grandaddy, Future Islands, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Dec 01, 2023
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Welcome to the 39th Songs of the Week of 2023. This week’s list includes songs from the last two weeks, as we didn’t do a Songs of the Week last week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Although the majority of the songs were culled from this week’s releases.

This week Caleb Campbell, Matt the Raven, and Scott Dransfield all helped me decide what should make the list. We settled on a Top 10 this week.

In the past week or so we also posted interviews with Modern Nature, the cast of the new season of Fargo, The Polyphonic Spree, Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene, Shame, Drop Nineteens, Emma Anderson, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and others.

In the last week we reviewed some albums.

Remember that we previously announced our new print issue, Issue 71 with Weyes Blood and Black Belt Eagle Scout on the covers.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last two weeks, we have picked the 10 best the last two weeks had to offer, followed by some honorable mentions. Check out the full list below.

1. MGMT: “Bubblegum Dog”

MGMT (Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser) are releasing a new album, Loss of Life, on February 23, 2024 via Mom + Pop. This week shared its second single, “Bubblegum Dog,” via a music video that pays homage to some of the classic 1990s alternative music videos. Julia Vickerman and writer/director/The Best Show co-host Tom Scharpling directed the video.

Vickerman and Scharpling collectively had this to say about the video in a press release: “We all saw the video for ‘Bubblegum Dog’ as an opportunity to combine the charming, DIY, surreal, cardboard craft aesthetic of shows like Yo Gabba Gabba and The Mighty Boosh with these ultra-serious grunge videos we grew up watching on MTV—all that heavy, brooding angst smashed up against absurd childlike fun.

“Ben and Andrew are legitimately funny guys, so we were excited they got to really go for it with their acting, paying homage to the eternally moody mid-’90s rock stars they looked up to when they were kids. They were completely game for everything, playing around with different wigs/costumes/personas/facial hair and continually chiming in with new ideas along the way. That was a wonderful feeling, because it let us know they were having a good time. For the climax of the video, they let us shoot gallons of pink slime at their faces, which we appreciated. Ben got quite a bit in his mouth, which was unintentional…but he thought it was funny, so then we were allowed to think it was funny.”

Previously MGMT shared the album’s first single, “Mother Nature,” via a music video. “Mother Nature” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Loss of will be the band’s first new album in six years. It is the band’s fifth album and the follow-up to 2018’s Little Dark Age, which many viewed as a return to form and was released via Columbia (as were their previous albums). Little Dark Age’s title track became a viral hit during the pandemic and is the band’s third most streamed song of all-time, behind their early hits “Electric Feel” and “Kids.”

This time the duo worked with producer Patrick Wimberly (Beyoncé, Lil Yachty) and longtime collaborator Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, Spoon). As he’s done with all their previous albums, Fridmann mixed Loss of Life. There also additional production work done on the album by Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) and James Richardson. Miles A. Robinson was also an associate producer and engineer on the album.

Loss of Life includes the first ever feature appearance on an MGMT album when Christine and the Queens appear on the song “Dancing in Babylon.”

MGMT had this to say about Loss of Life: “All joking aside (never!), we are very proud of this album and the fact that it was a relatively painless birth after a lengthy gestation period, and are happy to be releasing this baby into the world with Mom+Pop. Musically speaking, we are running at around 20% adult contemporary and no more than this, please.”

Writer/director/The Best Show co-host Tom Scharpling has written an essay about Loss of Life and had this to say: “Simply put, the guys did it again! They’re now five-for-five, which last time I checked gets you into virtually any Hall of Fame. This record projects an aura of undeniable warmth throughout, an album brimming with comfortable confidence. There are epic tracks and intimate portraits, a little bit of glam here, some psych-folk there. It’s a slice of magic that fits perfectly into the MGMT oeuvre while expanding the boundaries once again.”

The album’s cover artwork is a 2006 painting by John Baldessari, Noses & Ears, Etc. (Part Two): Two (Flesh) Faces with (Blue) Ears and Noses, Two (Flesh) Hands, and Hobby Horse, 2006.

Read our 2018 interview with MGMT on Little Dark Age. By Mark Redfern

2. Björk and Rosalía: “Oral”

Last week, Björk and Rosalía shared their previously announced charity song, “Oral,” via an AI-assisted music video. Proceeds from the song will help fund the legal fight to stop foreign-owned fish farming in Björk’s native Iceland. Carlota Guerrero directed the “Oral” video, in which avatars of the two singers spar with each other and engage in some swordplay.

Björk wrote and produced “Oral,” with additional production and vocal arrangements from Rosalía. Björk originally wrote the song between 1997’s Homogenic and 2001’s Vespertine, and only rediscovered it this past March.

When “Oral” was announced in October, Björk issued this statement: “I am offering a song me and Rosalía sang together. The profits will to help the fight against fish farming in iceland… People at the fjord Seyðisfjörður have stood up and protested against fish farming starting there. We would like to donate sales of the song to help with their legal fees. And hopefully it can be an exemplary case for others.

“Iceland has the biggest untouched nature in Europe. And still today it has its sheep roaming free in the mountains in the summers. Its fish has swum free in our lakes, rivers, and fjords.

“So when Icelandic and Norwegian business men started buying fish farms in the majority
of our fjords, it was a big shock and rose up as the main topic this summer. We don’t understand how they had been able to do this for a decade with almost no regulations stopping them.

This has already had devastating effect on wildlife and the farmed fish are suffering in horrid health conditions and since a lot of them have escaped, they have started changing the DNA in the icelandic salmon to the worse and could eventually lead to its extinction.

“There is still a chance to safe the last wild salmon of the north. Our group would like to dare these business men to retract their farms! We would also like to help invent and set strict regulations into Iceland’s legal system to guard nature. The majority of the nation already agrees with us. So this protest is about putting the will of the people into our rule-systems.”

Proceeds from the song “will be used to support a legal case against the fisheries, brought forth by residents of the town of Seyðisfjörður on the eastern side of Iceland.” You can also donate directly here.

Björk released a new album, Fossora, last year via One Little Independent. By Mark Redfern

3. Ducks Ltd.: “Hollowed Out”

This week, Toronto-based duo Ducks Ltd. announced a new album, Harm’s Way, and shared a new song from it, “Hollowed Out,” via a music video. Harm’s Way is due out February 9, 2024 via Carpark. Colin Medley directed “Hollowed Out” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.

Ducks Ltd. is Tom McGreevy and Evan Lewis. Harm’s Way is the follow-up to Modern Fiction, which came out in 2021 via Carpark and was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2021.

“Hollowed Out” features backing vocals from Ratboys’ Julia Steiner and Marcus Nuccio (who also plays drums on the track), Dehd’s Jason Balla, and Moontype’s Margaret McCarthy. Finom’s Macie Stewart arranged and performed the strings.

McGreevy had this to say about the single in a press release: “There was a sinkhole that opened up on Dundas West a little while ago, in an area near to where I live. It shut down the road for a month. It had a strange resonance, partly because a lot of the streets in Toronto used to be rivers and streams running down to the lake that roads were then built over. It felt like an encroachment of nature into an urban environment–the river coming back to collapse a piece of civic infrastructure, and I built the song around the feeling that evoked. It’s about living with decline. About the feeling that the horizon of possibility in the world is forever being drawn in to align with the edges of the imaginations of a small group of careless rich people. And about existing through a state of ongoing catastrophe over which we have no control.”

McGreevy had this to say about the rest of the tracks on the album: “They’re songs about struggling. About watching people I care for suffer, and trying to figure out how to be there for them. And about the strain of living in the world when it feels like it’s ready to collapse.”

Ducks Ltd. previously shared the album’s first single “The Main Thing,” via a music video. “The Main Thing” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Dave Vettraino (Deeper, Lala Lala, Dehd) produced the album, which was recorded in Chicago.

Ducks Ltd. say they found themselves in a more confident place when recording Harm’s Way.

“When we got signed, we had played maybe five or six shows ever. After last year, it’s in the hundreds. That experience can change your perception of your own music and songwriting,” says McGreevy. “In the past when we got stuck on a song we had a tendency to look at our favorite records to see how they tackled it. But now, instead of asking ‘what would Orange Juice do?’, we’d ask, ‘what would we do?’”

The band released a new single in 2022, “Sheets of Grey.” It was one of our Songs of the Week but isn’t included on the new album.

Last year the band launched a cover song series, The Sincerest Form of Flattery. It included a cover of The Cure’s “In Between Days,” which featured Jane Inc (the project of Carlyn Bezic), as well as a cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s 1989 song “Head On.”

Read our The End interview with Tom McGreevy. By Mark Redfern

4. The Jesus and Mary Chain: “jamcod”

Forty years since The Jesus and Mary Chain released their debut single, Scottish brothers William and Jim Reid are back with their first new material since 2017’s Damage and Joy. This week the band announced a new album, Glasgow Eyes, and shared its lead single, “jamcod,” which contains the band’s signature sound and some experimental electronic flourishes. Glasgow Eyes is due out March 8, 2024 via Fuzz Club. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

The Mary Chain will celebrate their 40th year in 2024 with an autobiography (published by Orion/White Rabbit) and a major UK and European tour. Jim Reid spoke to Under the Radar recently and said of the album: “It will be a bit different; it’s quite experimental and electronic. Not so much that you won’t recognize it as the Mary Chain, but yeah, we messed about with the sound a bit.” You can read the full interview HERE.

In the Glasgow Eyes press release, it reveals the album is influenced in part by the Reids’ love of Suicide and Kraftwerk, as well as “a fresh appreciation of the less disciplined attitudes found in jazz.”

Jim Reid further explains: “But don’t expect ‘the Mary Chain goes jazz.’ People should expect a Jesus and Mary Chain record, and that’s certainly what Glasgow Eyes is. Our creative approach is remarkably the same as it was in 1984—just hit the studio and see what happens. We went in with a bunch of songs and let it take its course. There are no rules; you just do whatever it takes. And there’s a telepathy there—we are those weird, not-quite twins that finish each other’s sentences.” By Andy Von Pip

5. Katy Kirby: “Party of the Century”

Katy Kirby is releasing a new album, Blue Raspberry, on January 26, 2024 via ANTI-. This week she shared another song from it, “Party of the Century,” via a lyric video.

Kirby had this to say about the song in a press release: “I wrote ‘Party of the Century’ on FaceTime with my friend Christian Lee Hutson, just kinda haphazardly sending lyrics we’d saved in our respective notes. It turned into a sort of slow-danceable, semi-sweet love song about seeking connection when it feels like the chaos is probably never going to stop. It’s kind of also about physics and anti-natalism, and climate change, and also how much we love our friends. When we recorded it, I asked my band to try to make it sound like an Ed Sheeran song, which they refused to do.”

Blue Raspberry is Kirby’s first album for ANTI-. Previously she shared its first single, “Cubic Zirconia,” via a music video (it was one of our Songs of the Week). When the album was announced, Kirby shared its second single, “Table.”

Kirby’s debut album, Cool Dry Place, came out in 2021 via Keeled Scales. Read our review of Cool Dry Place here. By Mark Redfern

6. Grandaddy: “Cabin in My Mind”

Grandaddy are releasing a new album, Blu Wav, on February 16, 2024 via Dangerbird. This week they shared a new song from it, “Cabin in My Mind,” via a music video. Aaron Beckum directed the video.

Grandaddy’s frontman Jason Lytle had this to say about “Cabin in My Mind” in a press release: “A while back I was traveling with a friend, doing some shows and just riffing, and he came up with this phrase. It made so much sense to me and had so many things just within the title itself: shutting off and just, like, going inward. It’s fun to imagine literally a cabin inside your mind. ‘I’m out of here, see ya, guys’ and you walk in the front door, shut the door and disappear for a while.’ It was perfect like an old country song where the title says everything. I remembered the phrase, and it was easy for me to pick it up and just make it work.”

When the album was announced, Grandaddy shared its first single, “Watercooler,” via a music video. “Watercooler” was one of our Songs of the Week.

The album’s title Blu Wav is a mash-up of “bluegrass” and “New Wave,” as the new album tries to combine the lyrics associated with bluegrass waltz’s with the synthesizers and electronic sounds of ’80s New Wave, with the latter being more in Grandaddy’s wheelhouse. This came about when Lytle discovered a classic country radio station while driving through the Nevada desert and heard Patti Page’s “Tennessee Waltz” and wondered what it sound like in more of a Grandaddy style. “There’s an inordinate amount of pedal steel [on the new album],” says Lytle.

In 2017 Grandaddy released their comeback album, Last Place, which was their first album in 11 years, since 2006’s Just Like the Fambly Cat. Blu Wav is their first new album since Last Place, but they’ve been busy with archival releases since then.

Earlier this year they released Sumday Twunny, a 20th anniversary box set reissue of their 2003 album, Sumday, which included Sumday: The Cassette Demos and Sumday: Excess Baggage, a 13-song collection of rarities and B-Sides that was also released separately.

In 2020, Grandaddy released a 20th anniversary reissue of The Sophtware Slump, which included a solo piano version of the album played by Lytle.

Grandaddy were on the cover of Under the Radar’s very first print issue, in 2001, in which we interviewed them about The Sophtware Slump.

Grandaddy also features Aaron Burtch, Jim Fairchild, and Tim Dryden. The band’s Kevin Garcia passed away in 2017.

Read our 2017 interview with Grandaddy about Last Place.

Grandaddy also contributed to our Covers of Covers 20th anniversary album, where they covered Metric’s “Blindness.”

We also interviewed Grandaddy for our 20th Anniversary Issue and you can read that article here. By Mark Redfern

7. Future Islands: “The Fight”

Future Islands are releasing a new album, People Who Aren’t There Anymore, on January 26, 2024 via 4AD. This week they shared another song from it, “The Fight,” via an animated music video.

Future Islands co-produced People Who Aren’t There Anymore with Steve Wright, who also mixed the album with Chris Coady. Future Islands is Samuel T. Herring (vocals, lyrics), William Cashion (bass, guitars), Gerrit Welmers (keyboards, programming), and Michael Lowry (drums).

People Who Aren’t There Anymore includes three previously shared singles. “Peach” was released in 2021. “King of Sweden” came out in 2022 and the band performed it on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “Deep in the Night” was shared in August via a music video and it was one of our Songs of the Week. When the album was announced they shared another new song from it, “The Tower,” via a music video. “The Tower” was one of our Songs of the Week.

The band’s last album was 2020’s As Long As You Are, which made it to #17 on our Top 100 Albums of 2020 list.

Read our interview with Future Islands on As Long As You Are.

In 2022 the band also shared a cover of Wham!’s “Last Christmas.”

Read our 2014 cover story article on Future Islands. By Mark Redfern

8. Wings of Desire: “Angels”

British duo Wings of Desire (Chloe Little and James Taylor) are releasing a new singles collection, Life Is Infinite, on December 8 via WMD Records. Last week they shared two new songs from it, “Angels” and “Better Late Than Never,” the former via a music video. We preferred “Angels,” but “Better Late Than Never” also makes the honorable mentions list below.

Of “Angels” the band collectively had this to say in a press release: “Can you feel the cosmic wave crashing down timelines that no longer serve us? The ethereal and real finally merge into our collective dreamscape and help us paint a better world and re-shape our celestial future. We’re falling down like angels.”

Of “Better Late Than Never” they say: “In the west, we are ingrained to think getting older is a bad thing.

“In the east ageing is championed and seen as an opportunity to gain great insight and wisdom.

“The song is about letting go and allowing time to take you on a grand journey of self discovery, and finding empowerment in all the life experience you have gained.

“We need to find the transcendent in a world rooted in constant change and destruction. Otherwise we risk being washed ashore.”

Life Is Infinite is not a debut album, but instead “collects together the formative tracks of their opening era,” according to a press release.

When it was announced, the band shared two new songs from it—“A Gun in Every Home” and “001 [Tame the War, Feed the Fire]”—as well as a live video for the former song. “001 [Tame the War, Feed the Fire]” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared two more songs from it, “Chance of a Lifetime” and “I Will Try My Best.” “Chance of a Lifetime” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Life Is Infinite includes two new songs—“Made of Love” and “Be Here Now”—the band shared in August. The latter is not an Oasis cover, but it did make our Songs of the Week list.

Life Is Infinite also features “Runnin’,” a new song the band released in January that was one of our Songs of the Week, and “Choose a Life,” a new song the band shared last year that was also one of our Songs of the Week.

In 2021, Wings of Desire released the EP Amun-Ra.

Pick up our current print issue, Issue 71, to read our Pleased to Meet You interview with Wings of Desire. By Mark Redfern

9. Dutch Uncles: “At the Wheel”

This week, British art-pop quartet Dutch Uncles announced No Hooks, a new cassette collection of rarities and previously unheard tracks, and shared a new song from it, “At the Wheel.” No Hooks will be available on the band’s headlining December UK tour.

Guitarist and keys player Peter Broadhead had this to say about the new single in a press release: “‘At the Wheel’ winds itself around a central sustained dissonant drone from an ’80s Casio CZ-3000 and a simple two note guitar riff inspired by the evocative electro-acoustic ambience of Darkside. Duncan’s warped lyrics may sound appear familiar as the surreal words found an original happy home on the track Poppin’.”

Vocalist/lyricist Duncan Wallis says: “The lyrics are a lament of the dreadful feeling that comes with bumping into old faces (usually in the supermarkets of hometowns you haven’t visited for years) who were present at your most embarrassing memories. The farcical pretence one puts on to appear like they have grown and moved on from the past never works of course, because nicknames tend to rhyme with actual names. And thus, ‘Spunkan’ lives on.”

On the No Hooks collection, bassist Robin Richards adds: “A few fans had asked us where they could find the song ‘Jinx’ (Cadenza-era B-side c.2010), as it wasn’t available online anywhere. This got us thinking about the other DU songs that weren’t available on Spotify and the idea of putting them together as a rarities compilation. Rather than just putting the tracks straight out online, we thought it would be good to keep the songs somewhat rare and a limited edition cassette felt like a fitting release.”

“This is the first ever Dutch Uncles cassette release, and features career-spanning recordings from the last 15 years. It features Fabio Acapella - our purely vocal conceptual tribute to the ultimately disappointing 2010 England team, and the absolutely bangin’ Dolby Anol remix of ‘The Ink.’”

Dutch Uncles released their sixth album, True Entertainment, in March via Memphis Industries. By Mark Redfern

10. Ladytron: “All Over By Xmas”

Iconic electro-pop band Ladytron are not the first act you’d suspect would release a festive single and yet here they are with a brand new Christmas song, “All Over By Xmas,” shared today. We think it’s their first foray into holiday music.

Ladytron released their seventh studio album, Time’s Arrow, back in January via Cooking Vinyl.

In June they shared new remixes of their 2015 song, “Destroy Everything You Touch,” by DJ/producer Space Motion on Beatport. “Destroy Everything You Touch,” originally released on Ladytron’s 2005 LP Witching Hour, has long been one of the band’s most popular songs, and has found new live yet again, being featured in Emerald Fennell’s new film, Saltburn.

Previously Ladytron shared Time’s Arrow’s first single, “City of Angels.” “City of Angels” is the album’s opening track and was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared a cinematic video for “City of Angels.” Then Ladytron shared its second single, “Misery Remember Me,” and announced some new U.S. tour dates. “Misery Remember Me” also landed on our Songs of the Week list. The album’s third single, “Faces,” was also one of our Songs of the Week

Read our 2019 interview with Ladytron on their self-titled album.

Read our First Issue Revisited interview with Ladytron on their debut album, 604, from our 20th Anniversary Issue.

Read our review of Time’s Arrow.

The Liverpool-formed band features Helen Marnie, Daniel Hunt, Mira Aroyo, and Reuben Wu. By Mark Redfern

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 10.

Kirin J Callinan: “Crazier Idea”

Peter Gabriel: “Live and Let Live”

Good Morning: “one night”

The High Llamas: “Hey Panda”

Real Estate: “Water Underground”

The Umbrellas: “Echoes”

Wings of Desire: “Better Late Than Never”

Chelsea Wolfe: “Tunnel Lights”

Yard Act: “Petroleum”

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