10 Best Songs of the Week: Mount Eerie, of Montreal, Gwenno, Yo La Tengo, Ought, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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10 Best Songs of the Week: Mount Eerie, of Montreal, Gwenno, Yo La Tengo, Ought, and More

Plus The Decemberists, Young Fathers, The Sea and Cake, Mouse on Mars, Lucy Dacus, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

Jan 19, 2018 of Montreal Bookmark and Share

2018 is coming on strong with lots of fantastic new tracks this week in our second Songs of the Week post of the year. Like last week, it was definitely a challenge to narrow it down to only 10. Preoccupations, The Spook School, Hinds, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, St. Vincent remixed by Kelly Lee Owens, Eels, and Hinds all could have easily made the Top 10, but it was a competitive week.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last seven days, we have picked the 10 best this week had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared this week. Check out the full list below.

1. Mount Eerie: “Distortion”

Mount Eerie, the project of Phil Elverum (who used to record as The Microphones), released an acclaimed album, A Crow Looked At Me, last March via Elverum’s own label, P.W. Elverum & Sun. The album was written after his wife, Geneviève Elverum (née Gosselin and also known as Geneviève Castrée), passed away in July 2016 after losing her fight with pancreatic cancer. It was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017 and showed up on a lot of other albums of the year lists as well. This week Elverum announced a follow-up album, Now Only, due out only a year after A Crow Looked At Me, on March 16 via P.W. Elverum & Sun. He also shared its first single, the 11-minute long “Distortion,” a song just as heartbreaking as anything on A Crow Looked At Me.

Geneviève was a musician and comic book artist who had recorded as both Woelv and Ô Paon. Geneviève was diagnosed with inoperable, stage four pancreatic cancer just four months after giving birth to their daughter and died a year later, leaving Elverum to raise their infant daughter on his own. Based on “Distortion,” the album is still understandably about Geneviève. But “Distortion” also tells a tale of a 23-year-old Elverum having a pregnancy scare when he definitely wasn’t ready to have kids. He also sings about attending his great grandfather’s funeral, the first dead body he saw in person, among other things in the seemingly autobiographical track.

A press release describes Now Only as such: “Now Only is a continuation and deepening of the themes presented on that album. Elverum further explores that style of direct, unadorned lyrical writing, with further ruminations on Castrée’s death and their life together, the effects of the sudden success of these intimate songs, and the concept of remembrance.”

The press release also adds: “Elverum’s life during the period he wrote Now Only was defined by the duality of existing with the praise and attention garnered by A Crow Looked At Me and the difficult reality of maintaining a house with a small child by himself, as well as working to preserve Geneviève’s artistic legacy. Consumed with the day to day of raising his daughter, Elverum felt his musical self was so distant that it seemed fictional. Stepping into the role of Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie held the promise of positive empathy and praise, but also the difficulty of inhabiting the intense grief that produced the music. These moments, both public and domestic, are chronicled in these songs. They are songs of remembrance, and songs about the idea of remembrance, about living on the cusp of the past and present and reluctantly witnessing a beloved person’s history take shape. Time continues.”

2. of Montreal: “Paranoiac Intervals/Body Dysmorphia”

This week Kevin Barnes and of Montreal announced a new album, White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood, and shared its first single, “Paranoiac Intervals/Body Dysmorphia.” White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood is due out March 9 via Polyvinyl. The album was announced via the band’s mailing list. Every of Montreal album features at least one great single and “Paranoiac Intervals/Body Dysmorphia” seems to be it for White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood, although we haven’t heard the whole album yet. The 7-minute song takes an interesting turn in the second half.

The album is the follow-up to 2016’s Innocence Reaches and 2017’s Rune Husk EP. Barnes issued a lengthy statement about the album, which you can read below.

“Two important events occurred during the making of White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood. I became ‘Simulated Reality’ paranoid and I fell in LOVE.

“Well a lot more happened during the process of writing and recording, but those are the two big ones. I also reached a healthy point of self-forgiveness for my failed marriage and became deeply educated in the lies of America the Great.

“I feel like a switch was recently turned on in my brain and now I’m beginning to see through the lies that have been fed to me my whole life by the masters of media and by those who control and manipulate the narrative of our cultural identity and social order.

“My paranoia began during the presidential election cycle and reached a dangerous peak shortly after the inauguration. In the meantime I watched and read countless works of art in a mad effort to be reminded of how many truly brilliant people there are living/struggling among us and to try to maintain a positive outlook. The works of Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, Chris Kraus, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and the Autobiographies of Malcolm X and Mark E Smith were all great inspirations, to name a few.

“Musically, I was very inspired by the extended dance mixes that people used to make for pop singles back in the ‘80s. It’s so cool how a lot of the ‘80s hits had these really intricate and interesting longer versions that wouldn’t get played on the radio and could only be heard in the clubs. I used that template with these tracks, I wanted them all to feel like the extended ‘club edit’ of album tracks.

“I also decided to abandon the ‘live band in a room’ approach that I had been using on the recent albums and work more on my own or remotely with collaborators. I used the same drum sample packs throughout because I wanted the album to have a rhythmic continuity to it. I wanted the drums to have a strong and consistent identity, similar to how Prince’s Linn Electronics LM-1 drum machine played such an important role on his classic albums. Zac Colwell also played a huge role on this album, adding saxophones and synths to most of the songs. I also got a lot of help from long time collaborators, and ‘of Montreal’ touring members, Clayton Rychlik and JoJo Glidewell.

“The two title concept came to me when I was thinking about how difficult it is to frame the message of a song with just one title, because so often the songs are about so many different subjects. ‘White Is Relic’ was inspired by James Baldwin’s writings regarding the creation and propagation of a toxic American White identity. I’ve come to learn how it’s just a tool wielded by the 1% to give poor white people a false sense of superiority in an effort to keep the masses placated and numb to how deeply we’re all getting fucked by our capitalist rulers. An ‘Irrealis Mood’ is a linguistic indicator that something isn’t yet reality but does have the potential to become so.

“I’m always searching for new identities so this concept of the death of ‘Whiteness’ appeals to me greatly. Might be the only way to save the world.

-Kevin Barnes, January 2018”

Read our 2016 The End interview about endings and death with of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes.

3. Gwenno: “Tir Ha Mor”

Welsh musician Gwenno (full name Gwenno Saunders) is releasing her sophomore album, Le Kov, on March 3 via Heavenly Recordings. This week she shared a video for its first single, “Tir Ha Mor.” The album is sung in Cornish, a somewhat lost language native to the United Kingdom and spoken by few. “Tir Ha Mor” translates to “land and sea.” The colorful video features Gwenno singing and dancing with various psychedelic textures.

Gwenno had this to say about video in a press release: “We drove to St Ives and marvelled at the crashing waves, went up the coast, past Zennor and arrived at Levant Mine to pause for thought and remember those who had given and lost so much to the land. All we could do was appreciate the rugged landscape, as so many had done before us. We drove back to Cardiff and I mulled over the merits of dancing to your own song, and concluded that it’s alright to do so sometimes. Cornish Abstract Landscape artist, Peter Lanyon, Marghek an Gwyns (Rider of the Wind, his Cornish Gorsedd bardic name) glided over the land to get a better feel of Cornwall, and Tir Ha Mor (Land and Sea) is inspired by his methods and muse. I filmed what was in front of me, which is nowhere near the same level of commitment, but it is my interpretation of what I saw and felt and that, I hope, is worth something.”

Le Kov is the follow-up to Y Dydd Olaf, Gwenno’s debut solo album that initially got a sold-out very limited release in 2014, before getting a proper full-on release by Heavenly in 2015. A press release sites Broadcast, The United States of America, White Noise, and Serge Gainsbourg as influences on Le Kov. Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys contributes guest vocals to “Daromres Y’n Howl.”

Gwenno had this to say about Le Kov in a press release: “This album is a combination of accepting the culture which your parents have valued enough to want to pass on to you, regardless how small, and utilizing it in a positive way to try and make sense of the world around you, it’s also about having to accept and respect the nuances that make us all different and discovering that all of our stories share the same truth.”

Gwenno was previously best known as a member of the retro-sounding girl group The Pipettes (which also featured Rose Elinor Dougall).

4. Yo La Tengo: “Shades of Blue”

This week Yo La Tengo announced a new album, There’s a Riot Going On, and shared four new songs from it: “You Are Here,” “Shades of Blue,” “She May, She Might,” and “Out of the Pool.” “Shades of Blue” was our favorite of the four, but you can listen to all four below. Since the album is 15 tracks long, there’s still plenty left to hear from it.

The album is the follow-up to 2015’s Stuff Like That There. Last fall they announced some European tour dates and hinted that new music was on the way. The album title is indeed a nod to the Sly and the Family Stone album of the same name from 1971.

5. The Decemberists: “Severed”

Ths week The Decemberists announced a new album, I’ll Be Your Girl, and shared its first single, “Severed.” I’ll Be Your Girl is due out March 16 via Capitol. John Congleton produced the album. The album finds the band exploring new influences and “Severed” is fairly synth-y and electronic for the band.

Vocalist/guitarist Colin Meloy had this to say about the album in a press release: “We were talking about music and our references. It kept coming back to Roxy Music and early glam, and we dove in with that in mind. The Decemberists are a record-collectors’ band, we’re all fans and scholars of music, so there a lot of touch points that we all get, but they don’t always come through. So we were trying to embrace that Bryan Ferry aspect, that kind of set the tone.”

“When you’ve been a band for 17 years, inevitably there are habits you fall into,” Meloy further explains. “So our ambition this time was really just to get out of our comfort zone. That’s what prompted working with a different producer and using a different studio. We wanted to free ourselves from old patterns and give ourselves permission to try something different.”

The album is the follow-up to 2015’s What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World. “On the last record,” Meloy says in the press release, “there were moments when I thought I was making familiar choices. I tried to be mindful in the songwriting process of challenging myself and being a little more critical. The idea was, how can we make unfamiliar choices, turn off the light a little and grope around in the dark a bit?”

In addition to Meloy, the band’s lineup remains guitarist Chris Funk, keyboardist Jenny Conlee, bassist Nate Query, and drummer John Moen. According to Meloy, “Severed” was meant to be more of a punk song, but they decided they needed to rethink. “Jenny set this arpeggio throughout it, and it became like an early New Order song,” Meloy continues. “And I had forgotten that when we made the demo, I also started a file to turn it into more of a Depeche Mode song - I actually wanted it to be a synth song all along.”

Meloy summed up I’ll Be Your Girl as such: “Making music is an infinite choose-your-own-adventure, and when you go down one path, the other paths get sealed off. So every time we could, we said, ‘If this is what our impulses would tell us to do, let’s try to imagine it in a different way.’”

6. Young Fathers: “In My View”

Scottish hip-hop trio Young Fathers surprised everyone by winning the Mercury Prize with their 2014 debut album, Dead. This week they announced their third album, Cocoa Sugar, and shared a new song from it, “In My View.” Cocoa Sugar is due out March 9 via Ninja Tune. Downtempo track “In My View” was shared via a video directed by Jack Whiteley.

7. The Sea and Cake: “Any Day”

This week Chicago’s The Sea and Cake announced a new album, Any Day, and shared its title track, “Any Day.” Any Day is the band’s first album in six years, since 2012’s Runner, and is due out May 11 via Thrill Jockey. Based on the first single it’ll be a welcome return.

8. Ought: “Disgraced in America”

Montréal post-rockers Ought are releasing a new album, Room Inside the World, on February 16 via Merge (their first for the label, previously they were on Constellation). Previously they shared a video for its first single, “These 3 Things.” This week they shared the album’s second single, “Disgraced in America,” via a video. Heather Rappard directed the animated video.

A press release says the video was made “involving glycerine as paint thinner and painstakingly shot in 15-second increments over the course of three weeks.

Rappard had this to say about the video in a press release: “Breaking a song down into its tiniest parts actually leaves lots of room to improvise and really consider how to describe it visually. I wanted to create a video that morphed and visually changed in the same ways the song does: in the beginning, working with the bright guitar sound and the illustrative qualities of the lyrics, then moving into the abstract at the bridge’s breakdown, to the ending where it completely changes, becoming much noisier and darker with the percussion, spacey synths, and ringing guitar hits.”

Ought’s Tim Darcy had this to say about the video in the press release: “The term ‘microcosm’ came to mind when I read Heather Rappard’s accompanying description for ‘Disgraced in America.’ The way they worked on the song, second by second, opened up deeper layers than we’re used to. Anyone who’s tried to memorize a lyric or a melody will know how unseen worlds can open up when you dig in like that. Songs can last for days, years, fucking centuries, and then you pull your head out of the brook and maybe 15 seconds have passed. We are completely honored and rocked by Heather and Mike’s work, and hope it can take you a few layers deeper, where the clock ticks a bit slower and the drum fills are as big as billboards. Definition of microcosm on dic-tion-ary-dot-com? ‘A little world.’”

Room Inside the World was recorded at the Rare Book Room studio in Brooklyn with producer Nicolas Vernhes (Deerhunter, Animal Collective). A previous press release described the album as such: ”Room Inside the World was approached with newfound patience. Together, Ought constructed a (digital) moodboard to set their intentions: Brian Eno and Stereolab synths, the Mekons’ 1985 album Fear and Whiskey, and Gerhard Richter and Kenneth Anger’s sexy, fluorescent hyperreal all made it into the melting pot.”

The album is the follow-up to 2015’s second album, Sun Coming Down. Read our 2014 interview with Ought.

9. Mouse on Mars: “Dimensional People Part III” (Feat. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon)

Mouse on Mars are releasing a new album, Dimensional People, on April 13 via Thrill Jockey. It’s their first album in six years. This week they shared its first single, “Dimensional People Part III,” which features the chopped up guest vocals of Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. The album also features Aaron and Bryce Dessner (The National), Zach Condon (Beirut), Spank Rock, Swamp Dogg, Eric D. Clark, Lisa Hannigan, Amanda Blank, Sam Amidon, and Ensemble Musikfabrik.

10. Lucy Dacus: “Addictions”

Lucy Dacus is releasing a new album, Historian, on March 2, 2018 via Matador. Previously she shared its first single and opening track, “Night Shift.” This week she shared a self-directed video for another song from the album, “Addictions.” It was filmed in her native Richmond, Virginia and features a woman who discovers a picture frame that allows her to see a separate black & white world, one that Dacus lives and sings in.

Historian is the singer/songwriter’s sophomore album, the follow-up to 2016’s No Burden. No Burden producer Collin Pastore produced the album, which was recorded in Nashville last March. John Congleton mixed the album a few months later.

A previous press release described the album as such: “It is a remarkably assured 10-track statement of intent that finds her unafraid to take on the big questions - the life-or-death reckonings, and the ones that just feel that way. It’s a record full of bracing realizations, tearful declarations and moments of hard-won peace, expressed in lyrics that feel destined for countless yearbook quotes and first tattoos.”

The press release also called Historian “a concept album about cautious optimism in the face of adversity” and said it covers systemic racism, creative burnout, and the death of her grandmother. “It starts out dark and ends hopeful, but it gets darker in between; it goes to the deepest, darkest, place and then breaks,” Dacus says in the press release. “What I’m trying to say throughout the album is that hope survives, even in the face of the worst stuff.”

Dacus also had this to say in the press release: “This is the album I needed to make. Everything after this is a bonus.”

Read our 2016 Artist Survey interview with Lucy Dacus.

Other notable new tracks this week include:

Amen Dunes: “Miki Dora”

Graham Coxon: “Walking All Day”

Dr. Dog: “Listening In”

Editors: “Magazine”

Eels: “The Deconstruction”

Fischerspooner: “TopBrazil”

Hinds: “New For You”

Kylie Minogue: “Dancing”

No Age: “Send Me”

Preoccupations: “Espionage”

(Sandy) Alex G: “Fay”

S. Carey: “More I See You”

The Spook School: “Body”

St. Vincent: “New York (Kelly Lee Owens Remix)”

Tracey Thorn: “Queen”

Justin Timberlake: “Supplies”

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan: “Someplace”

Yo La Tengo: “You Are Here,” “She May, She Might,” and “Out of the Pool”

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