10 Best Songs of the Week: Silverbacks, The Dears, Jess Williamson, Gayngs, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024  

10 Best Songs of the Week: Silverbacks, The Dears, Jess Williamson, Gayngs, and More

Plus Nick Hakim, The 1975, Moses Sumney, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

May 15, 2020 Gayngs Bookmark and Share

Welcome to the nineteenth Songs of the Week of 2020. It’s another week under quarantine, the same as the last week. Not much has changed, except that more and more people seem to think it’s a good idea to get back to normal, but a return to anything close to the pre-pandemic society seems a long way off.

It wasn’t the strongest week for new singles to be honest. But a lot of good albums came out today, so there is a lot of great new music this week.

This week we posted more interviews in our COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In series, including with Australian singer Jaguar Jonze (who is recovering from COVID-19), Lightning Bug, and Joey Santiago of Pixies. We also posted a The End interview with Melkbelly.

Plus we spoke to comedian/actress Iliza Shlesinger about her New Netflix sketch show.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Perfume Genius, The Magnetic Fields, Egyptian Blue, Mayflower Madame, Laura Marling, and Kathleen. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows).

This week we also posted the latest episode of our Why Not Both podcast, featuring Alison Mosshart (of The Kills and The Dead Weather).

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 12 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. Silverbacks: “Muted Gold”

This week promising new Dublin five-piece Silverbacks announced their debut album, Fad, and shared a new song from it, “Muted Gold,” via an amusing video for the track. Fad is due out July 17 via Central Tones. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the band’s upcoming European tour dates (hopefully they happen), here.

Pegging the band’s sound is tricky. Daniel O’Kelly’s vocals at time resemble those of Car Seat Headrest’s Will Toledo. The band says the video for “Muted Gold” is inspired by Stereolab videos and the backing vocals bear a slight influence from those ’90s legends. But then there’s a post-punk/no wave/early ’80s NYC vibe.

In a press release O’Kelly had this to say about the “Muted Gold” video: “The video is loosely inspired by early Stereolab music videos. It’s a collection of clips from a few band outings we had near our practice space before the lockdown began. Fun fact, Peadar used to work in a bowling alley. Despite not having played in years he scored 192 on the day we brought the camera.”

Girl Band bassist Daniel Fox produced Fad. The band also features Kilian O’Kelly (guitar/vocals), Emma Hanlon (bass/vocals), Peadar Kearney (guitar), and Gary Wickham (drums).

A press release further describes the album and its themes: “Debut album Fad represents the sound of a band trying to make sense of a noisy and disjointed world—one that competes for your attention at every turn. For them, it has come to be a symbol of what it feels like to try and absorb the world through both fleeting moments in front of screens, and prolonged obsessive periods filled with focus. They pull apart pop-culture in search of new meaning, whether it’s a nod to The Simpsons (‘Fad 95’), imagining a lost John Hughes film (Klub Silberrücken), spiralling downwards into youtube deep-dives (‘Pink Tide’), or making sense of youth culture through The Urban Dictionary (‘Grinning At the Lid’). Much in the same way that modern life can be defined by its unpredictability, Silverbacks colorful, vivid and exuberant songs dismantle their source material and end up in places that you don’t think they will.”

2. The Dears: “Stille Lost”

Montréal’s The Dears released a new album, Lovers Rock, today via Dangerbird. The band is continually underrated, but not here at Under the Radar. Long term readers know we’ve been championing them for years, regardless of trends and whether or not other major U.S. outlets cover them. But despite all that, in all honesty Lovers Rock is a true return to form, their best album in years. All of its singles made our Songs of the Week list, but that still leaves some other gems. We settled on “Stille Lost,” in part because of the epic free jazz horns, courtesy of The E Street Band’s Jake Clemons, who plays saxophone on the track. The repeated lyric of “We’re lost/Nobody gives a damn” could also sum up the current status of our society, both before and during the pandemic.

Previously The Dears shared the album’s first single, “The Worst of Us,” via a lyric video for the new song. “The Worst of Us” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then they shared another song from the album, dramatic album opener “Heart of An Animal,” via a strange Sinbad Richardson-directed lyric video for the song. “Heart of An Animal” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared another song from the album, “I Know What You’re Thinking and It’s Awful,” via a video for the song (which was also one of our Songs of the Week). Then when the album was released the band also shared a video for the album’s “Instant Nightmare!”

Read our recent interview with Lightburn about what his COVID-19 quarantine experience has been like so far.

The Dears’ last album was 2017’s Times Infinity Volume Two, which was the follow-up to 2015’s Times Infinity Volume One. Since those two albums frontman Murray A. Lightburn also released a new solo album, Hear Me Out, in 2019 via Dangerbird.

The Dears are as ever led by Lightburn on vocals and guitar and his wife Yanchak on vocals and piano. For Lovers Rock they were joined by longtime drummer Jeff “Looch” Luciani (who’s been with them since 2011’s Degeneration Street) and two musicians who performed on Lightburn’s last solo album, Steve Raegele (guitar) and Rémi-Jean LeBlanc (bass). Sam Roberts also has a cameo and there’s saxophone from both Alex Francoeur and The E Street Band’s Jake Clemons (on “Stille Lost”).

In a previous press release Lightburn says that Lovers Rock has much in common with No Cities Left, their 2003-released sophomore album that probably remains their most beloved record.

“There’s a direct line between the sort of doominess of No Cities Left and this album,” said Lightburn. “You could go straight from Lovers Rock to No Cities Left and it’s like they’re interlocked. But it’s a different kind of doom. Around 2001, it felt like, ‘We have no control. We don’t know what’s going to happen next.’ Now it’s a doom that’s within our grasp. It’s in the air. It’s between us. But we do nothing about it.”

Lightburn and The Dears have been prolific of late, what with the band releasing two back-to-back albums in 2015 and 2017, Lightburn releasing a solo album in 2019, and now a new Dears album coming a little over a year later.

“For us, the tank is never empty,” Lightburn explained. “For me it’s like an onslaught of ideas and sounds, and then I can’t keep up half the time. It’s a feverish process. Every record that we make, there’s a ton of songs.”

3. Jess Williamson: “Harm None”

Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Jess Williamson released a new album, Sorceress, on today via Mexican Summer. Like The Dears, even though all its previous singles made our Songs of the Week list, now that the album’s out we can share another favorite from it, “Harm None.” The country-tinged song features slide guitar, a chill inducing horn part, and simply gorgeous harmonies.

Previously Williamson shared the album’s first single, “Wind on Tin,” via a video for the track. “Wind on Tin” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared another song from it, “Infinite Scroll,” via a video for the track where she played a runaway bride, but then there was a sci-fi twist. “Infinite Scroll” was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared another song from it, album opener “Smoke,” via a self-directed video for the track. “Smoke” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Sorceress is the follow-up to 2018’s Cosmic Wink, also released by Mexican Summer. The album was written in Los Angeles and was mainly recorded at Gary’s Electric in Brooklyn. The finishing touches were put on Sorceress at Dandysounds, a home studio on a ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas, where Williamson recorded Cosmic Wink.

A previous press release described Sorceress in more detail: “Offering a deep-hued kaleidoscope of dusty ’70s cinema, ’90s country music, and breezy West Coast psychedelia, Sorceress weaves a woman’s wild love letters to a confusing present and uncertain future—with reflections on femininity and the pursuit of perfection, New Age beliefs and practices, critiques of capitalism and social media, southern and western landscapes, and intimate details of the lives and deaths of loved ones and friends. It’s a record about loss of innocence and acquired wisdom that’s self-critical, self-assured, and soul-searching. The Texan singer and songwriter makes deeply felt songs that orbit around her powerful voice, a voice that’s strong and vulnerable, big-room flawless, quietly ecstatic, and next-to-you intimate.”

4. Gayngs: “Appeayl 2 U”

Do you remember Gayngs? The band featured Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and released a fantastic debut album, Relayted, in 2010 but haven’t been heard from much since then. Leader Ryan Olson went on to form POLIÇA in 2011 and have released five albums with them, including this year’s When We Stay Alive. Well this week Gayngs were back with a new song, “Appeayl 2 U.”

This week they were scheduled to reform and perform the song at an event honoring the 50th anniversary of the Minneapolis venue First Avenue. With the event cancelled due to COVID-19, the band has shared the song online instead. Maybe we can hope that Gayngs will one day record a new album?

Proceeds from the song are being donated to Voices For Social Justice.

Read our 2010 interview with Gayngs.

5. Nick Hakim: “BOUNCING”

Nick Hakim has released a new album, WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD, today via ATO. On Tuesday he shared one last pre-release single from the album, “BOUNCING,” via a Nelson Nance-directed video for the track.

Hakim had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘BOUNCING’ is a sound bath where I wrote about one of the coldest days in New York I remember, while lying in my bed, restless by a radiator. It’s about feeling uneasy.”

Nance had this to say about the video: “The ‘BOUNCING’ video asks the viewer to question our drive to find spectacles and how the pursuit of such can lead to becoming a spectacle. There is nothing inherently wrong with viewing or being a spectacle but I think it’s healthy to question if our energy is being put in the right place when interfacing with what draws our attention.”

Previously Hakim shared WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’s first single, “QADIR,” via a video for the song. “QADIR” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then he shared another song from the album, “CRUMPY,” which featured additional guitar from Mac DeMarco.

WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD is the neo-soul artist’s sophomore album, and is due out almost exactly three years after the release of 2017’s debut album, Green Twins.

Hakim previously issued this statement about the album: “I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.

“For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here—or you won’t.

“But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

Read our 2017 interview with Nick Hakim.

6. The 1975: “Guys”

The 1975 are releasing a new album, Notes On a Conditional Form, on May 22 via Dirty Hit/Interscope. On Wednesday the English band shared another single from it, “Guys,” which has a relaxed daydream vibe to it.

Previously we posted album opener “Me & You Together Song,” which had a bit of a Britpop vibe. Then we posted another single from it, “The Birthday Party,” via a computer animated video. Then they shared another single from it, “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America,” which featured guest vocals from Phoebe Bridgers and was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared another single from it, “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know),” which was about as 1980s sounding as you can get and was #1 on our Songs of the Week list.

7. Moses Sumney: “Bless Me” (Plus “Before You Go”)

Moses Sumney has released a new double album, græ, today via Jagjaguwar. On Monday Sumney shared the album’s final two songs, “Bless Me” and “Before You Go,” in one lyric video. “Before You Go” is a short two-minute coda, so “Bless Me” is the one that makes Songs of the Week.

Previously Sumney shared græ’s first single, “Virile,” via a self-directed video for the track. “Virile” was one of our Songs of the Week. Sumney then shared another song from the first part, “Polly,” which is the final track of part one. Then he shared a new song from the second part, “Me in 20 Years,” via a lyric video (it was one of our Songs of the Week). Then he shared a new song from the first part, “Cut Me” (which was again one of our Songs of the Week) and debuted another song from part one, “Conveyor,” via a live video session at the Moog Sound Lab in Asheville, North Carolina. Sumney then stopped by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to perform “Cut Me.” Then Sumney shared a visually striking self-directed video for “Cut Me.”

Græ is Sumney’s sophomore album, the follow-up to 2017’s full-length debut, Aromanticism, and 2018’s Black in Deep Red, 2014 EP. Aromanticism was our #1 Debut Album of 2017 and one of our overall Top 100 Albums of 2017. The album is his first since relocating to Asheville, North Carolina.

Read our 2017 interview with Moses Sumney on Aromanticism.

8. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down: “Pure Cinema”

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, the band led by Thao Nguyen, released a new album, Temple, today via Ribbon Music. On Monday they shared one last pre-release single from it, “Pure Cinema,” via a video for the track. Justin Mitchell directed the clip, which was filmed remotely in each member’s home while under lockdown.

This Thursday at 7 p.m. EST, the band will be hosting a Zoom listening party for the album hosted by Song Exploder’s Hrishikesh Hirway, Nguyen, and bandmate Adam Thompson. “The listening party is open to those who have pre-ordered Temple from any independent retailer,” points out a press release. Find out more info here.

Nguyen had this to say about the song and video in the press release: “‘Pure Cinema’ is such full band song, and it has so much to do with our years of touring as a roving family constellation, that I really wanted this video to highlight and celebrate The Get Down Stay Down. However much of a fraction I have been out there over the years, our band and crew kept me as safe and sane as was possible. They have been my stabilizing force for so long. As it goes with family I don’t know if I’ve ever truly thanked them or told them. It was so sweet and also quite bittersweet to see everyone at home, projected into our home. I don’t know when we can play shows together again, I don’t know what touring will look like. I miss the band.”

Nguyen adds: “‘Pure Cinema’ is about taking stock of how adrift I’ve been, in every sense of the word. It’s very easy to feel lost and alone even as you are surrounded by people. I’ve had a very compromised relationship to touring over the years. if you’re not right with yourself it is only going to be exaggerated as you cast yourself out into the world. I’ve floated above my life for a long time; I’ve landed now. It makes me so happy to see my bandmates settled and happy in their own homes and lives, as I am in mine. ‘Pure Cinema’ is a cautionary tale and also an encouragement to keep faith and keep building home and family.”

Previously Nguyen shared the album’s first single, title track “Temple,” via a video for the track. “Temple” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then the band shared another new song from the album, “Phenom,” via a video that was shot via the Zoom video conferencing app and features Nguyen and various dancers from their homes. “Phenom” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

A previous press release promised that Temple “is among Thao’s most open and honest work yet,” adding that it finds her “coming out in her public life after a long career in which she kept her queer identity quiet in an effort to avoid turmoil with and alienation from a family and culture she deeply loves.”

“But that shit will kill you,” Nguyen said in the previous press release.

“I have divided myself into so many selves,” Nguyen continued. “I am nervous, but hopeful that in belonging to myself, I can still belong to my family, and my Vietnamese community, especially the elders. I believe that shame has made my work more general, when I’ve always wanted to be specific. This record is about me finally being specific. If you listen to my music, I want you to know who you are dealing with.”

Nguyen added: “I have my partner and our home to ground me in this life, in my one life. And everything I do now, everywhere I go, every time I present myself to people, it is finally all of me.”

9. The Beths: “I’m Not Getting Excited”

New Zealand four-piece The Beths are releasing a new album, Jump Rope Gazers, on July 10 via Carpark. On Tuesday they shared another song from the album, “I’m Not Getting Excited,” via a video for the track. Sports Team directed the video, which was filmed under quarantine by each member via stop-motion.

“People always ask ‘are you excited!?’ and it’s a fair question, because exciting things do happen to us sometimes,” says frontwoman Elizabeth Stokes in a press release. “Support slots, overseas tours, music releases. Stuff we’ve dreamed about for years. So the correct answer is always ‘yes.’ But the truth is that deep down there’s a tiny Liz saying, ‘don’t get excited.’ She is certain that anything good that could happen will most likely not happen, because of a freak accident. Or because somebody finally realises that we aren’t worthy, shouts ‘phony!’ and takes everything away. I wrote ‘I’m Not Getting Excited’ last year, well before everything really did get taken away. From everyone. It feels like the song has a new context, but we don’t know what it is yet. And now we all share a blurry, uncertain future.”

Of the video, Stokes says the directors “turned our laundry into a film studio and spent our inside time mastering the art of stop-motion animation. We animated old towels, all the cardboard in the house and The Beths themselves… frame by bloody frame. There’s a lot of scary imagery in the song that we wanted to play on. There’s a madness too, in the contradiction between what the song is about and its frenetic energy. It has defined the lockdown for us—being locked indoors but furiously busy.”

Previously The Beths shared Jump Rope Gazers’ first single, “Dying to Believe,” via a video for the new song. “Dying to Believe” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Jump Rope Gazers is the band’s second album, the follow-up to 2018’s amusingly titled debut, Future Me Hates Me. The Beths feature Elizabeth Stokes (vocals/guitar), Jonathan Pearce (guitar), Benjamin Sinclair (bass), and Tristan Deck (drums). The album was recorded at Pearce’s Auckland studio, where he also produced the album.

A previous press release gave some hints as to the themes on the album: “Stokes’ writing on Jump Rope Gazers grapples with the uneasy proposition of leaving everything and everyone you know behind on another continent, chasing your dreams while struggling to stay close with loved ones back home.”

Read our My Firsts interview with The Beths.

10. Everything Everything: “Arch Enemy”

On Wednesday British art-rockers Everything Everything announced a new album, Re-Animator, and shared a new song from it, “Arch Enemy.” Re-Animator is due out August 21 via Infinity Industries/AWAL. It includes “In Birdsong,” a new song the band shared via a video in April that was one of our Songs of the Week. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

The album was recorded last December at RAK studios in London with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Sharon Van Etten, David Byrne). Prior to that there was a year of writing and demoing. A press release points out that for this album the band wanted to focus “on harmonies and melodies over synths and programming.”

In terms of lyrical themes, the album tackles “wonderment at the wider world despite the horror of its politics; existentialism and the prolonged, if fading, youthfulness of being in a touring band; and the ominous threat of climate change. All things which contribute to a sense of one door closing while another awaits.”

Frontman Jonathan Higgs also became interested in the theory of the bicameral mind, as put together by psychologist Julian Jaynes. The press release explains the theory: “It argues that early in human evolution, the two sides of the brain were next to each other but functioned independently. In essence, one side would hear the other sending instructions via a disembodied voice—a zombie-like state of pre-consciousness.”

Higgs further expounds: “This idea of the divided self captivated me. Jaynes attributes this to the origin of gods, people ascribing deity status to this voice they could hear in their head. All this blew my mind, and I started thinking of ways I could make this a central concept. It really touched me. So across the whole record there are millions or references to this theory—to having a split brain, two selves, hearing voices.”

Of the new single, Higgs had this to say: “‘Arch Enemy’ sees a modern-day protagonist searching for a meaningful God. Finding only a congregation of greed, toxicity and waste, in the form of a sentient fatberg in the sewer, he duly prays to it, willing it to purge the decadent world above that has created it. These growing grease mountains are a curious juxtaposition of the modern and the ancient; a brand new example of archaic squalor.”

The band also features Jeremy Pritchard (bass), Michael Spearman (drums), and Alex Robertshaw (guitar). Their last full-length was 2017’s Mercury Prize-nominated A Fever Dream, although they released the Deeper Sea EP in 2018.

Read our 2017 interview with Everything Everything on A Fever Dream.

Honorable Mentions:

These four songs almost made the Top 10.

The Dears: “Play Dead”

Pottery: “Hot Heater”

Spielbergs: “Go!”

Jess Williamson: “Love’s Not Hard to Find”

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Amnesia Scanner: “AS Tearless” (Feat. Lalita)

Baths: “Be That”

Best Coast: “Scooby Doo Theme Song” (Larry Marks Cover)

Bing & Ruth: “Live Forever”

BROCKHAMPTON: “things can’t stay the same” and “N.S.T.”

Caribou: “Never Come Back” (Four Tet Remix)

CHAI: “Ready Cheeky Pretty”

Denzel Curry: “IM JUST SAYIN THO” (Feat. Tommy Swisher)

The Dead Tongues: “Peaceful Ambassador”

Dearhoof: “Damaged Eyes Squinting into the Beautiful Overhot Sun”

END: “Fear for Me Now”

Inter Arma: “Southern Man” (Neil Young Cover)

Jade Hairpins: “Dolly Dream”

Luke Jenner: “If There Is a God”

Jordana: “I’ll Take It Boring”

Mary Lattimore and Paul Sukeena: “Dreaming of the Kelly Pool”

Little Kid: “Losing”

Tkay Maidza: “Shook”

Alison Mosshart: “It Ain’t Water”

Mrs. Piss (Chelsea Wolfe and Jess Gowrie): “Downer Surrounded by Uppers” and “Knelt”

Nite Jewel: “Puisque bele dame m’eime”

Self Defense Family: “Make Me A Pallet Fire On Your Floor” and “Local Clerics”

slowthai: “BB (BODYBAG),” “ENEMY,” and “MAGIC”

Standing On the Corner: “Angel”

Tanya Donelly and the Parkingston Sisters: “Automatic”

Sharon Van Etten and Josh Homme: “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?” (Nick Lowe Cover)

Wet: “Come to You”

Wiki: “Cash Out – A COLORS SHOW”

Neil Young: “Try” (Feat. Levon Helm and Emmylou Harris)

Yung Lean: “Starz” (Feat. Ariel Pink)

ZHU and Tinashe: “ONLY”

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