10 Best Songs of the Week: SPELLLING, Lucy Dacus, Ora the Molecule, Twin Shadow, and More | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, August 1st, 2021  

10 Best Songs of the Week: SPELLLING, Lucy Dacus, Ora the Molecule, Twin Shadow, and More

Plus Anjimile and Jay Som, Far Lands, Desperate Journalist, José González, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Apr 16, 2021
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Welcome to the 14th Songs of the Week of 2021. In this week’s news, the case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd wound down, with closing arguments expected on Monday. Protests erupted in the same area after another death at the hands of police, of Daunte Wright by now former officer Kim Potter (who claims to have meant to shoot Wright with a taser, but says she accidentally used her handgun instead). And then in Chicago bodycam footage in the March 29 police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo was released, sparking debate and questions. And in Indianapolis a 19-year-old former employee shot up a FedEx Ground facility, killing eight before turning the gun on himself. In other words, we still have both a policing problem and a gun problem in this country and what are we going to do about it? If recent history shows us anything, the answer is not much of anything.

Now onto Songs of the Week and the other content on our website from the last seven days.

In the last week we posted an interview with comedian Erica Rhodes.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums. We also reflected on the 10th anniversary of Vivian Girls’ Share the Joy.

Don’t forget that last week we launched season 2 of our Under the Radar with Celine Teo-Blockey podcast with an in-depth interview with Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips.

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

1. SPELLLING: “Little Deer”

On Wednesday, SPELLLING (aka Chrystia Cabral) announced the release of her third studio album, The Turning Wheel, due for release on June 25 via Sacred Bones after nearly a year of delays. Cabral also shared the album’s first track and lead single “Little Deer.” Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

The Turning Wheel is described in a press release as revolving around “themes of human unity, the future, divine love, and the enigmatic ups and downs of being a part of this carnival called life.” The album, orchestrated and self-produced by Cabral, features an ensemble of 31 collaborating musicians. Lead single “Little Deer” is inspired by the Frida Kahlo painting Wounded Deer.

Cabral elaborates on her new song in a press release: “‘Little Deer’ is definitely a thesis track. I feel that way because it not only showcases the greatest range of instrumentation that is featured on the album, but also because it accomplishes this strong impression of theater that I was striving for with the album as a whole. I’m especially proud of the lyrics. The challenge with the lyric writing was being able to speak to really large concepts like karma, reincarnation and the cycle of life without making the song sound burdened. I wanted the lyrics to match the grandeur of the instrumentation but still be easy to sing along to. I figured out a way to build the lyrics using a lot of abstract language that is still singable but odd in a way that I hope makes it memorable.”

Cabral’s most recent album, Mazy Fly, came out in 2019 on Sacred Bones.

Check out our My Favorite Album interview with Cabral. By Joey Arnone

2. Lucy Dacus: “Hot & Heavy”

On Wednesday, Lucy Dacus announced a new album, Home Video, and shared a self-directed video for a new song from it, “Hot & Heavy.” She also announced some fall tour dates. Home Video is due out June 25 via Matador. It includes “Thumbs,” a new song she shared in March that was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates, here.

On Wednesday night Dacus was the musical guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where she performed “Hot & Heavy” with her backing band from the stage of the Virginia Repertory Theatre, in her native Richmond. Dacus’ mother used to play piano for musicals at the theater, musicals Dacus would sometimes appear in as a child.

Dacus’ last album, Historian, came out in 2018. The following year, she released the EP 2019.

Home Video was recorded at Trace Horse Studio in Nashville with the aid of Jacob Blizard, Collin Pastore, and Jake Finch. Shawn Everett mixed the album and Bob Ludwig mastered it. Two songs feature her boygenius bandmates Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers.

A press release says the new single “Hot & Heavy,” also the album opener, is about “Dacus’ feelings about rerooting in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia, following sudden acclaim.”

Dacus further explains: “I thought I was writing ‘Hot & Heavy’ about an old friend, but I realized along the way that it was just about me outgrowing past versions of myself. So much of life is submitting to change and saying goodbye even if you don’t want to. Now whenever I go to places that used to be significant to me, it feels like trespassing the past. I know that the teen version of me wouldn’t approve of me now, and that’s embarrassing and a little bit heartbreaking, even if I know intellectually that I like my life and who I am.”

Dacus directed the “Hot & Heavy” video with Marin Leong and it was also co-directed by Jordan Rodericks. It was filmed at the historic Byrd Theatre in the Carytown area of Richmond. It was opened in 1928 and is where Dacus saw movies during her adolescent years and is still an active theater that shows both old movies and current ones. It also features a Wurlitzer organ that rises out of the stage. The video features Dacus attending a screening of old childhood movies at the Byrd. “I knew I wanted to include some of the home video footage that my dad took of me while I was growing up,” Dacus explains. “I wanted to visualize the moment when you first reflect on your childhood, which I think can also be the moment that childhood is over. For me, I feel like there was a hard switch when I started releasing music, when my identity went from being a personal project to something publicly observed and reflected. I asked my family (shoutout to my grandma) and some of my closest friends to be extras because they’re the people that knew me before that switch. I may have dropped out of film school, but I still love making movies and had a really fun time directing this one.”

Tickets for Dacus’ tour went on sale today. Two Richmond shows are co-headlining dates with Julien Baker. Support on other dates include Bartees Strange, Shamir, and Bachelor, depending on the show.

Read our interview with Dacus and boygenius.

Read our 2018 interview with Dacus on Historian.

Read our 2016 Artist Survey interview with Lucy Dacus.

3. Ora the Molecule: “Die to Be a Butterfly”

On Tuesday, Norway’s Ora the Molecule (aka Nora Schjelderup) shared a video for her new song “Die to Be a Butterfly.” It is the latest offering from her upcoming debut album Human Safari, which will be out on July 23 via Mute. The video was directed by Jody Elizabeth Nolan and Beth Cutting of film production group AJCollective.

Nolan and Cutting speak about the creation of the video in a press release: “When coming up with the concept for the video we began thinking about how it feels to ‘create,’ especially as a collaboration. We wanted to show the tension, fluidity, why some things stick and others flow. We used the visceral process of a butterfly in metamorphosis as a jumping-off point, and thus, began our Agnès Varda-inspired abstract liquid exploration.”

They add: “With this concept in mind, we took ourselves to the Andalusian mountains with a suitcase of jelly and a hire car discount code to go and meet the band. Our crew of 3 shot over 2 long and hectic, sticky days. Which saw our DOP Eira literally chasing the sunset in our cheap car rental around a mystery mountain range as Nora and Sju scrambled into silver jumpsuits. We learnt to always take baby wipes, don’t bring dogs, and it’s always worth renting walkie talkies.”

In February, Schjelderup shared the song “Creator” upon the album’s announcement, and it was featured on our Songs of the Week. By Joey Arnone

4. Twin Shadow: “Alemania”

Today, Twin Shadow (aka George Lewis Jr.) shared a new song, “Alemania,” via a lyric video for it. The single is said to be the second taste of a new album, which has yet to be fully announced. The song features backing vocals by Kadhja Bonet and a press release says it “sees Lewis unfurling a story of a fleeting relationship that blossomed over a lost set of keys by the Elbe river in Hamburg, Germany.” Alemania is the Spanish word for Germany.

The song follows “Johnny & Jonnie,” a new Twin Shadow single shared in March that was touted as the first taste of the new album.

Twin Shadow’s last album, Caer, came out back in April 2018 via Warner Bros./Reprise. Following that he released a series of standalone singles in 2018 and 2019, including “Hollow Days,” “Broken Horses,” “Only for the Broken-Hearted,” and “Truly.”

5. Anjimile: “In Your Eyes (Reflection)” (Feat. Jay Som)

On Tuesday, Anjimile announced a new EP that will feature expanded orchestral versions of songs from his debut album, 2020’s Giver Taker, along with collaborations with artists Jay Som, SASAMI, and Lomelda. The EP’s lead single, “In Your Eyes (Reflection),” which features Jay Som, was also shared. We considered not including it on this week’s list, since the original version of the song came out previously, but since the new version is different enough and features Jay Som we opted to feature it.

Reunion will be out on May 7 via Father/Daughter. Check out the EP’s tracklist and cover art here.

“I am very honored to be a part of Anjimile’s orchestral EP,” states Jay Som in a press release. “Their album Giver Taker is so beautiful and expansive and every time I listen I feel like I’ve entered a different world. This track is one of my favs on their record, I love when artists rework their own songs with an orchestral arrangement.”

The EP also features contributions from composer Daniel Hart, who wrote and recorded the string sections. Hart states: “Giver Taker is one of my favorite albums of 2020, so I was thrilled to be asked to contribute a little something to this EP. And when I dug into Jimi’s writing further, figuring out how best to translate it for strings, what I found was a group of songs bursting with joy and passion and good questions and heartache. Then the work was easy, because it was so much fun to do.”

Anjimile adds: “The most exciting part of this project for me was giving the participating artists free reign to fuck around with my songs and make them into something purely collaborative, something special, and something new. When Daniel sent me his arrangements, they knocked me on my ass. They’re so beautiful and so interesting, and every guest vocalist on this record creates such a beautiful new world and a distinctive sonic palette. It’s been really fun and exciting to see my tunes re-interpreted, re-imagined and reconstructed by such powerful musicians.”

Check out our Pleased to Meet You interview with Anjimile.

Jay Som will be releasing an album with Palehound titled Doomin’ Sun under their Bachelor moniker on May 28. By Joey Arnone

6. Far Lands: “Oh, Molly”

Portland indie rock band Far Lands is, most primarily, the outlet for singer/songwriter Andy McFarlane. After debuting in 2017 with Oh What An Honor, Oh What A Drag, McFarlane took once again to the studio, this time collaborating with fellow Portland native Ivan Howard (of The Rosebuds) who previously contributed backing vocals to the band’s first album.

With McFarlane’s assistance, the songs took new life, coalescing into the band’s upcoming record, There Be Monsters (due out April 30th via Get Loud Recordings). The new record expands the band’s horizons, taking their music in lush and shifting directions and bringing to life a newfound optimism and vitality. As McFarlane describes. “The first album was drawn from about 10 years of writing,” McFarlane says. “A lot of heavy emotion; processing the death of my parents, the end of my marriage. As I started writing the new album, I began to feel a bigger sense of optimism. I guess it was time to set sadness to rest.”

On Wednesday, Far Lands returned with one last taste of the upcoming record, “Oh, Molly,” premiering with Under the Radar.

“Oh, Molly” serves as a particularly heartfelt highlight for the record, not only for its alluring grooves, colorful instrumental palette, and feverish hooks but also for its personal meaning to McFarlane. The track’s initially playful melodies burst into striking movement with the refrain, driven by lush horn arrangements and a soulful guitar solo. The band builds to an impassioned high, until the music falls back into a spoken-word section as McFarlane reads a poem written by his late father, crafting a powerful centerpiece for the track.

Howard says of the track, “Have you ever had a grown man read honest heartfelt words to you, alone in a room, just the two of you with nothing but silence all around? It’s a very powerful thing that’ll catch you off guard if you’re not ready for it. Andy caught me off guard when he read a poem he wrote and then another couple his dad wrote. I knew we had to include a reading of his dad’s poem ‘Sunset Fever’ on the record somehow, it just needed the right world to live in. When we did the music for ‘Oh, Molly’ I knew we had found it a home. The guitars and music are the fever, and the words are the sunset after a brutal but somehow hopeful day. What a blast for me and Andy to make in the studio with Randal, Taylor, Paulie, and the crew.”

McFarlane continues: “They say you die the first time at the moment of your physical death and that you die a second death the final time your name is spoken. I guess by including my late father, Tom McFarlane’s poem at the end of ‘Oh, Molly’ I was offering up a little assist in his potential immortality.” By Caleb Campbell

7. Desperate Journalist: “Fault”

This week, London-based post-punk band Desperate Journalist announced a new album, Maximum Sorrow!, which will be out on July 2 via Fierce Panda. The band also shared a video for its lead single “Fault” as well. We’re cheating a bit here, as the audio for “Fault” was originally released a couple of weeks back, but since most sites, including us, reported on it this week we thought we’d make an exception. Check out the album’s cover art and tracklist here.

Frontwoman Jo Bevan speaks about the new song in a press release:

“The lyrics for ‘Fault’ were initially written quite intuitively and informed by what sounded good mouthwise with the kind of melody I thought the song needed—quite sonorous, Jim Kerr-y vowels. As I edited it into something which actually made sense, it naturally turned into a memory-screed about a terrible flat I once lived in and how the place itself seemed to reflect all the misery going on in my life at the time. I quite like the idea of a song sounding so big and dark and kinetic but with lyrics set mostly in quite a small space where nothing really happens except for unexpressed turbulent emotion.

“Structurally it’s unusual for us in that it a) doesn’t have many guitars on it and b) has a shifting hook/chorus which doesn’t happen at the times you’d necessarily expect. It was more of a textural exercise to record too which was really enjoyable and interesting—there are two drumkits on the recording and also synth undercurrents to make it extra propulsive and intense.”

The band’s most recent album, In Search of the Miraculous, came out in 2019 via Fierce Panda.

8. José González: “Visions”

On Wednesday, José González announced his first new album in over six years, Local Valley, and shared a new song from it, “Visions.” Local Valley is due out September 17 via Mute and includes “El Invento,” a new Spanish language song González shared in February. The Swedish singer/songwriter/guitarist’s last studio album was 2015’s Vestiges & Claws. Check out the new album’s tracklist and cover art here.

“We are the apes that are starting to understand the universe and our place in it,” says González of “Visions” in a press release. “We are changing our surroundings in an exceedingly rapid pace, so much that we’re becoming stewards of our planet whether we like it or not. As Stewart Brand said, ‘We are as gods and we have to get good at it.’ The lyrics came to me in early February 2020 just as there were more and more tweets about the possible pandemic. The topic of the song felt very timely. You can hear the birds and ambient sounds from the veranda, along with a layer of synth loops in the background.”

Local Valley was recorded at Studio Koltrast Hakefjorden, a studio set up by González in his family’s summer house, north of Gothenburg.

In the press release the musician says the album “is similar to my other solo albums in sound and spirit, a natural continuation of the styles I’ve been adding through the years both solo and with Junip. I set out to write songs in the same vein as my old ones: short, melodic and rhythmical, a mixture of classic folk singer songwriting and songs with influences from Latin America and Africa. It’s more outward looking than my earlier works, but no less personal. On the contrary, I feel more comfortable than ever saying that this album reflects me and my thoughts right now.”

Of the themes on the album, González adds: “Many of these songs have a crystal-clear, secular humanist agenda: anti-dogma, pro-reason. There’s no political agenda, though, at least not in a classical left-right spectrum. Maybe in a globalist-secular vs. theocratic-nationalist way: the focus is on underlying worldviews, and on our existential questions as smart apes on a quest to understand ourselves and our place in the cosmos.”

9. Ducks Ltd.: “As Big As All Outside”

On Tuesday, Toronto-based indie rock group Ducks Ltd. (formerly known as Ducks Unlimited), announced an expanded version of their EP Get Bleak. They also shared a video for their new song “As Big As All Outside,” all in celebration of their latest signing with Carpark Records. Check out the EP’s cover art and reissued tracklist here.

Ducks Ltd. talks about the meaning behind the new track in a press release: “Over the last several years I don’t think I was alone in the sense of decline that seemed to be hanging over a lot of day to day existence, and on my bad days I can really let that feeling permeate everything. I’m consistently awed by all of the little things that can pull me out of it though. Things as simple as the extended ‘Canadian Club’ mix of the 1991 Sisters of Mercy single ‘Vision Thing’ which gets a mention in the third verse. The original version of ‘Vision Thing’ is good, but for the extended mix they just add on two and a half minutes at the end of Andrew Eldritch doing spooky laughs and vamping and it totally fucking rules. Never fails to remind me that in spite of everything the world is capable of being very good and fun sometimes.”

The band comprises friends Evan Lewis on lead guitar and Tom Mcgreevy on vocals and rhythm guitar. The tracks on Get Bleak are pop-sounding but simultaneously toy with the ideas of self-awareness and ridiculous societal pressures we endure on a daily basis. On the expanded version of this EP, which features three bonus tracks, the future styling of the band is teased with a harmonious balance of self-reflection and humor in each song. Get Bleak was originally released under the name Ducks Unlimited in 2019. The reissue will feature new stylings as well as their reconstructed name—Ducks Ltd. By Emma Goad

10. Gaspard Augé: “Force Majeure”

On Thursday, Gaspard Augé, one half of French electronic duo Justice, released his debut solo single “Force Majeure.” The release came in accompaniment with a video directed by Filip Nilsson in which Augé performs the drum introduction of the song in a factory in Bosphorus, Turkey. It is said to be the first single from his upcoming solo album, Escapades (release details are TBA).

Augé speaks about the inspiration behind the video in a press release: “We were really attracted by the epic visual appeal of cymbal making, bronze, fire, hammers, something almost mythological and elemental like Vulcan or the Nibelungen. We chose Bosphorus Cymbals because they had this very traditional process that barely changed in centuries, in this video i am just a link in the chain of production and quality control, after all these cymbals have been melted, hand hammered, and lathed into a musical object.”

Justice’s most recent album, Woman, came out in 2017. It featured the songs “Fire” and “Pleasure.”

Honorable Mentions:

These six songs almost made the Top 10. We quite liked the Field Music song, but it wasn’t quite as strong as the other singles from their new album, which have all already made previous Songs of the Week lists, so we made space for some other artists.

Beach Bunny: “Cloud 9” (Feat. Tegan and Sara)

CHAI: “Let’s Love”

Field Music: “Do Me a Favor”

Lambchop: “Fuku”

Jenny Lewis & Serengeti: “GLTR”

Lord Huron: “Long Lost”

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Fiona Apple: “Love More” (Sharon Van Etten Cover)

Daniel Bachman: “Blues in the Anthropocene”

The Black Keys: “Crawling Kingsnake” (John Lee Hooker Cover)

Charles: “Rex Harrison”

Chubby and the Gang: “Lightning Don’t Strike Twice”

Cautious Clay: “Karma & Friends”

Covey: “1991”

Dave: “Titanium” and “Mercury”

Erika de Casier: “Polite”

DMX: “Been to War” (Feat. Swizz Beatz and French Montana)

Stella Donnelly: “If I Could Cry (It Would Feel Like This)” (Jens Lekman Cover)

Downhaul: “Standing Water”

Danny Elfman: “True”

Methyl Ethel: “Neon Cheap”

fanclubwallet: “C’mon Be Cool”

Fiddlehead: “Heart to Heart”

Foxing: “Go Down Together”

girl in red: “You Stupid Bitch”

Gojira: “Into the Storm”

Will Graefe: “Dead Reckoner”

Islands: “Set the Fairlight”

Mick Jagger and Dave Grohl: “Easy Sleazy”

Tom Jones: “Pop Star” (Cat Stevens Cover)

Bobby Krlic: “The Crash”

Lady Dan: “Better Off Alone”

Earth Libraries · 3. Better Off Alone

Low: “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (Bob Dylan Cover)

Liz Phair: “Spanish Doors”

Maple Glider: “Swimming”

MIKE: “Evil Eye”

Moby: “The Lonely Night” (Feat. Kris Kristofferson and Mark Lanegan)

Naked Raygun: “Living in the Good Times”

Sarah Neufeld: “The Top”

No Joy: “Kidder (From Heaven)”

The Polyphonic Spree: “Don’t Change” (INXS Cover)

Porridge Radio: “Wet Road” (Scout Niblett Cover)

Quicksand: “Inversion”

Dawn Richard: “Mornin | Streetlights”

Rina Sawayama: “Chosen Family” (Feat. Elton John)

Slothrust: “Strange Astrology”

Sufjan Stevens: “Lamentation II”

Teenage Fanclub: “In Our Dreams”

Tirzah: “Send Me”

Uwade: “The Man Who Sees Tomorrow” and “Lodarore” (Sir Victor Uwaifo Cover)

(Thanks to Joey Arnone for helping to put this week’s list together.)

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