10 Best Songs of the Week: U.S. Girls, Murray A. Lightburn, Hannah Jadagu, The National, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024  

10 Best Songs of the Week: U.S. Girls, Murray A. Lightburn, Hannah Jadagu, The National, and More

Plus Lost Under Heaven, Frankie Rose, Gruff Rhys, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Feb 24, 2023 Bookmark and Share

Welcome to the eighth Songs of the Week of 2023. Thanks in part to the Presidents Day holiday on Monday, the week was light on big album announcements, but there were still enough worthy songs to pick from.

In the past week or so we posted an interview with The GOLDEN DREGS.

In the last week we reviewed some albums.

Remember that our current print issue, the My Favorite Movie Issue, is out now.

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

1. U.S. Girls: “Tux (Your Body Fills Me, Boo)”

U.S. Girls (aka Meghan Remy) has released a new album, Bless This Mess, today via 4AD. On Tuesday, she shared one last pre-release single from it, the disco-channeling “Tux (Your Body Fills Me, Boo),” which is sung from the perspective of a rarely worn empty tuxedo. It was shared via a music video featuring an empty dancing tuxedo.

Bless This Mess includes two 2022 singles. The title track was shared in October and was one of our Songs of the Week. Last July, Remy shared the album’s “So Typically Now.” When the album was announced in January, U.S. Girls shared its third single, “Futures Bet,” via a music video. “Futures Bet” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Bless This Mess was concieved at the same time Remy conceived, was pregnant, and gave birth to her twin boys. As a previous press release explained: “As Remy’s body changed so did her voice; her diaphragm lost breathing room, adjusting to the growing lives inside. Many takes on Bless This Mess were tracked with the babies in utero, or in her arms. (She even samples her breast pump on the album’s poetic closing cut, ‘Pump’). The resulting performances are suffused by the physicality of this journey: more blood, more feelings, the interwoven wonders, and wounds of procreation.”

The album features an array of collaborators, including Alex Frankel of Holy Ghost!, Marker Starling, Ryland Blackinton of Cobra Starship, Basia Bulat, and Roger Manning Jr. of Jellyfish and Beck. Various audio engineers were involved too—Neal H Pogue, Ken Sluiter, Steve Chahley, and Maximilian Turnbull—with Turnbull also being Remy’s longtime collaborator, husband, and the father of her twins.

Remy’s last album, Heavy Light, came out in 2020 via 4AD. Read our interview with Remy on the album here.

2. Murray A. Lightburn: “Once Upon a Time In Montréal”

Murray A. Lightburn, frontman of Montréal’s The Dears, is releasing a new solo album, Once Upon a Time In Montréal, on March 31 via Dangerbird. On Wednesday he shared its second single, title track “Once Upon a Time In Montréal,” via a music video. The song features a rousing saxophone solo by Frank Lozano. The production team at 4-VU created the video.

Previously Lightburn shared the album’s first single, “Dumpster Gold,” via a music video. “Dumpster Gold” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Once Upon a Time In Montréal is inspired by the 2020 death of Lightburn’s father, who was previously a jazz saxophonist before finding religion. Lightburn’s father was originally from Belize and moved to Montréal to reconnect with his childhood sweetheart. Lightburn’s parents were married for 56 years, until his father passed away in April 2020 in a Quebec nursing home (he had been living with Alzheimer’s for a while).

Lightburn had this to say about “Once Upon a Time In Montréal” in a press release: “After getting an education in Jamaica and England, my mom got a job in Montréal as a nurse. My father was living in New York. They had dated back in Belize and reconnected years later in New York. My father didn’t really want to leave for Montréal, but he did. And it was hard for him: the harsh winters, the language barrier, the color of his skin. He was a skilled musician but that was barely going to keep the lights on—never mind feed a growing family. His lack of formal education, and his lack of French, limited his opportunities. Nevertheless, he just wanted to be with her. So he figured out a way, and that’s what his life was mostly about, I think—what I’ve deduced. Maybe there’s way more to it and that’s the romantic version, but it’s a version at least I can understand. Nothing else computes. My parents stayed married for 56 years.”

Lightburn says that his father was “almost a complete stranger” to him. “I could almost count the conversations we had, and none of them were very meaningful,” he says. “I had to deduce that our happy moments were listening to Expos games together. I never knew how he felt about my career or the things I’d achieved—all of which I got from him.”

Howard Bilerman (Leonard Cohen, The Weather Station, Godspeed You! Black Emperor) produced Once Upon a Time in Montréal, which a previous press release said finds Lightburn in “full crooner mode, distilling the passion and intensity of The Dears into gentle arrangements that feature an orchestral section, drawing on late-’60s, early-’70s folk/jazz/pop: Dionne Warwick, Nick Drake, Bill Withers, Serge Gainsbourg, Al Green, etc. While the influences might be obvious, the end result is singular and without peer.”

Once Upon a Time in Montréal features Dears drummer Jeff Luciani and some Montréal jazz players, chief among them is Frank Lozano. Lightburn says Lozano’s sax solo on the title track would especially please his late father. “I knew it was a 400-foot home run,” says Lightburn on his reaction upon hearing the solo. “I knew it was something that would hold. I knew also at that moment how much my dad would love this record. Even if he never told me, I know that it would be on repeat in his car if he was still with us and driving around. That was my motivation—to make something I know he would love. It’s not indie rock, you know?”

Lightburn’s previous solo album, Hear Me Out, came out in 2019 via Dangerbird. The Dears’ last album, Lovers Rock, came out in 2020 via Dangerbird. The band are led by Lightburn and his wife Natalia Yanchak.

3. Hannah Jadagu: “What You Did”

On Wednesday, Hannah Jadagu announced her debut full-length album, Aperture, and shared a new song from it, “What You Did,” via a music video. Aperture is due out May 19 via Sub Pop. Leia Jospe directed the “What You Did” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

Aperture follows Jadagu’s What Is Going On? EP, released in 2021 via Sub Pop. The album includes the 2022 single, “Say It Now.” Jadagu co-produced the album with Max Robert Baby and recorded it at Greasy Studios Paris. Marcus Linon mixed the album, which was mastered by Dave Cooley at Elysian Mastering.

What Is Going On? was recorded entirely on Jadagu’s iPhone 7 and was released soon after she graduated high school in Mesquite, TX . Aperture features songs written between high school and her sophomore year of college in New York. “Where I grew up, everyone is Christian; even if you don’t go to church, you’re still practicing in some form,” Jadagu says in a press release. “Moving out of my small hometown has made me reflect on how embedded Christianity is in the culture down there, and though I’ve been questioning my relationship to the church since high school, it’s definitely a theme on this album, but so is family.”

“I knew I could make another album on my phone, but I wanted to make sure that I was leveling up, especially for the debut,” Jadagu says of her decision to record the album in a proper studio in the outskirts of Paris.

Read our review of What Is Going On? here.

4. The National: “New Order T-Shirt”

The National are releasing a new album, First Two Pages of Frankenstein, on April 28 via 4AD. Yesterday they shared its second single, “New Order T-Shirt.”

“To me the line ‘I keep what I can of you’ means something about everyone I’ve ever known or loved,” says the band’s Aaron Dessner in a press release. “There’s a simplicity to ‘New Order T-Shirt’ that reminds me of our earlier records, but with the full maturity and experience we have now. It feels like a really important song for the future of our band.”

The band have also partnered up with New Order, the iconic Manchester band, to sell a joint National/New Order T-shirt. It’s available in black and in white and features minimal design, just text.

First Two Pages of Frankenstein features Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers, and Sufjans Stevens. Previously the band shared First Two Pages of Frankenstein’s first single, “Tropic Morning News,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.

The National’s previous album, I Am Easy to Find, came out in 2019 via 4AD. Last year the band shared a new single, “Weird Goodbyes,” which was a collaboration with Bon Iver (the project led by Justin Vernon) but is not featured on the new album.

In a previous press release, lead singer Matt Berninger said that after I Am Easy to Find he found himself in “a very dark spot where I couldn’t come up with lyrics or melodies at all. Even though we’d always been anxious whenever we were working on a record, this was the first time it ever felt like maybe things really had come to an end.”

The National’s guitarist/pianist Bryce Dessner said that the band “managed to come back together and approach everything from a different angle, and because of that we arrived at what feels like a new era for the band.”

The band also features Bryce’s brother Aaron Dessner (guitar/piano/bass), as well as brothers Scott Devendorf (bass, guitar) and Bryan Devendorf (drums).

Summing up First Two Pages of Frankenstein as a whole, Aaron Dessner said: “To me the power of this record has to do with the intentionality and structure of the music meeting with a lot of accidental magic.”

Read our 2018 interview with The National.

Read our 2017 interview with The National on Sleep Well Beast.

5. Lost Under Heaven: “Shadowboxing”

On Wednesday, Lost Under Heaven announced a new album, Something is Announced by your Life, and shared its first single, “Shadowboxing,” via a music video. Details on the album are scarce, beyond that it will be released on the band’s own LUH international label. The tracklist, release date, and cover artwork are all still forthcoming. Shane Lim directed the “Shadowboxing” video.

A press release describes “Shadowboxing” as “a call to find unity in diversity throughout these increasingly polarized times.”

The press release describes the creation of the video in further detail: “After speaking extensively about their own soul making journeys over the course of a year, LUH commissioned Shane Lim to tell a visual story through movement and dance that engaged the shadow play of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and the inner vigilance of Jungian ‘Shadow Work’—in response Lim collaborated with choreographer Nat Zenghi (Jungle, Charlie XCX) to create a performance where the dancer Nathan Louis Fernand could delve into the depths of their own unconscious mind, bringing to light hidden aspects of themselves.”

The duo is Ellery James Roberts (the ex-WU LYF frontman) and Ebony Hoorn. Lost Under Heaven were originally known mainly by their initials LUH and released their last album, Love Hates What You Become, back in January 2019 via Mute. Love Hates What You Become was the follow-up to the duo’s 2016 debut, Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing.

Read our 2016 interview with Lost Under Heaven and our review of Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing.

6. Frankie Rose: “Come Back”

Frankie Rose is releasing her first new album in six years, Love As Projection, on March 10 via Slumberland. On Wednesday, she shared its third single, “Come Back.” A press release describes it as “the most synthpop leaning track on the record.”

Previously Frankie Rose shared the album’s first single, “Anything,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared its second single, “Sixteen Ways,” via a music video. “Sixteen Ways” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

A previous press release described the album in more detail: “Painstakingly written, recorded, and engineered through some of the most tumultuous times in history, this new collection of songs harnesses the power and propulsion of Frankie’s early DIY-centric punk days without losing sight of the immersive, dreamlike world-building she’s been known for in recent years. Her love of new wave hooks and post-punk drive remain omnipresent, elevated by her utilization of modern production and an improved, polished palate of state-of-the-art instrumentation.”

Rose’s last regular album was the sci-fi themed Cage Tropical, released in 2017 via Slumberland/Grey Market. Although in 2019 she did release an album in which she covered The Cure’s 1980-released album Seventeen Seconds in its entirety as part of Turntable Kitchen’s Sounds Delicious series.

7. Gruff Rhys: “Liberate Me From The Love Song”

Gruff Rhys, Welsh frontman of Super Furry Animals, released the soundtrack for the film The Almond and the Seahorse today via Rough Trade. On Tuesday he shared two more songs from the album, “I Want My Old Life Back” and “Liberate Me From The Love Song.” The latter was our favorite and makes this week’s list.

Rhys had this to say about the song in a press release: “I recorded ‘Liberate Me From The Love Song’ at Kris Jenkins’ studio Wings For Jesus in Cardiff, with some keyboards and drum machines. I made some more refined versions that were used in the film but this early rough version captures the song better. The song itself is the result of listening to too much (or not enough) Outlaw Country music but doesn’t really sound like it. It’s probably the most noticeable song in the film—a couple are going through an amicable but difficult period of change and this is the soundtrack (whilst they’re eating chips on the beach).”

Rhys previously shared a video for the soundtrack’s first single, “Amen.” Then he shared two more songs from the album: “Layer Upon Layer” and “Orea.” “Layer Upon Layer” was one of our Songs of the Week.

The film also stars Charlotte Gainsbourg.

In a previous press release, Rhys had this to say about the album: “The soundtrack for The Almond and the Seahorse was recorded largely in pandemic conditions, so it was a matter of recording in bursts of possible activity in various friends’ studios, homes and even scout halls as chance permitted. It’s a varied quilt work as a result. As sonic flagpoles I wanted to signify the film’s location in Liverpool and the Wirral by liberally, but hopefully not too obviously, using the Mellotron synthesizer (as famously used in ‘Strawberry Fields’ by The Beatles and therefore in my mind it represents that great city sonically) and the cello as a nod to its use by Gwen’s character in the film.

“I was encouraged by Mike Jones the editor to take things to a more acoustic, emotional and ragged place. That, I hope, roughly explains the trajectory of the recording and how the varied music contained in this record came about. I hope you enjoy this colorful scrapbook of a soundtrack and get a chance to watch the film.”

8. Kirin J Callinan: “Young Drunk Driver” (Feat. Hubert Lenoir)

This week, Australian experimental musician Kirin J Callinan shared a new song, “Young Drunk Driver,” via an amusing music video. Callinan is releasing a new album, If I Could Sing, which he says will be “out sometime in the southern winter of 2023.” The song features Hubert Lenoir and Ollie Birt directed the video.

Callinan’s last album was 2019’s covers album, Return to Center, released via Terrible Records. Read our interview with Callinan on Return to Center.

Read our My Favorite Album interview with Callinan.

His last album of originals was 2017’s Bravado.

Check out our 2017 interview with Kirin J Callinan on Bravado and the accompanying photo-shoot we did with him as he was getting a shave and a haircut at a Washington DC barbershop.

9. CHVRCHES: “Over”

Earlier today, Scottish electro-pop trio CHVRCHES shared a new song, “Over,” via a music video. It’s the first single for the band’s new label, Island Records. Leah Barylsky directed the video.

Producer/songwriter Oscar Holter (The Weeknd, Charli XCX, Coldplay and BTS) worked with the band on the song.

The band collectively had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Over’ is a song that we wrote with Oscar Holter, a producer we really respect and admire. Normally we collect songs over the course of months (or years!) until we have an album’s worth of material, but this time we just wanted to release something we were excited about and give the fans something new to mark the end of the Screen Violence era, and the start of whatever the next CHVRCHES chapter might be.”

CHVRCHES are signed to Island in America and EMI in England. The band’s last album was 2021’s Screen Violence, which came out via Glassnote. The band features Lauren Mayberry, Martin Doherty, and Iain Cook in Glasgow.

Mayberry was one of the artists on the cover of our 20th Anniversary Issue in which she was interviewed about Screen Violence. Buy the issue from us directly here.

CHVRCHES were on the cover of one of our print issues in 2015 and you can read the in-depth 8-page 5,600-word cover story feature on the band here. You can also read our bonus digital magazine Q&A with them here.

10. Unknown Mortal Orchestra: “Nadja”

Unknown Mortal Orchestra (the project led by New Zealand-born Ruban Nielson) are releasing a new album, V, on March 17 via Jagjaguwar. On Wednesday, they shared its newest single, “Nadja,” via a music video. Vira-Lata (aka Brazilian filmmaking duo Giordano Maestrelli and Duran Sodré) directed the “Nadja” video, which stars Mia Bueno and Fernanda Peyerl and is the sequel to the video for the album’s previous single, “Layla.”

Vira-Lata collectively had this to say about the two videos in a press release: “We were in awe of the power of the songs’ simplicity; how its beauty rises without pretension, creating an honest and poetic testament that reaches into the heart. We wanted to match the poetic tenderness of the songs with a visually intimate storyline that felt extremely honest and showcased fleeting moments of a true friendship.”

The album includes “I Killed Captain Hook,” a single shared last November, and “Weekend Run,” a single from 2021. “Layla” was shared in early February, when the album was announced.

V was recorded in Palm Springs with Nielson’s brother, Kody Nielson, alongside their father, Chris Nielson (saxophone/flute), and longstanding Unknown Mortal Orchestra member Jake Portrait. At the start of the pandemic, Nielson took a break from recording and spent some time in Hawaii to be there for a sick uncle and to help his mother and another uncle move to Hawaii from New Zealand and Portland. There was also a family wedding in Hawaii. The Nielson brothers then returned to Palm Springs to finish the album.

“In Hawaii, everything shifted off of me and my music,” Ruban Nielson said in a previous press release. “Suddenly, I was spending more time figuring out what others need and what my role is within my family. I also learned that things I thought were true of myself are bigger than I thought. My way of making mischief—that’s not just me—that’s my whole Polynesian side. I thought I was walking away from music to focus on family, but the two ended up connecting.”

In 2018, Unknown Mortal Ochestra released two albums: Sex & Food and IC-01 Hanoi.

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 10.

Bernice: “Underneath My Toe”

The Boo Radleys: “The Unconscious”

Death Valley Girls: “Islands in the Sky”

Shame: “Adderall”

Susanne Sundfør: “alyosha”

Wednesday: “Bath County”

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

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