10 Best Songs of the Week: Walter Martin, Fiona Apple, I Break Horses, The Death of Pop, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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10 Best Songs of the Week: Walter Martin, Fiona Apple, I Break Horses, The Death of Pop, and More

Plus Muzz, Ela Minus, Austra, Faye Webster, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Apr 17, 2020 Paul Banks Bookmark and Share

Welcome to the fifteenth Songs of the Week of 2020. It’s another week under lockdown, with lots of debate on when things can get back to normal. Still not anytime soon it seems. San Diego Comic-Con, set for late July, has just been cancelled, for example. And yet the new music continues to flow and independent musicians need all our help as much as possible, so if you have the means go buy or stream some records, pick up some merch, or support artists on crowd funding sites like Patreon.

This week we posted more interviews in our COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In series, including with Jay Watson of GUM and Tame Impala, PINS, One True Pairing, JR JR, and Moaning.

We also posted My Firsts interviews with Melkbelly and Moaning, and a The End interview with Vundabar.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Thundercat, Humanist, Grimes, The New Regime, The Lovely Eggs, Jonathan Wilson, Ultraísta, Pure Reason Revolution, Ezra Furman, and Peel Dream Machine. 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 episodes of our Why Not Both podcast, one featuring Juana Molina and the other featuring Joseph Fink, creator of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 10 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. Walter Martin: “Quarantine Boogie (Loco)” (Feat. Matt Berninger)

On Wednesday Walter Martin (formerly of The Walkmen) shared a hilarious new COVD-19 themed song, “Quarantine Boogie (Loco),” that features guest vocals from Matt Berninger of The National. It was shared via a video that also features Berninger. In connection with the song Martin is hoping to raise money for City Harvest to benefit New York City public school kids in need. The song is very much of the times, humorously getting into the challenges of being quarantined with your spouse and kids, home schooling, the toilet paper shortage, the live streamed concerts from Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, and a Netflix show everyone is talking about. Stuart Bogie also contributes horn accompaniment to the song.

Martin had this to say about the song in a press release: “I made this song hoping to make enough of a fool of myself to inspire people to join my City Harvest team and donate money. They are doing amazing work feeding people in NYC right now, and helping get food to public school kids who rely on school breakfast and lunch. I hope you can laugh at my song during these hard times and please join my City Harvest team and donate HERE.”

Martin released a new solo album, The World At Night, in January via Ile Flottante Music. It was his fifth solo album since The Walkmen went on hiatus in 2013.

Some would argue we should’ve picked a more serious song for #1, but in these dark times some much needed levity is very much welcome.

2. Fiona Apple: “Under the Table”

Fiona Apple recently announced her intentions to release a new album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, without the standard months and months of advance warning and promotion, and the album came out today via Epic (stream it here). No singles were released from the album, which left us the task with picking our favorite of the 13 tracks with no guidance from Apple. We polled our writers and our readers (via Facebook and Twitter) and all but one of the album’s songs was picked by at least someone. “Under the Table” definitely got the most votes, however, and since that was an early favorite of ours as well, we went with it.

“I would beg to disagree/But begging disagrees with me” sings Apple at the song’s start. Later she proclaims that she won’t hold her tongue for the sake of being polite. “Kick me under the table all you want/I won’t shut up, I won’t shut up.” It’s kind of an anthem for speaking up, which is all the more needed in the current political climate.

Other Fetch the Bolt Cutters’ songs that did well in the vote include “Cosmonauts,” “Heavy Balloon,” “Fetch Me the Bolt Cutters,” and “Newspaper.”

Fetch the Bolt Cutters is the long-awaited follow-up to 2012’s acclaimed The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. Apple and Amy Aileen Wood produced the album, with help from Sebastian Steinberg and David Garza. Actress Cara Delevingne contributes back-up vocals to the album’s title track. Best Coast guitarist Bobb Bruno also guests on two songs. The songs were partially recorded at Apple’s house. In a March interview with The New Yorker Apple said that the album’s title was inspired by a line of dialogue spoken by Gillian Anderson in the British detective series The Fall.

3. I Break Horses: “The Prophet”

Sweden’s I Break Horses (the project of Maria Lindén) is releasing a new album, Warnings, on May 8 via Bella Union. On Tuesday she shared the album’s fourth single, “The Prophet.” It was another glorious slice of dream pop.

Lindén simply had this to say about the song in a press release: “The misfit gets to be the prophet and preach to the faithful masses.”

Previously Lindén shared Warnings’ first single, “Death Engine,” via a video it. It was our #1 Song of the Week last week. Then Lindén shared the album’s second single, “I’ll Be the Death of You,” also via a video for it. “I’ll Be the Death of You” was also our #1 Song of the Week. Then she shared the album’s third single, “Neon Lights,” via a colorful lyric video for the new song. “Neon Lights” was once again our #1 Song of the Week.

Warnings is I Break Horses’ first new album in six years, the follow-up to 2014’s Chiaroscuro. “It has been some time in the making,” Lindén acknowledged in the previous press release announcing the album. “About six years, involving several studios, collaborations that didn’t work out, a crashed hard drive with about two years of work, writing new material again instead of trying to repair it. New studio recordings, erasing everything, then recording most of the album myself at home.”

For a while Lindén was working on instrumental tracks. “It wasn’t until I felt an urge to add vocals and lyrics,” she said, “that I realized I was making a new I Break Horses album.”

Eventually she got producer/mixing engineer Chris Coady (Beach House, TV on the Radio) involved to mix the album. “Before reaching out to Chris I read an interview where he said, ‘I like to slow things down. Almost every time I love the sound of something slowed down by half, but sometimes 500% you can get interesting shapes and textures,’” Lindén said. “And I just knew he’d be the right person for this album.”

As its title suggests, Lindén said Warnings deals partly with our troubled era. “It’s not a political album,” she said, “though it relates to the alarmist times we live in. Each song is a subtle warning of something not being quite right.”

Summing up Warnings and the delay between albums, Lindén said: “Nowadays, the attention span equals nothing when it comes to how most people consume music. And it feels like songs are getting shorter, more ‘efficient’. I felt an urge to go against that and create an album journey from start to finish that takes time and patience to listen to. Like, slow the fuck down!”

4. The Death of Pop: “Once Good”

This week British dream-pop/shoegazer duo The Death of Pop shared a new song, “Once Good,” via a video for the track. Brothers Angus James and Oliver James formed in the south-coast of England in 2013, releasing their debut album, Fed Up, in 2017, with various other singles along the way. “Once Good” is the first taste of their sophomore album, which the band say is due later this year.

The band directed the video with Kia Fern Little and it was shot backwards, featuring items being thrown up into a window when they should be going down, seemingly during a breakup or fight. Meanwhile Oliver James sings the song, looking up at the window.

Over the years there have been various other members of The Death of Pop, but the core has remained the James brothers and their lush home-recorded songs. They are one of those bands that truly fly under the radar, to invoke our name, when they should be much better known. Hopefully that’ll change with their sophomore album.

Also read our 2015 print feature on The Death of Pop, our Pleased to Meet You Spotlight interview with them, and our 2014 Artist Survey interview with them.

5. Muzz: “Red Western Sky”

Muzz is a new band that features Paul Banks of Interpol, Matt Barrick of The Walkmen, and Josh Kaufman of Bonny Light Horseman. On Wednesday they announced their self-titled debut album and shared another song from it, “Red Western Sky,” via a video for the single. Muzz is due out June 5 via Matador and features two previously shared singles, “Bad Feeling” and “Broken Tambourine.” Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Previously Muzz shared their first song, “Bad Feeling.” It was a little more lush and chill than the post-punk assault of Interpol and was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared another new song, “Broken Tambourine,” via a video for the track (which was also one of our Songs of the Week).

Banks and Kaufman have known each other since they were teenagers and both have also worked with Barrick before. Muzz’s earliest recordings date back to 2015. All three members wrote, arranged, and performed the album. And while Banks is usually the sole lyricist in Interpol, here all three members contributed to the lyrics.

“Josh has more training as a theory musician while Paul comes from a different perspective,” Barrick says about the process in a press release. “You never know how Paul’s gonna approach a song, lyrically and melodically, so it’s always unusual and exciting. Everyone is open to everyone else’s ideas. I think three is a great number of people for a band. We all had a big hand in everything.”

Kaufman had this to say about the band’s sound: “The music has this weird, super removed vibe but is also personal and emotional at the same time. If something felt natural in a simple way, we left it. I’d never heard Paul’s voice framed like that—a string section, horns, guitars—we know none of that is visionary but it felt classic and kind of classy.”

The band’s name stems from the word Kaufman used to describe the band’s sound, or as the press release puts it, “the music’s subtle, analog quality and texture.”

Summing up the album Banks says: “Ultimately, the music speaks for itself. We have a genuine, organic artistic chemistry together. It’s partly a shared musical taste from youth, as with me and Josh, but then it’s also the souls of my friends that resonate with me when expressed through music. I think it’s cosmic.”

Interpol (which also features Daniel Kessler and Sam Fogarino) released a new EP, A Fine Mess, last year via Matador. It followed their 2018 album Marauder. Outside of Interpol, Banks has released two solo albums (2009’s Julian Plenti is… Skyscraper and 2012’s Banks) and one album with RZA as Banks & Steelz (2016’s Anything But Words).

Read our 2018 interview with Interpol on Marauder.

6. Ela Minus: “they told us it was hard, but they were wrong”

Gabriela Jimeno, better known as Ela Minus, is a self-made electronic artist born and raised in Colombia who recently signed with Domino. This week she shared her first single for the label, “they told us it was hard, but they were wrong,” via a video for the new song. Now based in Brooklyn, her ambient house punk is based solely in hardware synthesizers.

Jimeno began her musical career at age 12 as a drummer in a hardcore band with which she performed for nearly a decade. She left the band to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, double-majoring in synthesizer design and jazz drumming.

After taking the leap of moving from South America to the U.S., Ela found her voice in the DIY scene and an identity in club culture. She notes Fugazi as an inspiration for her latest single in particular, a track that builds a tenacious beat to support her raspy vocals.

Its video, directed by Will Dohrn, visually pays homage to the Andes of Colombia, presenting Ela as a source of vitality polarized from a dystopian expanse.

Ela had this to say about “they told us it was hard, but they were wrong” in a press release: “When everything is taken from us, the ability to choose our attitude and create our own path forward is the only certainty we have.” By Lily Guthrie

7. Austra: “Mountain Baby” (Feat. Cecile Believe)

Austra (the project of Katie Austra Stelmanis) is releasing a new album, HiRUDiN, on May 1 via Domino. On Thursday she shared another song from it, “Mountain Baby,” which features Cecile Believe and a children’s choir from Wilkinson Public School in Toronto (Stelmanis’ mother is a teacher there).

Stelmanis had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Mountain Baby’ explores the different stages of a breakup. Surrounded by a feeling of unknown and grounded only by a hidden sense to move forward (the choir), we’re also reminded through flashbacks of both the uncertainty and resistance we experienced in the relationship (Katie), as well as the pure, unbridled joy (Cecile).”

HiRUDiN includes “Risk It,” a new song Austra shared in January via an animated video. Then when the album was announced she shared another song from it, “Anywayz,” via a Jasmin Mozzafari-directed video. “Anywayz” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Read our recent COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In interview with Austra.

HiRUDiN is the follow-up to 2017’s Future Politics. For the album Stelmanis worked with external producers for the first time, Rodaidh McDonald and Joseph Shabason, recording it in the Spanish countryside. Additional recording was done in Toronto with contemporary classical improv group c_RL, the cellist and kamanche duo Kamancello, kulintang ensemble Pantayo, and a children’s choir. David Wrench mixed the album and Heba Kadry mastered it.

The album was borne out of a crisis of confidence (“I was losing faith in my own ideas,” Stelmanis says in a press release) and a toxic relationship. Stelmanis felt like she had to start over. “My creative and personal relationships were heavily intertwined, and I knew the only answer was to part ways with all of the people and comforts that I’d known for the better part of a decade and start again,” she says.

Of “Anywayz” Stelmanis had this to say: “It explores the fear associated with leaving someone, and the terrifying realization that without them in your life, the rest of the world will continue unscathed as if nothing has changed.”

The press release further describes the themes on the album: “HiRUDiN points inward, tracing a deeply personal journey towards regeneration, dealing with the fallout of toxic relationships, queer shame, and insecurity along the way. Named after the peptide released by leeches that is the most potent anticoagulant in the world, HiRUDiN is about the importance of healing the self, letting go of harmful influences, and finding the power to rebuild.”

Read our 2016 Artist Survey interview with Austra.

8. Faye Webster: “In a Good Way”

This week Atlanta native Faye Webster shared a new song, “In a Good Way,” via a video for the track. Fusing southern folk influences with dream-pop melodies, Webster plays in a genre of her own. This R&B-centric single features a string quartet to complement her billowing vocals against a dwindling rhythm section. The standalone single is out now via Secretly Canadian.

The video for “In a Good Way” was directed by Hunter Airheart, who also collaborated on Webster’s “Kingston” and “Room Temperature” videos. Delicate and minimalist, she often writes from home and travels to Athens for recording as quickly as she can to produce her material in its crispest condition. The song follows 2019’s Atlanta Millionaires Club, which was her third full-length. By Lily Guthrie

9. Porcelain Raft: “Come Rain”

On Wednesday Italian-born, Los Angeles-based dream pop musician Porcelain Raft (aka Mauro Remiddi) announced a new album, Come Rain and shared its first single, title track “Come Rain,” via a Rä di Martino-directed video for the new song. Come Rain is due out May 15. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

His brother Manolo Remiddi mixed and mastered Come Rain, which also features the following musicians: Nate Mendel (Foo Fighters, Sunny Day Real Estate) on bass, Gaspar Claus (Jim O’Rourke, Sufjan Stevens, Rone) on cello, and long time collaborator Matt Olsson on drums. “The lyrics came out fast,” Remiddi explains in a press release. “As a starting point I used the instruments that didn’t need to be turned on, a classical guitar and a piano.”

Come Rain is Porcelain Raft’s fourth full-length album, the follow-up to 2017’s Microclimate.

“In the past three years I decided to take a break,” says Remiddi, explaining the gap between albums, “I became a father, went to live on a mountain in LA and after the loss of a loved one I went back to Italy, where part of my childhood re-emerged. I found myself playing an organ made in the 1500s, I danced and played piano for a children show. By then I had made a collection of songs that I thought I would never share.”

Remiddi considered not releasing the album right now because of everything going on with the pandemic, but then decided it was actually the perfect time to put these songs out into the world. “The world stopped. I managed to come back to Italy the day before the airports were on lock down,” he explains in the press release. “As I stepped in Rome I felt frightened, it’s surreal to see Rome silent. You can feel how tense people are. On the other side you can tell there’s a lot of solidarity. Helping the neighbor with little things for instance. We have been confined in our houses and exposed to big numbers and huge scale operations. This is why I decided to share these songs now. What a better time to hear our inner voice. This album is my rain chant in the time of drought, Come Rain is an invitation to look inward, into our micro-cosmo, whatever we may find. To look for that place within us that is everything but hell, so we can give it space and let it dance.”

Summing up the album, Remiddi says: “I want each release to feel like a part of a painting. Where the listener can focus on one detail or choose to step back and see the bigger picture.”

10. Chromatics: “Teachers”

Late last night Chromatics shared a new song, “Teachers,” via a video for the track directed by the band’s own Johnny Jewel. “Teachers” follows the Chromatics blueprint well, but does add in some surprising guest vocals from children.

The band also revealed a brand new tracklist for their long delayed Dear Tommy album, although the album still doesn’t have a new release date. “Teachers” is featured on Dear Tommy, which will also include new versions of the previously shared singles “Just Like You,” “Dear Tommy,” and “Time Rider,” alongside other previously unreleased songs. Check out the new Dear Tommy tracklist here.

Chromatics were supposed to release Dear Tommy in 2015 (it was announced in December 2014). Then frontman Johnny Jewel had a near-death experience in Hawaii on Christmas Day 2015 and afterwards he destroyed all copies of Dear Tommy in order to re-record it to better capture the sound he was going for. It was then announced that it would come out in 2018, but that never happened.

Instead, the band released a brand new album, Closer to Grey, last October only hours after it was announced (stream it here). Closer to Grey featured all new tracks not intended for Dear Tommy, including covers of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” and The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “On the Wall.” In October they shared a video for Closer to Grey’s “You’re No Good” and the song made our Songs of the Week list.

Closer to Grey was listed by the band as their seventh album, with Dear Tommy still considered their sixth.

“Teacher” follows “Toy,” a new song Chromatics shared back in January, and “Famous Monsters,” another new song they shared in March (which was one of our Songs of the Week). Neither “Toy” nor “Famous Monsters” is on Dear Tommy’s tracklist.

Honorable Mentions:

These five songs almost made the Top 10.

Jehnny Beth: “Innocence”

Car Seat Headrest: “Hollywood”

Florence + the Machine: “Light of Love”

Konradsen: “Give It Back to the Feelings”

PINS: “Ghosting”

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Alice Bag: “Spark”

Courtney Marie Andrews: “Burlap String”

Bedouine: “The Hum” (Margo Guryan Cover)

Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp: “Isolation” (John Lennon Cover)

Bing & Ruth: “I Had No Dream”

Bon Iver: “PDLIF”

Built to Spill: “Mountain Top” (Daniel Johnston Cover)

Diet Cig: “Who Are You?”

Dan Croll: “Grand Plan” and “Work”

DMA’s: “The Glow”

Bob Dylan: “I Contain Multitudes”

Ryan Hemsworth: “New Life” and “Sun Up”

Brittany Howard: “You And Your Folks, Me And My Folks” (Funkadelic Cover)

Jamie xx: “Idontknow”

Norah Jones: “How I Weep”

Kehlani: “Everybody Business”

Ruston Kelly: “Brave”

Kid Cudi: “Leader of the Delinquents”

The Legends: “Save Yourself” (Feat. Pernilla Andersson)

Katie Malco: “Brooklyn”

Amber Mark: “Waiting” (Demo)

Masterpiece Machine: “Letting You in on a Secret”

Tom Misch and Yussef Daynes: “Nightrider”

Naeem: “Simulation” (Feat. Swamp Dogg & Justin Vernon)

Nation of Language: “Friend Machine”

Parsnip: “Adding Up”

Peter CottonTale: “Pray For Real”

PINS: “Isolation” (Joy Division Cover) (Feat. Yellow Brain)

Pottery: “Hot Like Jungle”

The Pretenders: “You Can’t Hurt a Fool”

Public Practice: “My Head”

Pure X: “Middle America” and “Fantasy”

Retirement Party: “Runaway Dog”

Sass: “11:11”

Rina Sawayama: “Bad Friend”

The Streets: “Call My Phone Thinking I’m Doing Nothing Better” (Feat. Tame Impala)

Tasha: “But There’s Still the Moon”

Thurston Moore Group: “Instant Transcendent Conjecture”

Umbra Vitae: “Mantra of Madness”

Hayley Williams: “Why We Ever”

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April 20th 2020

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