10 Best Songs of the Week: Whitney, Charli XCX, Twin Peaks, Little Scream, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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10 Best Songs of the Week: Whitney, Charli XCX, Twin Peaks, Little Scream, and More

Plus Ezra Furman, Luke Temple, Wilco, Squid, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

Jul 19, 2019 Songs of the Week Bookmark and Share

Welcome to another Songs of the Week. There were a slew of solid tracks to choose from this week, making it extra hard to narrow the list down. Hence there are a whopping 11 honorable mentions. But we had some self-control and kept the main list to a Top 10.

Elsewhere on the website this week we posted a My Firsts interview with Lou Barlow of Sebadoh and an interview with Hayden Thorpe, formerly of Wild Beasts, about his debut solo album.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Brian Eno, Filthy Friends, Hayden Thorpe, Gauche, and Prince. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows).

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. Whitney: “Valleys (My Love)”

Whitney (Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek) are releasing a new album, Forever Turned Around, on August 30 via Secretly Canadian. Previously they shared its first single, “Giving Up” (which was one of our Songs of the Week). This week they shared the album’s second single, “Valleys (My Love),” via a video for the track. A press release says the song “describes the anxiety of being away from a loved one, and was inspired by a particularly scenic drive in Montana.” Nick Woytuk directed the video, which was shot in Oregon and is about a truck driver. It may not be the most innovative song, but it’s a simply gorgeous track that seems primed to put you in a relaxed mood, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need with all the racist tweets from our President and record high temperatures due to global warming.

Forever Turned Around is Whitney’s second album, the follow-up to 2016’s debut album, Light Upon the Lake. In May they announced some new fall U.S. tour dates on top of their previously announced dates and in June they shared a teaser video entitled “FTA,” which we now know stands for Forever Turned Around (the phrase “forever turned around” was repeated towards the end of the video).

Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Hand Habits) and Jonathan Rado (Foxygen, Weyes Blood, Father John Misty) co-produced the album, which was recorded in various sessions and includes material written on tour. At one point they reunited with original rhythm guitarist Ziyad Asrar in his basement studio in Chicago, which is where much of Light Upon the Lake came together. Chicago musicians Lia Kohland and OHMME’s Macie Stewart contribute strings to the album.

Whitney’s live band also features keyboardist Malcolm Brow, guitarist Print Chouteau, bassist Josiah Marshall, and trumpeter Will Miller, with Asrar also returning to the live band.

A previous press release described Forever Turned Around this way: “On the follow up to their much-beloved debut, 2016’s Light Upon the Lake, Ehrlich and Kakacek grapple with the anxiety and acceptance that time is limited and navigate questions of mortality, doubt, love, and friendship. It’s an album about partnership - romantic, familial, and communal, but most importantly a love in friendship: the bonds between two best friends and creative partners and the joy and stress that comes with it.”

Read our 2016 interview with Whitney about Light Upon the Lake. Plus read our review of Light Upon the Lake.

2. Charli XCX: “Gone” (Feat. Christine and the Queens)

Charli XCX is releasing a new album, simply titled Charli on September 13 via Atlantic. This week she shared another song for it, “Gone,” via a video for the track. “Gone” is a collaboration with Christine and the Queens (aka Héloïse Letissier), who also features in the video. Colin Solal Cardo directed the clip, which starts with both artists tied to a car. The thoroughly modern (dare we say futuristic) production is what pushes this thing to near the top of this list. Charli XCX has been very hit or miss since her 2013-released debut album True Romance, but when she hits (see also “Boys”) she really hits.

Charli features a slew of other special guests, including HAIM, Sky Ferreira, Lizzo, Troye Sivan, and more. Charli is her third album and her first one in five years, since 2014’s Sucker. But in the meantime she has released various mixtapes and singles, including the aforementioned 2017 hit “Boys,” which isn’t included on the album (although some other previous singles, such as “1999” and “Blame It On Your Love,” are on Charli).

Read our 2013 cover story article on Charli XCX.

Christine and the Queens released her sophomore album, Chris, back in September 2018 via Because Music. Read our 2018 interview with Christine and the Queens on Chris.

3. Twin Peaks: “Dance Through It”

This week Chicago-based five-piece Twin Peaks announced a new album, Lookout Low, and shared its first single, “Dance Through It,” via a video for the track. Lookout Low is due out September 13 via Grand Jury. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here. “Dance Through It” is a bit more accessible than some previous Twin Peaks tracks and we mean that as compliment.

Lookout Low is the follow-up to 2016’s full-length Down In Heaven and 2017’s singles series and compilation Sweet ‘17 Singles. Ethan Johns (Paul McCartney, U2) produced the album, which was recorded at the Monnow Valley studio in Wales. The band consists of guitarists Cadien Lake James and Clay Frankel, bassist Jack Dolan, multi-instrumentalist Colin Croom, and drummer Connor Brodner. OHMME’s Macie Stewart and Sima Cunningham also contributed to seven tracks on the album.

Ariel Fisher and Léo Schrepel directed the “Dance Through It” video, which was filmed in Berlin and stars models Riya Hamid and Yosuke Kaneshiro.

The band’s Cadien Lake James had this to say about the song and video in a press release: “Writing and arranging ‘Dance Through It’ felt like a dive into and embrace of experimenting with a new palette for us. After having been directly involved in the creation and direction of all of our videos, it felt fitting to allow this song the breath of collaboration in having Ariel Fisher take the helm and run with it.”

Co-director Ariel Fisher had this to say: “Working with Twin Peaks on this visual concept felt synergetic. We shared a mutual love for the film Fallen Angels and wanted to tell a story where the camera angles and lenses gradually shift as the narrative progresses. We wanted the viewer to become the participant, as we step into the actress’s shoes and begin to see the world as she sees it.”

A press release describes the new album like this: “Where their last LP, 2016’s Down In Heaven, and 2017’s Sweet ‘17 Singles compilation were adventurous and compelling updates on their youthfully raucous formula, their fourth album, Lookout Low feels like a total revolution. Their most deliberate and seamless record yet, the album is a collaborative triumph, propelled forward by Twin Peak’s near-decade-long bond.”

4. Little Scream: “Dear Leader”

This week Little Scream (aka Laurel Sprengelmeyer) announced a new album, Speed Queen, and shared its first single, “Dear Leader,” via a lyric video for the track. It’s a strong and direct protest song, clearly directed at President Trump (and other world leaders). Speed Queen is due out October 25 via Merge. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Speed Queen is the follow-up to 2016’s Cult Following. The “Dear Leader” lyric video features cameos from members of The National, Arcade Fire, Superchunk, Holly Miranda, Leif Vollebekk, Mélissa Laveaux, and more. In the powerful clip various people hold up the lyrics as if they are protest signs.

Sprengelmeyer had this to say about the lyric video in a press release: “This is a lyric video made up largely from crowd-sourced submissions from friends around the world, from São Paulo, Paris, and Barcelona to Des Moines, all shot on a phone. Many artists are pictured, but many are people I encountered while working on the video with documentary filmmaker Shannon Walsh. She and I approached people on the street and heard many interesting stories along the way, from the native man from Bella Bella who told us about being told to ‘go back to where you came from’ (he jumped and replied, ‘I’m here’), to a man paying homage to lost friends at the AIDS memorial at Sunset Beach in Vancouver, to a group of young people returning from a rally to support LGBTQIA rights.

“Much of the protest footage was shot by Shannon herself while in Hong Kong during the Umbrella Movement protests of 2014.

“I would like to use the launch of this video to raise awareness about the 1000 Cities initiative-something being spearheaded by musician and environmentalist Becky Foon (pictured in the video) and Jesse Paris Smith. It’s a simple concept with a powerful message: If 1000 cities around the world adopt Paris climate accord standards, the world can still meet its global emissions targets. The idea is not to just sign a petition, but to get involved in supporting and advocating for zero-emissions targets with specific timeline commitments in our own cities and communities. It’s a way of empowering all of us to be part of reversing climate change.”

5. Ezra Furman: “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend”

Ezra Furman is releasing a new album, Twelve Nudes, on August 30 via Bella Union. This week he shared two more songs from it: “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” and “Evening Prayer.” “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” is accompanied by an Alix Spence-directed video and is the song that makes our main Songs of the Week list (“Evening Prayer” in an honorable mention below).

In a press release Furman says “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” is “a romantic song of transgender longing. It’s another entry in my series of ‘I Wanna’ songs (in the tradition of The Ramones). I thought it was time we had an ‘Earth Angel’ for the queers. Of course because it’s an Ezra Furman tune, there’s a little bit of desperation, religion, and body-talk.”

Of the video Spence says: “Listening to the song and speaking with Ezra, I saw our two dancers, Brandon Mathis and Jobel Medina, as physical manifestations of internal suffering. I wanted to literally have us wrestle with ourselves and the complexities of our personal struggles.”

Furman had this to say about “Evening Prayer” in the press release: “It’s our rallying cry. We music fans go to shows for transcendence; it’s like being called to prayer. But as Abraham Heschel said, ‘Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism and falsehood.’ I want all our fans to become activists. We punk fans have so much energy to give to the fight against injustice, i.e. the abuse of the poor by the rich, i.e. climate change. So this is one to get you in the mood.”

Previously Furman shared a video for Twelve Nudes’ first single (and opening track) “Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone” (it was one of our Songs of the Week). Beth Jeans Houghton (aka Du Blonde) directed the animated “Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone” video.

Twelve Nudes is the follow-up to 2018’s Transangelic Exodus. Last year he also did the soundtrack for the Netflix show Sex Education. Twelve Nudes was recorded “quickly” in Oakland last fall and mixed by John Congleton (Sharon Van Etten, St. Vincent). A press release calls it a “‘spiritually queer’ punk record” and says it has two spiritual heroes, the late musician Jay Reatard and Canadian writer/philosopher Anne Carson. The latter inspired the album’s title, as she “used the term ‘nudes’ to describe the meditations she used to deal with intense pain in her life.”

The album tackles Furman’s Jewish identity and the Israel/Palestine conflict, wealthy men accused of sexual assault, and an America that “is balanced on a knife-edge between white male supremacy and the dream of universal opportunity.”

“One of my goals in making music is to make the world seem bigger, and life seem larger,” Furman explains in the press release. “I want to be a force that tries to revive the human spirit rather than crush it, to open possibilities rather than close them down. Sometimes a passionate negativity is the best way to do that.”

Furman sums up Twelve Nudes this way: “This is our punk record. We made it in Oakland, quickly. We drank and smoked. Then we made the loud parts louder. I hurt my voice screaming. This was back in 2018, when things were bad in the world. The songs are naked with nothing to hide.”

Read our interview with Ezra Furman on Transangelic Exodus.

Read our review of Transangelic Exodus.

6. Luke Temple: “Empty Promises”

Here We Go Magic frontman Luke Temple is releasing a new solo album, Both-And, on September 13 via Native Cat. Previously he shared its first single, “Wounded Brightness” (which was one of our Songs of the Week). This week he shared another track from the album, “Empty Promises.”

In terms of Temple’s solo work, the album is the follow-up to 2016’s A Hand Through the Cellar Door and 2013’s Good Mood Fool, both underappreciated works. Both-And was inspired by Temple’s move from New York to Northern California’s Marin County.

7. Wilco: “Love Is Everywhere (Beware)”

This week Wilco announced a new album, Ode to Joy, and shared its first single, “Love Is Everywhere (Beware).” Ode to Joy is due out October 4 via the band’s own dBpm label. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.

Wilco’s last studio album was 2016’s Schmilco. Meanwhile, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy released a new solo album, WARM, last November via dBpm, which was followed by the companion album, WARMER, released in April via dBpm as a Record Store Day exclusive. In 2018 he also released the memoir Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back).

Ode to Joy was recorded at The Loft in Chicago. Tweedy and his bandmate Glenn Kotche spearheaded each song, but each song also features all six members of the band.

A press release says Ode to Joy “encourages the act of finding joy in a dark political climate. The album presents a unique rhythm track and a minimalist instrumentation, with lyrics at once observant, hopeful, morbid, tolerant, and abstract.”

In a press release Tweedy says the album features “really big, big folk songs, these monolithic, brutal structures that these delicate feelings are hung on.”

Tweedy had this to say about “Love Is Everywhere (Beware)” in the press release: “There MUST be more love than hate. Right?! I’m not always positive we can be so sure. In any case, I’m starting to feel like being confident in that equation isn’t always the best motivation for me to be my best self - it can kind of let me off the hook a little bit when I think I should be striving to contribute more love outside of my comfortable sphere of family and friends. So…I guess the song is sort of a warning to myself that YES, Love IS EVERYWHERE, but also BEWARE! I can’t let that feeling absolve me of my duty to create more.”

The album will be available on CD, standard black vinyl, limited edition color custom vinyl, and “a special deluxe LP book, designed by long-time Wilco collaborator Lawrence Azerrad.”

Also read our 2015 joint interview between Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Australian singer/songwriter/guitarist Courtney Barnett, from our Best of 2015 issue.

8. Squid: “The Cleaner”

This week Brighton, England-formed five-piece Squid announced a new EP, Town Centre, and shared a new song from it “The Cleaner.” Town Centre is due out digitally on September 6 via producer Dan Carey’s Speedy Wunderground, with a physical release on November 15. The band have a post-punk sound, with comparisons to Talking Heads and Television fairly warranted. “The Cleaner” is seven-and-a-half minutes long, an easy song to get lost in. Check out the EP’s tracklist and the band’s upcoming tour dates here.

The band features Ollie Judge (drums, lead vocals), Louis Borlase (guitars, vocals), Arthur Leadbetter (keyboards, strings), Laurie Nankivell (bass, brass), and Anton Pearson (guitars, vocals).

The band collectively had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘The Cleaner’ is a lost acquaintance, one that we’ve spent the last year trying to get to know… tirelessly working and turning up whenever needed. We work for the money to spend our time doing other things. ‘The Cleaner’ imagines the divided work and play structure and thinks about breaking from it.”

Dan Carey had this to say about the song: “I love Squid so much. To record with them is such a joy - the room is a sea of ideas and enthusiasm without any clashes of ego; every suggestion is given full attention. This, combined with their musicianship results in beautifully inventive music, underpinned by a hard steady groove and topped with lyrics that are important and surreal. When I first saw squid I was blown away. In the middle of being blown away, they played ‘The Cleaner.’ In the middle of ‘The Cleaner’ I was blown away by the middle bit of ‘The Cleaner.’ So I was 3 levels down, and I thought ‘Yes…Squid.’”

9. Sleater-Kinney: “The Center Won’t Hold”

Sleater-Kinney are releasing a new album, The Center Won’t Hold, on August 16 via Mom + Pop. This week they shared its title track, “The Center Won’t Hold.” It’s the first new track shared from the album since drummer Janet Weiss unexpectedly announced at the start of the month that she was leaving Sleater-Kinney only a month and a half before their new album is to be released. “The Center Won’t Hold” is accompanied by a lyric video animated and directed by Kristen Ferguson.

Corin Tucker (guitar/vocals) had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘The Center Won’t Hold’ drops you into the world of catastrophe that touches on the election. And almost like a mission statement, at the end of that song, it’s like the band is finding its way out of that space by becoming a rock band.”

In the press release Carrie Brownstein (guitar/vocals) also had this to say about recording the album: “Instead of just going into the studio to document what we’d done, we were going in to explore and to find the essence of something. To dig in deeper. It felt like a really crucial part of the process itself, not just the end game.”

The Center Won’t Hold finds the band experimenting with a slightly more polished sound, thanks to producer St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark), and on a new label in Mom + Pop. Prior to the announcement of The Center Won’t Hold, Sleater-Kinney shared the album’s first single “Hurry On Home” via a Miranda July-directed lyric video for the track (it was one of our Songs of the Week). When the album was announced they shared its second single, “The Future Is Here,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then they stopped by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to perform “Hurry On Home,” in what might be Weiss’ last public performance with the band.

10. One True Pairing: “I’m Not Afraid”

Tom Fleming was formerly a member British art-rockers Wild Beasts, who called it quits in 2018. He recently announced a new solo project, One True Pairing, and shared a video for its first song, also titled “One True Pairing” (it was one of our Songs of the Week). This week Fleming announced his debut album as One True Pairing, also titled One True Pairing, and shared an Ewan Jones Morris-directed video for its second single, “I’m Not Afraid.” One True Pairing is due out September 20 via Domino. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Fleming wrote and played everything on the album and then got Ben Hillier (Blur, Elbow, Doves) on board for mixing and production duties. A press release says Fleming was inspired by Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Tom Petty, Depeche Mode, and Swans.

Fleming had this to say about the album in a press release: “I wanted to write about the real world, I didn’t want it to be an artistic, poised, tasteful record, it’s neo-heartland rock. One True Pairing is a name taken from internet fan fiction, where you write the perfect relationship you always wished existed. The idea of Prince Charming and Helpless Princess living happily after is no fun at all.”

A press release says “One True Pairing is an album shaped by class frustration and self-despair and there is a continuation of the exploration of masculinity that made Wild Beasts so unique. As well as being deeply personal, OTP has a wider political resonance.”

Fleming elaborates, commenting on the United Kingdom: “This country is going through a terrible moment and if you listen to the art nobody seems to give a shit.”

Honorable Mentions:

These 11 songs almost made the Top 10. Boy Scouts, (Sandy) Alex G, Shura, Hiss Golden Messenger, and Chelsea Wolfe in particular were all seriously considered.

Boy Scouts: “Expiration Date”

Florist: “Celebration”

Ezra Furman: “Evening Prayer”

Hiss Golden Messenger: “Cat’s Eye Blue”

Brittany Howard: “Stay High”

Lost Under Heaven: “Black Sun Rising (Expanded)”

Low: “Fly (King Britt’s Fhloston Paradigm Remix)”

Iggy Pop: “Free”

(Sandy) Alex G: “Hope”

Shura: “the stage”

Chelsea Wolfe: “American Darkness”

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Ceremony: “In the Spirit World Now”

Ecstatic Vision: “Grasping the Void”

Four Tet: “Dreamer”

Frankie Cosmos: “Rings (On a Tree)” (Close It Quietly Version)

Future Teens: “Frequent Crier”

Hammered Hulls: “Written Words”

The Highwomen: “Redesigning Women”

Shannon Lay: “Death Up Close”

Red Hearse: “Half Love”

Rosenau & Sanborn: “Saturday”

Russian Baths: “Tracks”

Joan Shelley: “Cycle”

Sam Smith: “How Do You Sleep?”

Tei Shi: “Red Light”

Vivian Girls: “Sick”

Westerman: “Kathy’s Song” (Simon & Garfunkel Cover)

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