10 Best Songs of the Week: Wye Oak, Mitski, Katie Gately, Ellis, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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10 Best Songs of the Week: Wye Oak, Mitski, Katie Gately, Ellis, and More

Plus Sorry, Badly Drawn Boy, Waxahatchee, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Jan 24, 2020 Sorry Bookmark and Share

Welcome to the third Songs of the Week of 2020. It was a mixed week for new songs. There were certainly some good tracks this week, but few that screamed Top 10 of the week. Several songs were in and out of the Top 10 at various points and the order was very fluid. A lot of the honorable mentions could have just as easily made the main list and vice versa.

This week we posted My Favorite Album interviews with Low and actor Jimmi Simpson, a separate Q&A with Simpson about his favorite music and his various TV roles, and a The End interview with Carl Newman of The New Pornographers.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Bombay Bicycle Club, Khushi, Okay Kaya, and Pale Saints (a 30th anniversary reissue of their debut). Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows).

Don’t forget to check out our Top 100 Albums of 2019 and Top 50 Films of the Decade lists.

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. Wye Oak: “Fear of Heights”

On Tuesday Wye Oak (Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack) shared a brand new song, “Fear of Heights.” It follows “Fortune,” a new song they shared in November that was also #1 on that week’s Songs of the Week list. “Fear of Heights” is a bit more subdued than “Fortune” but soars on the strength of Wasner’s always sublime vocals. It’s simply a gorgeous and immaculately produced cut.

Wasner had this to say about “Fear of Heights” in a press release: “This song’s central metaphor likens the deepening of a relationship to the feeling of ascending to the top of a very tall place. There’s something to be seen (or learned, or experienced) once you arrive, but for some there is also a fear that increases with every step upwards. You say it’s worth it for the view, but it’s impossible to know if that’s true until you get there to see it with your own eyes.”

For the first time since 2012, Wasner and Stack are now both living in the same city together, Durham, NC (home to their label Merge), which has allowed for renewed creativity and led to the band recording last summer. There’s no word yet on a new album.

Wye Oak released their last album, The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs, back in April 2018 via Merge. (It was our Album of the Week and one of our Top 100 Albums of 2018.) In February 2019 they shared a brand new song, “Evergreen,” via the Adult Swim Singles series (it was one of our Songs of the Week).

Since their last album, Stack launched his solo project, Joyero, releasing his debut album as Joyero, Release the Dogs, in August 2019 via Merge. Wasner, meanwhile, has been touring as part of Bon Iver’s band. A previous press release promised that their upcoming JOIN tour dates will feature an expanded live band and will find them not just performing Wye Oak songs, but also ones by Joyero and Wasner’s Flock of Dimes solo project.

Read our 2018 interview with Wye Oak on The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs.

Pick up our current print issue (the My Favorite Album Issue) to read Andy Stack’s essay about his all-time favorite album.

2. Mitski: “Cop Car”

On Tuesday Mitski shared a new song, “Cop Car.” It is taken from the soundtrack to the horror film The Turning, which is a more modern version of Henry James’ 1898 horror novella The Turn of the Screw. The soundtrack came out today via KRO/Sony Music Masterworks, the same day as the film. “Cop Car” is a bit of a goth spin on Mitski’s vibe, almost sounding like a Chelsea Wolfe song, but it strangely works.

Floria Sigismondi directed The Turning, which was executive produced by Steven Spielberg and stars Mackenzie Davis (as a new nanny named Kate), Finn Wolfhard (as Miles), and Brooklynn Prince (as Flora). Lawrence and Yves Rothman produced the soundtrack, which also features Courtney Love, Empress Of, The Aubrey’s Ft. Finn Wolfhard, Vagabon, Cherry Glazerr, Lawrence Rothman, Kim Gordon, Warpaint, and more. Previously we posted Soccer Mommy’s contribution, “Feed.”

Lawrence Rothman had this to say about working with Mitski on “Cop Car”: “There is a pinnacle scene where Kate’s mind starts to unravel while in her car and we needed a cinematic but grunge influenced song shadowing the scene. I reached out to Mitski to see if she wanted to get involved as Floria and I had a feeling she would deliver a song that was guitar-based but cinematic. ‘Cop Car’ went beyond what we imagined and we were ecstatic when she sent it to us!”

Mitski released her last album, Be the Cowboy, back in August 2018 via Dead Oceans. It was #2 on our Top 100 Albums of 2018 list.

Read our 2019 cover story interview with Mitski on Be the Cowboy.

Read our review of Be the Cowboy.

Read our review of Puberty 2.

3. Katie Gately: “Waltz”

Electronic musician and producer Katie Gately is releasing a new album, Loom, on February 14 via Houndstooth. This week she shared another song from it, “Waltz,” via a video for the track. Samantha Shay directed the clip, which features Gately in one of her own videos for the first time, starring opposite modern dancer Bobbi Jene Smith and filmed at an abandoned Catholic convent.

Loom is inspired by the death of Gately’s mother and “Waltz” takes inspiration from Gately listening to Leonard Cohen’s “Take This Waltz” on repeat for a day as her mother’s health was in rapid decline (Cohen was her mother’s favorite artist). “Waltz” is dark, dramatic, emotive, and cinematic.

Gately had this to say about the song in a press release: “When I listen, I see images that correlate to a zebra on a bad LSD trip. But I feel that its absurdity honors the chaos of losing someone you love more than time, space or measure. And so perhaps my message is: it’s okay to feel like a drunk zebra when your heart is breaking. Or… to quote the far greater poet Leonard Cohen: ‘When things get really bad, just raise your glass and stamp your feet and do a little jig. That’s about all you can do.’”

“Waltz” director Shay had this to say about the video: “When I work with a musician, there is a wide spectrum to feelings about being filmed or photographed, and Katie expressed that she didn’t feel comfortable on camera. The day of the shoot I asked Katie if she wanted to be challenged as a performer or not, and she practically demanded it of me. What resulted was absolutely magnetic. She willfully and bravely let her walls collapse in front of us, and this video, to me, is a powerful portrait of her.”

Previously Gately shared Loom‘s first single, “Bracer.” Her debut album, Color, came out in 2016.

4. Ellis: “Fall Apart”

This week Ellis (aka Hamilton, Ontario dream pop artist Linnea Siggelkow) announced her debut album, Born Again, and shared its first single, “Fall Apart,” via a video for the track. She has also announced some new tour dates. Born Again is due out April 3 via Fat Possum. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as Ellis’ upcoming tour dates, here. “Fall Apart” is a dreamy gem and builds to a nice crescendo.

Jake Aron (Snail Mail, Solange, Grizzly Bear) produced the album, which was partly recorded at his Brooklyn studio. Born Again follows Ellis’s debut EP The Fuzz, which she self-produced and self-released in 2018.

As Born Again‘s title suggests, the album partly deals with questions of faith. Siggelkow is the daughter of a traveling book salesman and a piano teacher. “I grew up Christian and was quite devoted to faith up through my late teens, but I started challenging that once I got to university,” says Siggelkow in a press release. “Since then I’ve been trying to redefine who I am and where I stand and what I think about these things on my own, and that journey very much played into the songwriting on this record.”

Of “Fall Apart,” Siggelkow had this to say: “This is really just an honest reflection of my struggle with anxiety and how I can’t hide it from the people closest to me. It’s about the feeling the first time someone you admire sees you in your most vulnerable state, about putting in the work to get better but still having moments of weakness. My anxiety comes over me like a tidal wave, and it feels like I am spiraling out of control. I am finding better and healthier ways to cope, to talk myself down when I can feel myself starting to fall, but it still happens sometimes even though I wish that it didn’t.”

5. Sorry: “More”

On Thursday North London post-punkers Sorry officially announced their debut album, 925, and shared another song from it, “More,” via a video for the track. 925 is due out March 27 via Domino. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.

925 includes “Right Round the Clock,” a song they shared in October that was one of our Songs of the Week, as well as “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” another new song they shared in November via a video for the track (it was also one of our Songs of the Week).

Sorry is led by childhood friends Asha Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen and the lineup is rounded out by Lincoln Barrett on drums and bassist Campbell Baum. Previously we also posted the band’s “Jealous Guy” (not a John Lennon cover), which was also one of our Songs of the Week but isn’t featured on the debut album.

James Dring (Gorillaz, Jamie T, Nilüfer Yanya) co-produced 925 with the band. Lorenz directed the “More” video alongside frequent collaborator Jasper Cable-Alexander.

6. Badly Drawn Boy: “Is This a Dream?”

Badly Drawn Boy (aka British singer/songwriter Damon Gough) hasn’t released a regular new studio album in 10 years, since, 2010’s It’s What I’m Thinking Pt.1 - Photographing Snowflakes, although in 2012 he did put out the soundtrack to the film Being Flynn. Well, today he returned with a brand new song, “Is This a Dream?,” his first new song in seven years. The lush song is accompanied by an animated video directed by Broken Antler.

Gough had this to say about the song in a press release: “The song is a sound collage of chaos and confusion to reflect the ridiculous times we live in. A deliberately cartoonesque sonic poke in the eye, to those in whom we place trust, yet instead supply constant barrage of misinformation followed by bad decisions.”

Gethin Pearson (Kele Okereke, JAWS) produced and mixed the song, after some original production by Youth (The Verve, Paul McCartney). There’s no word on a new album, but tomorrow (January 25) night he is performing a sold out show at London’s The Roundhouse.

Badly Drawn Boy’s burst onto the scene with his 2000-released critically acclaimed debut album, The Hour of the Bewilderbeast, which won the Mercury Prize. That was followed by 2002’s well-received soundtrack to the Hugh Grant film About a Boy, which featured new songs and incidental music from Gough. Since those early twin peaks, he hasn’t reached quite the same critical heights. But it’s nice to have Badly Drawn Boy back.

7. Purr: “Avenue Bliss”

New York City songwriters Jack Staffen and Eliza Barry Callahan used to release music simply as Jack and Eliza, but now they go by Purr and are releasing their debut album under that name, Like New, via ANTI- on February 21. On Tuesday they shared another song from the album, “Avenue Bliss,” via a video for the track. Guy Kozak directed the video.

Callahan had this to say about the album in a press release: “‘Avenue Bliss’ was the last song we wrote on the album. It’s about power and presence and having no words left- and then having that dust clear. The beginning of the song is like an ending and the end, hopefully, like a new beginning… we tried to mirror this in the arrangement too. You’ll see. It’s an adventure track. Self-adventure, the worst and best kind.”

Kozak had this to say about the video: “With this music video, I wanted to make something that was sinister and playful at the same time, drawing from the way the song evolves from a wistful ballad into something more like an upbeat disco track,” said. “In developing the concept, I looked at a lot of Jim Henson and Norman McLaren shorts as well as early Disney cartoons for inspiration, ending up somewhere along the lines of Phenomena meets Snow White meets… Downton Abbey. It was a bit of an odd pitch, but Eliza and Jack got it straight away and fit right in.”

Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado (Father John Misty, Weyes Blood, Whitney) produced Like New. Previously the band shared a video for its first single, “Hard to Realize.”

8. Waxahatchee: “Fire”

On Wednesday Waxahatchee (aka Katie Crutchfield) announced a new album, Saint Cloud, and shared its first single, “Fire,” via a video for the track. She also announced some new tour dates. Saint Cloud is due out March 27 via Merge. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates, here.

Saint Cloud is the follow-up to 2017’s Out in the Storm (which was our Album of the Week). Brad Cook produced Saint Cloud, which was recorded in the summer of 2019 at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, TX, and Long Pond in Stuyvesant, NY. Crutchfield’s backing band on the album was Bobby Colombo and Bill Lennox of the Detroit-based band Bonny Doon and that band will also be backing her on her 2020 tour dates. The album also features Josh Kaufman (Hiss Golden Messenger, Bonny Light Horseman) on guitar and keyboards and Nick Kinsey (Kevin Morby, Elvis Perkins) on drums and percussion. Saint Cloud was written right after Crutchfield decided to get sober.

“I think all of my records are turbulent and emotional, but this one feels like it has a little dose of enlightenment,” Crutchfield says in a press release. “It feels a little more calm and less reckless.”

Crutchfield had this to say about “Fire” in the press release: “The idea and melody for ‘Fire’ was dreamt up while driving over the Mississippi River from Memphis into West Memphis, AR, sun reflecting off the water which literally made West Memphis glow. The song’s written by me, to myself. It’s about the internal dialogue of shame surrounding mistakes you’ve made in the past and how we spiral and beat ourselves up when we slip. It’s meant to be a bit of a personal pep talk. If I can love myself unconditionally, then I can move through the world a little easier. If I can accept that I only have a partial view of the universe, and that I can’t know everything or control much of anything, then I can breathe a little easier, take better care of myself, and be closer to my own truth.”

Read our 2017 The End interview with Waxahatchee where she answered our questions about endings and death.

9. M. Ward: “Unreal City”

M. Ward is releasing a new album, Migration Stories, on April 3 via ANTI-. On Wednesday he shared another song from it, “Unreal City.”

Previously Ward shared Migration Stories’ first single, “Migration of Souls.”

Migration Stories follows What a Wonderful Industry, a self-released album Ward surprise-released in 2018. The album was recorded at Arcade Fire’s studio in Montreal and features two members of that band, Tim Kingsbury and Richard Reed Parry, alongside producer/mixer Craig Silvey and Teddy Impakt.

Ward had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “Some time went by, the stories wove together and I remember them now closer to characters in a dream of how people could treat each other than any kind of front-page news realism. I think music subconsciously - whether writing or listening - is a filter for me. Helping to process all the bad news into something new to build from. Some records to me are like self-fulfilling prophecies - visualizing change to wish something into being. Those records inspired this one.”

10. Yumi Zouma: “Cool For a Second”

On Wednesday New Zealand indie-pop band Yumi Zouma announced a new album, Truth or Consequences, and shared its first single, “Cool For a Second,” via a video for the track. They have also announced some new tour dates. Truth or Consequences is due out March 13 via Polyvinyl, their first for the label. The album includes “Right Track / Wrong Man,” a song the band shared back in December. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as their tour dates, here.

In a press release Yumi Zouma bassist Charlie Ryder says “Cool For a Second” was almost scrapped as a B-side: “The song was demoed in Los Angeles and then long forgotten, destined for the scrap heap. A spark of inspiration from Josh in the introduction reestablished that for us, the most conspicuous of melodies are often hidden in modest beginnings.”

The band self-produced the album and it was mixed by Jake Aron (Solange, Grizzly Bear, Snail Mail). While formed in New Zealand, Yumi Zouma’s members currently reside in various cities around the world: New York City (Josh Burgess - guitar, vocals), London (Charlie Ryder - guitar, bass, keys), Christchurch, New Zealand (Christie Simpson - vocals, keys), and Wellington, New Zealand (Olivia Campion - drums).

The band released a new EP, EP III, in September 2018 via Cascine. EP III was the follow-up to Yumi Zouma’s sophomore album, Willowbank, which was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017. In May 2019 they shared another brand new song, “Bruise,” that was a standalone single and was one of our Songs of the Week.

Read our 2017 interview with Yumi Zouma on Willowbank.

Honorable Mentions:

These 8 songs almost made the Top 10. Stephen Malkmus, Chromatics, Jackie Lynn, Nap Eyes, Hayley Williams, and, most surprisingly, Pearl Jam were all seriously considered for the main list, but all of these are good tracks.

Cherry Glazerr: “Womb”

Chromatics: “Toy”

Jackie Lynn: “Casino Queen”

Stephen Malkmus: “Xian Man”

Nap Eyes: “Mark Zuckerberg”

Pearl Jam: “Dance of the Clairvoyants”

Andy Shauf: “Neon Skyline”

Hayley Williams: “Simmer”

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

addy: “Planted”

Bonny Light Horseman: “Bright Morning Stars” (Feat. Justin Vernon)

David Bowie: “Stay ‘97”

Drug Church: “Bliss Out”

Cage The Elephant: “Broken Boy” (Feat. Iggy Pop)

Diane Coffee: “The Letdown”

Endless Boogie: “Jerome” (Feat. Stephen Malkmus and Matt Sweeney)

FACS: “Teenage Hive”

Four Tet: “Baby” (Feat. Ellie Goulding)

Ezra Furman: “Every Feeling”

Chloe Kae: “Misconception” and “Recluse”

Lala Lala: “Legs, Run”

Megan Thee Stallion: “B.I.T.C.H.”

Midwife: “Anyone Can Play Guitar”

mxmtoon: “fever dream”

Phantom Posse: “It’s All You” (Feat. Vagabon’s Laetitia Tamko & GABI)

POLIÇA: “Sea Without Blue”

Porches: “Do U Wanna”

Rosalía: “Juro Que”

Snarls: “Marbles”

Tennis: “How to Forgive”

Too Free: “No Fun”

TOPS: “I Feel Alive”

Vagabon: “The Wild”

Warpaint: “The Brakes”

Hilary Woods: “Tongues of Wild Boar”

Worriers: “Terrible Boyfriend”

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