10 Best Songs of the Week: Yard Act, Grandaddy, bar Italia, Wings of Desire, and More | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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10 Best Songs of the Week: Yard Act, Grandaddy, bar Italia, Wings of Desire, and More

Plus Future Islands, Charly Bliss, Girl Ray, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Oct 27, 2023
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Welcome to the 35th Songs of the Week of 2023. This week Andy Von Pip, Caleb Campbell, and Scott Dransfield, all helped me decide what should make the list. We settled on a Top 10 this week.

In the past week or so we also posted interviews with Thurston Moore, Duran Duran, Viji, Alan Palomo, Indigo De Souza, Squirrel Flower, and others.

In the last week we reviewed some albums.

Remember that we previously announced our new print issue, Issue 71 with Weyes Blood and Black Belt Eagle Scout on the covers.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 12 best the last week had to offer, followed by some honorable mentions. Check out the full list below.

1. Yard Act: “Dream Job”

On Wednesday, British post-punk band Yard Act announced a new album, Where’s My Utopia?, and shared a new song from it, “Dream Job,” via a music video. They also announced some 2024 tour dates. Where’s My Utopia? is due out March 1, 2024 via Republic. Regular Yard Act collaborator James Slater directed the “Dream Job” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.

Where’s My Utopia? is Yard Act’s second album, the follow-up to their acclaimed Mercury Prize-nominated debut album, 2022’s The Overload.

Where’s My Utopia? includes “The Trench Coat Museum,” a new eight-minute song the band shared in July that landed at #1 on our Songs of the Week list.

Like that song, “Dream Job” is less post-punk and more finds the band embracing an upbeat dance-rock vibe. It’s something frontman James Smith says carries across the whole album.

“The main reason that ‘post-punk’ was the vehicle for album one was because it was really affordable to do, but we always liked so much other music and this time we’ve had the confidence to embrace it,” he explains in a press release.

The press release lists Fela Kuti, Ennio Moricone, and Spiller’s 2000-released single “Groovejet” as influences on the new album. Remi Kabaka Jr. of Gorillaz co-produced the album with Yard Act. The band also features bassist Ryan Needham, guitarist Sam Shjipstone, and drummer Jay Russell.

Smith says that “Dream Job” “feels like an apt introduction to the themes explored on Where’s My Utopia?—though not all encompassing. In part, I was scrutinizing and mocking myself for being a moaning ungrateful little brat, whilst also trying to address how the music industry is this rather uncontrollable beast that hurtles forward unthinkingly and every single person involved in it plays their part. Myself included, obviously. As with pretty much everything else going through my head last year, trying to find the right time to articulate the complexity of emotions I was feeling and the severity to which I was feeling them couldn’t be found - or accommodated, so instead I tried to capture it in a pop song that lasts less than three minutes once the fog had cleared a bit. It’s good and bad. I’m still glad that everything that happened to me happened.”

For the new album, Smith says he has reached deeper inside himself for lyrical inspiration, relying less on the character studies that populated the songs on The Overload. “You can commit to the idea that we’re just animals who eat and fuck and then we die, and that’s fine,” he says. “But for me, creativity always seems to be the best way of articulating the absolute minefield of what human existence is.”

Read our print magazine interview with Yard Act on The Overload.

Read our rave 9/10 review of The Overload. By Mark Redfern

2. Grandaddy: “Watercooler”

On Wednesday, Grandaddy announced a new album, Blu Wav, and shared its first single, “Watercooler,” via a music video. Blu Wav is due out February 16, 2024 via Dangerbird. Aaron Beckum directed the “Watercooler” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

Grandaddy’s frontman Jason Lytle had this to say about “Watercooler” in a press release: “Most of my relationships have involved girls who worked in office settings. This song is about the end of one, or perhaps a few, of those relationships. Listeners will also notice the pedal steel on this track and eventually on many others from the forthcoming new album. It’s a first for Grandaddy, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about this fact.”

The album’s title Blu Wav is a mash-up of “bluegrass” and “New Wave,” as the new album tries to combine the lyrics associated with bluegrass waltz’s with the synthesizers and electronic sounds of ’80s New Wave, with the latter being more in Grandaddy’s wheelhouse. This came about when Lytle discovered a classic country radio station while driving through the Nevada desert and heard Patti Page’s “Tennessee Waltz” and wondered what it sound like in more of a Grandaddy style. “There’s an inordinate amount of pedal steel [on the new album],” says Lytle.

In 2017 Grandaddy released their comeback album, Last Place, which was their first album in 11 years, since 2006’s Just Like the Fambly Cat. Blu Wav is their first new album since Last Place, but they’ve been busy with archival releases since then.

Earlier this year they released Sumday Twunny, a 20th anniversary box set reissue of their 2003 album, Sumday, which included Sumday: The Cassette Demos and Sumday: Excess Baggage, a 13-song collection of rarities and B-Sides that was also released separately.

In 2020, Grandaddy released a 20th anniversary reissue of The Sophtware Slump, which included a solo piano version of the album played by Lytle.

Grandaddy were on the cover of Under the Radar’s very first print issue, in 2001, in which we interviewed them about The Sophtware Slump.

Grandaddy also features Aaron Burtch, Jim Fairchild, and Tim Dryden. The band’s Kevin Garcia passed away in 2017.

Read our 2017 interview with Grandaddy about Last Place.

Grandaddy also contributed to our Covers of Covers 20th anniversary album, where they covered Metric’s “Blindness.”

We also interviewed Grandaddy for our 20th Anniversary Issue and you can read that article here. By Mark Redfern

3. bar italia: “worlds greatest emoter”

London post-punk trio bar italia are releasing a new album, The Twits, their second album of 2023, on November 3 via Matador. Yesterday they shared its third single, “worlds greatest emoter,” via a music video.

Previously bar italia shared the album’s first single, “my little tony,” via a music video. “My little tony” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared its second single, “Jelsy,” via a music video. It was #1 on our Songs of the Week list.

The Twits quickly follows Tracey Denim, a new album the band released in May via Matador (it was the band’s first for the iconic label).

The band features Nina Cristante, Jezmi Tarik Fehmi, and Sam Fenton. The trio recorded the album over the course of eight weeks, starting in February 2023. They recorded in a makeshift home studio in Mallorca, Spain. Marta Salogni mixed the album.

Prior to Tracey Denim, the band released two albums, an EP, and several singles over the last two years on Dean Blunt’s World Music label. By Mark Redfern

4. Wings of Desire: “Chance of a Lifetime”

British duo Wings of Desire (Chloe Little and James Taylor) are releasing a new singles collection, Life Is Infinite, on December 8 via WMD Records. On Wednesday, they shared two new songs from it, “Chance of a Lifetime” and “I Will Try My Best,” the former via a music video. “Chance of a Lifetime” was our favorite of the two songs.

Of “Chance of a Lifetime” the band collectively had this to say in a press release: “We are yearning for something deeper, wanting to jump off the conveyor belt of life and prepare ourselves for the uncomfortable truth that we’ve never truly known what it is to live. We are not claiming to have the answer, but if we can inspire a conversation or spark the listeners imagination then we are one step closer to the realisation that there is much more to living than we can consider tangible.”

Life Is Infinite is not a debut album, but instead “collects together the formative tracks of their opening era,” according to a press release.

When it was announced, the band shared two new songs from it—“A Gun in Every Home” and “001 [Tame the War, Feed the Fire]”—as well as a live video for the former song. “001 [Tame the War, Feed the Fire]” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Life Is Infinite includes two new songs—“Made of Love” and “Be Here Now”—the band shared in August. The latter is not an Oasis cover, but it did make our Songs of the Week list.

Life Is Infinite also features “Runnin’,” a new song the band released in January that was one of our Songs of the Week, and “Choose a Life,” a new song the band shared last year that was also one of our Songs of the Week.

In 2021, Wings of Desire released the EP Amun-Ra.

Pick up our current print issue, Issue 71, to read our Pleased to Meet You interview with Wings of Desire. By Mark Redfern

5. Future Islands: “The Tower”

On Tuesday, Future Islands announced a new album, People Who Aren’t There Anymore, and shared a new song from it, “The Tower,” via a music video. People Who Aren’t There Anymore is due out January 26, 2024 via 4AD. Jonathan Van Tulleken directed the attmospheric video for “The Tower,” which features the band on a beach, by a lighthouse. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

Future Islands co-produced People Who Aren’t There Anymore with Steve Wright, who also mixed the album with Chris Coady. Future Islands is Samuel T. Herring (vocals, lyrics), William Cashion (bass, guitars), Gerrit Welmers (keyboards, programming), and Michael Lowry (drums).

People Who Aren’t There Anymore includes three previously shared singles. “Peach” was released in 2021. “King of Sweden” came out in 2022 and the band performed it on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “Deep in the Night” was shared in August via a music video and it was one of our Songs of the Week.

Tulleken, the director of The Tower video, previously worked with Herring on the recent Apple TV+ series The Changeling, which Herring acted in.

In a press release, Tulleken had this to say about directing the video: “Anyone who’s seen Sam on stage shape shift with his whole body and voice from heart wrenchingly tender to fantastically ferocious knows that he is a truly, magnetic, performer. This was no small reason why he was cast for a role in The Changeling where he plays a complex character who appears to be one thing whilst actually another. It was a role that would be no easy task for even the most seasoned actor but Sam, applying all his stage craft, charisma, smarts and natural empathy, absolutely nailed it producing a riveting performance. I loved working with someone who came to acting via this persona they had built in their music. To then get to collaborate on a music video with the band was a delight especially one which explores that duality of light and dark literally and metaphorically. Finding that same captivating, haunting, performance but this time with the track as script.”

The band’s last album was 2020’s As Long As You Are, which made it to #17 on our Top 100 Albums of 2020 list.

Read our interview with Future Islands on As Long As You Are.

In 2022 the band also shared a cover of Wham!’s “Last Christmas.”

Read our 2014 cover story article on Future Islands. By Mark Redfern

6. Charly Bliss: “I Need a New Boyfriend”

On Tuesday, Charly Bliss shared a new song, “I Need a New Boyfriend,” via an amusing music video. They have also launched a dating site of sorts so that their fans can find a new boyfriend (or girlfriend). Go to Bliss-Finder.com to meet the Charly Bliss fan of your dreams. “I Need a New Boyfriend” is out now via Lucky Number. The band’s Dan Shure directed the song’s video.

“I think the best breakup songs are celebratory. Thankfully, decades of dating the wrong people has prepared me to write the emo, palm-muted breakup song of my dreams,” explains Charly Bliss singer Eva Hendricks in a press release. “I was in Australia when Dan had the idea for this video, so we had to create a fictional Bliss Bar where we could all be together for Speed Dating Night. I bought the entire clay aisle of our local craft store and had a lot of fun creating a miniature version of the set that we could all be green screened into. Dan is the world’s best director and editor and did an incredible job pulling everything together. Please contact CB Worldwide if you believe you may be entitled to a new boyfriend.”

Charly Bliss also features Sam Hendricks and Spencer Fo.

In June they released another new song, “You Don’t Even Know Me Anymore.”

The new songs follows their 2019 album, Young Enough, and 2019 EP, Supermoon.

Young Enough was picked as our Album of the Week. By Mark Redfern

7. Girl Ray: “Hurt So Bad”

On Wednesday, London trio Girl Ray shared a new song, “Hurt So Bad,” which was recorded with Al Doyle and Joe Goddard of Hot Chip. It follows Prestige, a new album they released in August via Moshi Moshi.

Girl Ray are Poppy Hankin, Iris McConnell, and Sophie Moss.

The band collectively had this to say about the song in a statement on Bandcamp: “‘Hurt So Bad’ was written during the pandemic, when I was working on writing our third album and still deciding what the feel of it would be. Initially I thought that a more electronic/house inspired sound would be a good fit for us, and with ‘Give Me Your Love’ and ‘Hurt So Bad’ demoed, we visited Al Doyle and Joe Goddard’s studio near Brick Lane to flesh them out. They were a great match for the songs, and we loved playing with their mountains of rare synths. Although our album ended up being more live, I think you can still hear the beginnings of our disco inspiration in this track.”

Ben H Allen (Gnarls Barkley, Animal Collective, MIA, Belle & Sebastian) produced Prestige.

The album includes “Everybody’s Saying That,” a new song Girl Ray shared in February via a music video (it was one of our Songs of the Week). In 2021, the trio shared the album’s closing track, “Give Me Your Love,” which was produced by Joe Goddard and Al Doyle from Hot Chip and was also one of our Songs of the Week. When Prestige was announced in April they shared another new song from it, “Hold Tight,” via an amusing music video. “Hold Tight” was again one of our Songs of the Week. May saw the release of the album’s next single, “Up,” once again one of our Songs of the Week. Then shared another new song from it, “Love Is Enough,” via a music video featuring the band dressed in black suits performing the song by the River Thames in London.

Also in 2021, they shared a cover of Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s 2001 song “Murder on the Dancefloor,” via a music video.

The trio also took part in our 20th Anniversary Covers of Covers album, covering HAIM’s “Another Try.”

Their previous recent album, Girl, came out in 2019 via Moshi Moshi.

In 2020 we posted a mini-documentary on Girl Ray, where we visited their home studio. Watch the James Loveday-directed film here.

Also read our My Firsts interview with the band from 2019.

Girl was the follow-up to their 2017-released debut album, Earl Grey (it was our Album of the Week and #3 on our Top 15 Debut Albums of 2017 list).

Read our Pleased to Meet You interview with Girl Ray and check out our exclusive photo shoot with the band. By Mark Redfern

8. Everything Everything: “Cold Reactor”

Yesterday, British art-rockers Everything Everything announced a new album, Mountainhead, and shared its first single, “Cold Reactor,” via a music video. They have also announced some UK tour dates. Mountainhead is due out March 1, 2024 via BMG. Kit Monteith directed the “Cold Reactor” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the tour dates, here.

Everything Everything features frontman Jonathan Higgs, Jeremy Pritchard (bass, keyboards), Michael Spearman (drums), and Alex Robertshaw (lead guitar, keyboards). Mountainhead is the quick follow-up to 2022’s Raw Data Feel, which was an album created with the assistance of articial intelligence (AI). Robertshaw produced Mountainhead with his production partner Tom Fuller.

Explaining the themes behind the album and its title, Higgs had this to say in a press release: “In another world, society has built an immense mountain. To make the mountain bigger, they must make the hole they live in deeper and deeper. All of society is built around the creation of the mountain, and a mountain religion dominates all thought. At the top of the mountain is rumored to be a huge mirror that reflects endlessly recurring images of the self, and at the bottom of the pit is a giant golden snake that is the primal fear of all believers. A ‘Mountainhead’ is one who believes the mountain must grow no matter the cost, and no matter how terrible it is to dwell in the great pit. The taller the mountain, the deeper the hole.”

Of the new single, Higgs says: “‘Cold Reactor’ is about striving for an advanced future and exponential growth at the cost of our own personal worlds and mental wellbeing. Lives lived through screens and isolation, leading to disconnected and emotionless reactions in the form of symbols.”

Read our My Firsts interview with Everything Everything for 2022.

Check out the fourth episode of our Under the Radar podcast, where we speak to Jonathan Higgs.

Read our COVID-19 Quarantine Check-In interview with Higgs. By Mark Redfern

9. Lila Blue: “Changeling”

Indie singer/songwriter Lila Blue is set to return next month with their fourth full-length album, Sweet Pea, out November 10th. Taking its title from Blue’s childhood nickname and birth flower, the album meditates on coming of age, healing, and transformation, tracing their path from childhood performer to fully-formed singer/songwriter. As they explain, “I felt like I’d been writing to an ‘other,’ without realizing that ‘other’ is the person I wanted to become. I’ve been actualizing my own healing, manifesting the person I am today.”

They have already shared the album’s title track and another new single, “There is a Drought,” and on Tuesday they followed with another release, “Changeling,” premiering with Under the Radar.

“Changeling” coats Blue in tension and simmering shadows, with snaking strings and elliptical guitar lines encircling the track’s centerpiece—Blue’s passionate vocal performance. Their vocals stretch, howl, and soar, feeling glassy and longing as they reach for the high notes while remaining rich and resonant in their lower register. Even with a relatively subdued and acoustic instrumental palette, the track has a sense of galloping momentum, with Blue’s lyrics tumbling out in a confessional rush up until the track’s very last moments.

Meanwhile, their lyrics explore equally confessional territory, colored by Blue’s embrace of their identity as a non-binary and queer person. The track reflects on the discord between Blue’s inner self and their physical reality. They sing, “Sometimes I feel like a changeling / There’s a spirit in my skin / That comes from the insides of another / That I’ve never lived in, never lived in / My tongue is dipped in shadow / Wherever I spit darkness comes / I am the opposite of a maker / I am, I am the undone.”

Blue explains of the track, “‘Changeling’ came out through reading and being deeply inspired by Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi and Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov. Both had characters who were navigating sensations of moving through the world in bodies which did not feel like their own; a skin which contained multiple selves, and not all of those selves benevolent to the flesh they had to live in. As someone who has moved through dysphoria their whole life without words for it until recently, and has at many junctures felt as if my body and self are worlds apart from each other, these stories planted a seed that eventually became ‘Changeling.’”

Sweet Pea is out November 10th via MOXE. By Caleb Campbell

10. Chelsea Wolfe: “Whispers in the Echo Chamber”

On Tuesday, Chelsea Wolfe announced a new album, She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She, and shared a new song from it, “Whispers in the Echo Chamber,” via a music video. She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She is due out February 9, 2024 on Loma Vista. George Gallardo Kattah directed the “Whispers in the Echo Chamber” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as Wolfe’s upcoming tour dates, here.

The “Whispers in the Echo Chamber” video was filmed in Colombia. Wolfe had this to say about it in a press release: “This video feels like a love story between myself and my sleep paralysis entity, who, for the sake of this video, represents a calm inner voice cutting through mental chatter and anxiety to help guide me towards a more authentic path. From the inward to the outward, this entity shows me the expansiveness of new possibilities, if only I’ll take the first difficult steps.”

She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She includes “Dusk,” a new song Wolfe shared in September.

For the album Wolfe worked on songs with her regular collaborators—multi-instrumentalist Ben Chisholm, drummer Jess Gowrie, and guitarist Bryan Tulao—and then producer Dave Andrew Sitek got involved in early 2022. Shawn Everett mixed the album, which was mastered by engineer Heba Kadry.

Of the album, Wolfe says: “It’s a record about the past self reaching out to the present self reaching out to the future self to summon change, growth, and guidance. It’s a story of freeing yourself from situations and patterns that are holding you back in order to become self-empowered. It’s an invitation to step into your authenticity.”

Wolfe’s most recent solo studio album, Birth of Violence, was released in 2019. In 2022 she worked on the soundtrack for the A24 film X.

In 2021, Wolfe shared a new song inspired by Wonder Woman, the fittingly titled “Diana” (which is the superhero’s birthname). It was taken from Dark Nights: Death Metal Soundtrack, which is a soundtrack to the DC Comics series Dark Nights: Death Metal, and came out via Loma Vista. Wolfe also voiced Wonder Woman in some online animated shorts connected to the soundtrack. “Diana” was one of our Songs of the Week. By Mark Redfern

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 10.

Black Honey: “Lemonade”

HEALTH: “ASHAMED (OF BEING BORN)”

The Kills: “Wasterpiece”

serpentwithfeet: “Damn Gloves” (Feat. Ty Dolla $ign)

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

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