10 Best Songs of the Week: Metronomy, Spoon, The War on Drugs, SASAMI, 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: Metronomy, Spoon, The War on Drugs, SASAMI, and More

Plus Ibibio Sound Machine, Yard Act, Midnight Oil, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Oct 29, 2021
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Welcome to the 41st Songs of the Week of 2021. It may be Halloween on Sunday, but there weren’t any particularly spooky new songs this week.

In the last week we posted interviews with John Linnell of They Might Be Giants, Mick Quinn of Supergrass, Shana Cleveland of La Luz, Trevor Terndrup of Moon Taxi and Guy Lawrence of Disclosure (in an article about how to be a sustainable musician), and Marissa Nadler.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums.

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, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last seven days. Check out the full list below.

1. Metronomy: “It’s good to be back”

On Wednesday, Metronomy announced the release of a new album, Small World, which will be out on February 18, 2022 via Because Music. The band also shared an amusing video for their equally fun new single, “It’s good to be back.” Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Frontman Joseph Mount speaks about the inspiration behind the new song’s title in a press release: “Part of me was thinking, ‘what is the lamest platitude people are going to be saying coming out of the past two years?,’ but at the same time, I was thinking how it will be true and how it might feel doing things again.”

He adds: “I’ve been remembering what it was like as a kid when I’d be sitting in the backseat of my parents’ car and they’d be playing their music and I’d think ‘this is awful,’ but there’d be one or two songs I would like. I thought it would be fun to make that kind of album, and this is the song the kids might like. This is the ‘cool’ song.”

Last month, the band surprise-released the EP Posse EP Volume 1. By Joey Arnone

2. Spoon: “The Hardest Cut”

Yesterday, Spoon announced the release of their 10th studio album, Lucifer on the Sofa, which will be out on February 11, 2022 via Matador. They also shared a video for the album’s lead single, “The Hardest Cut.” Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Frontman Britt Daniel speaks about the new album in a press release: “It’s the sound of classic rock as written by a guy who never did get Eric Clapton.” Lucifer on the Sofa was co-produced by Spoon alongside Mark Rankin, featuring additional contributions from Dave Fridmann and Justin Raisen.

The band’s most recent studio album, Hot Thoughts, came out in 2017 via Matador. By Joey Arnone

3. The War on Drugs: “Change”

The War on Drugs released a new album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore, today via Atlantic. On Tuesday, they shared its third and final pre-release single, “Change.” The six-minute song is about how hard it can be to truly change and move forward.

Previously The War on Drugs shared the album’s first single, album opener “Living Proof,” via a video for it. “Living Proof” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then they remotely performed “Living Proof” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Then The War on Drugs shared shared its second single, “I Don’t Live Here Anymore,” which features backing vocals from Lucius and has a big bold 1980s rock sound. It was shared via a music video and was also #1 on our Songs of the Week list.

I Don’t Live Here Anymore is the follow-up to 2017’s A Deeper Understanding (which won the 2018 Grammy for Best Rock Album and was our #1 album of 2017), although in 2020 they released a live album, simply titled LIVE DRUGS, via frontman Adam Granduciel’s own Super High Quality Records.

Sessions for the album began in early 2018, when Granduciel, bassist Dave Hartley, and multi-instrumentalist Anthony LaMarca recorded some demos in Upstate New York, including early versions of some of the songs on I Don’t Live Here Anymore. But the album was recorded during more than 12 sessions, in seven studios (including Electric Lady in New York and Los Angeles’ Sound City), and over three years, with co-producer/engineer Shawn Everett helping to guide the ship. “Living Proof” was recorded in May 2019 at Los Angeles’ Electro-Vox studios with the band’s entire lineup—with the aforementioned members joined by keyboardist Robbie Bennett, drummer Charlie Hall, and saxophonist Jon Natchez. A press release says that Granduciel puts War on Drugs records together “like a kind of rock ‘n’ roll jigsaw puzzle.”

Read our review of A Deeper Understanding here.

Read our interview with the band about making A Deeper Understanding.

Read our interview with Adam Granduciel on recording A Deeper Understanding. By Mark Redfern

4. SASAMI: “The Greatest”

On Tuesday, SASAMI (aka Los Angeles-based musician Sasami Ashworth) announced the release of a new album titled Squeeze. It will be out on February 25 via Domino. Ashworth also shared videos for two new singles: “The Greatest” and “Skin a Rat,” and announced a headlining U.S. tour for 2022. Jennifer Juniper Stratford directed the video for “The Greatest” and Andrew Thomas Huang (FKA twigs, Björk) shot the album’s cover art. Check out the album’s tracklist/cover and list of tour dates here. “The Greatest,” which is a bit more inline with Ashworth’s previous work, makes the main Top 10 list. The heavier “Skin a Rat” can be found further below in the list of songs that also came out this wee

Regarding the new song, Ashworth states in a press release: “This song is about how often the greatest, heaviest feelings we have for someone are in the absence of the realization or reciprocation of that love. Like power born out of a black hole. All fantasy.”

The single was produced by Ashworth along with the rest of the album, which also features production from a handful of contributors, including Ty Segall, Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy, and King Tuff’s Kyle Thomas.

Ashworth’s self-titled debut album, SASAMI, came out in 2019 via Domino. Read our interview with her on the album. By Joey Arnone

5. Ibibio Sound Machine: “Electricity”

On Tuesday, English electronic Afro-funk band Ibibio Sound Machine shared their new single, “Electricity,” a collaboration with Hot Chip. The band also announced U.K. tour dates for 2022. Check out the full list of dates here.

Frontwoman Eno Williams states in a press release: “Even in trying times, ‘without love, there’s no electricity.’ This one started out as an idea to mix Afrobeat with Giorgio Moroder–style synth vibes. The end section with Alfred’s korego [Ghanaian two-stringed folk guitar] solo was already there when we got into the studio, but then we added the big kick drum that happens underneath and Owen from Hot Chip’s crazy drum machine percussion at the end, which gave it a futuristic Afro feel when mixed with the more talking drum parts.”

The band’s most recent album, Doko Mien, came out in 2019 via Merge. By Joey Arnone

6. Yard Act: “Land of the Blind”

Yesterday, English post-punk group Yard Act shared a video for their new song “Land of the Blind.” It is the latest release from their forthcoming studio album, The Overload, which will be out on January 7, 2022 via Island/Zen F.C. Check out a new list of tour dates for the band here.

Frontman James Smith elaborates on the new song in a press release: “‘Land of the Blind’ is a song about the art of illusion, and how self-confidence can really inspire conviction in a trick. Confidence is such a powerful tool and we are so often willing to believe what we are told by the most confident people in the room because the alternative of doubting them is to exhaust ourselves laboring the point by trying to talk louder than them. Nobody wants that. Most people just want to get on with enjoying their short lives with as little stress as they possibly can. So, exhausting as it still is, closing your eyes whilst you let the mad bastards do their stupid tricks often seems the most reasonable price to pay.”

He adds, regarding the video: “I had the idea for a music video in which a magician does tricks but everybody keeps applauding. I thought it was too on the nose to be a decent satire but I’ve been subtle in the past and nobody has picked up on it so this time I thought we would just be blunt. James [Slater] developed the idea and came up with the concept of the magician holding the cafe hostage via hypnosis. It was such a laugh to film. James’ style of directing and the can-do approach that the producers Rosie and Jack have toward making our ideas come to life is everything. In the pub after the shoot, Jack said to me, ‘How ace is it that we get to make fun stuff like this for a job?’ and I couldn’t agree more. What a daft world we live in eh?”

Upon announcement of the album last month, the band shared the song “The Overload,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. By Joey Arnone

7. Midnight Oil: “Rising Seas”

Yesterday, Midnight Oil shared a video for their new song “Rising Seas,” which addresses climate change and is being released mere days before the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

According to a press release, the song is intended to “add the band’s unique voice to billions of others around the world seeking a safe, habitable, and fair future for our planet.”

Last year, the band shared the song “Gadigal Land,” their first new song in 17 years. By Joey Arnone

8. Midlake: “Meanwhile…”

On Monday, Midlake announced the release of their first new studio album in over eight years, For the Sake of Bethel Woods. It will be out on March 18, 2022 via ATO. The band also shared a lyric video for a new song titled “Meanwhile…,” the first song release from the album. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

“‘Meanwhile…’ is a song referencing the time in between what transpired leading up to our hiatus in ’14, and what inspired us to reconvene in ’20,” states frontman Eric Pulido in a press release. “The former being an unhealthy and unsustainable place that called for pause and the latter a serendipitous visit from Jesse’s late father [Dave Chandler, depicted on the album cover] in a dream encouraging him to reunite with the band. Everyone had their respective experience during the uncertain time apart culminating in a confident and celebratory return to form.”

For the Sake of Bethel Woods was produced, engineered, and mixed by John Congleton (St. Vincent, Explosions in the Sky, Sharon Van Etten). The album’s cover art features a reproduction of an image of keyboardist Jesse Chandler’s father designed by visual artist Brian Lotti.

Chandler states: “At age 16, my father and his friend hitchhiked from Ridgewood, NJ to the Woodstock festival in 1969. This image of him with his hand to his face appears in the 1970 Woodstock documentary, as the camera pans across the crowd during John Sebastian’s set. My father actually ended up moving to Woodstock, NY—where I grew up—in 1981. For me, the picture of that kid, my dad, forever frozen in time, encapsulates what it means to be in the throes of impressionable and fleeting youth, and all that the magic of music, peace, love, and communion bring to it, whether one knows it at the time or not. (I think he knew it).”

The band’s last album, Antiphon, came out in 2013 via ATO. By Joey Arnone

9. Strawberry Guy: “I’ll Be There”

Singer/songwriter Alex Stephens first cut his teeth playing keyboards for The Orielles and Trudy & The Romance, but recently he’s been crafting solo pop symphonies from his Liverpool bedroom. Today, Stephens shares his debut album as Strawberry Guy, Sun Outside My Window, his steadfastly optimistic lockdown record. Ahead of the release on Tuesday, he shared a final taste of the album, “I’ll Be There,” premiering with Under the Radar.

Like much of the record, “I’ll Be There” is a slow-burning work of sweeping romantic beauty. Taking inspirations from both pop and classical music, Stephens’ latest effort captures a crystalline moment in time, one of hope and new beginnings. The swelling strings, sparse piano lines, and cathartic melodies create an expansive sense of scale as Stephen’s lyrics find him reflective and hopeful for what the future brings. The resulting track is beautiful, warm, and life-affirming, like seeing the light of a new day streaming through your window.

As Stephens explains, “‘I’ll Be There’ is a love song really, it’s about me regaining my confidence in a romantic way again. The song starts with me feeling unsure of myself, but it’s behind me now.

“I was really inspired by ‘Venus, The Bringer of Peace’ by Gustav Holst, especially when it gets to the middle section or after the second chorus. I wanted to create this feeling of being swept up off your feet through music here.

“There’s no drums keeping the time in the track, just symbol crashes. I wanted to create a sense of rhythmic freedom. Just like the way an orchestra plays with sparse or little percussion.”

Sun Outside My Window came out today via Melodic. By Caleb Campbell

10. Penelope Isles: “Terrified”

British sibling duo Penelope Isles (Lily and Jack Wolter) are releasing a new album, Which Way to Happy, on November 5 via Bella Union. On Tuesday, they shared the album’s fourth and final pre-release single, “Terrified.”

Jack Wolter had this to say about the song in a press release: “It’s about those days when you’re dying inside but have to pop out to the shop, bumping into someone, having to put on a magic show, pretending to appear that everything is OK. It’s a song that has such a happy-fun-summery exterior but lyrically is totally the opposite. It’s one of self-doubt, displacement and finding something really terrifying to handle. Sometimes we hide a lot behind ourselves. ‘Terrified’ was an outlet for me to be able to tackle scary thoughts and worries in more of an abstract way. Things can seem impossible to talk about and articulate sometimes. I feel that making this album has enabled me and my sister Lily to open up a lot more and be honest with our songs as it just makes them so much more real.”

Which Way to Happy is the band’s sophomore album and follows their debut album, Until the Tide Creeps In, released in 2019 also via Bella Union. Jack produced the album, which was mixed by Dave Fridmann. New backing band members Henry Nicholson, Joe Taylor, and Hannah Feenstra all contributed to the recording of Which Way to Happy, as did composer Fiona Brice.

As the pandemic took hold, Jack and Lily decamped to a cottage in Cornwall to begin writing and recording the album.

“We were there for about two or three months,” says Jack in a press release. “It was a tiny cottage and we all went a bit bonkers, and we drank far too much, and it spiraled a bit out of control. There were a lot of emotional evenings and realizations, which I think reflects in the songs. Writing and recording new music was a huge part of the recovery process for all of us.”

The album includes “Sailing Still,” a new song the band shared in July via a video directed by Jack and starring Lily. “Sailing Still” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then when the album was announced they shared its second single, “Iced Gems,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared the album’s third single, “Sudoku,” via a video for the track (which also landed on Songs of the Week).

Earlier this year Lily (under her alter-ego KookieLou) sang guest vocals on the Lost Horizons song “Heart of a Hummingbird,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.

Read our interview with Penelope Isles on Until the Tide Creeps In. By Mark Redfern

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 10.

CHVRCHES: “Bitter End”

Elvis Costello & The Imposters: “Magnificent Hurt”

Irreversible Entanglements: “Keys to Creation”

Lionlimb: “Gone”

Tasha: “Bed Song 1”

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

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Aminé: “Charmander”

Bat Fangs: “Talk Tough”

Beach Bunny: “Oxygen”

Benee: “Doesn’t Matter”

Blue States: “Warning Signs”

CHVRCHES: “Killer” and “Screaming”

EELS: “Steam Engine”

Jake Xerxes Fussell: “Love Farewell”

The High Water Marks: “Proclaimer of Things”

Hooray for the Riff Raff: “RHODODENDRON”

Japanese Breakfast: “Say It Ain’t So” (Live Weezer Cover)

Jlin, Fitz Fonzarelli & Cap Productions: “Loc’d & Ready”

Jessy Lanza: “Seven 55” (Feat. Lorraine James)

Le Pain: “Obvious to You”

ME REX: “Never Graduate”


Anaïs Mitchell: “Bright Star”

Nisa: “Cold”

Nylon Smile: “Rumor”

Kelly Lee Owens: “Unity”

SASAMI: “Skin a Rat”

She & Him: “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” (Perry Como and The Fontane Sisters with Mitchell Ayres & His Orchestra Cover)

Slow Pulp: “Shatter”

Snail Mail: “Madonna”

Stealing Sheep and The Radiophonic Workshop: “The Purge”

Hana Vu: “Gutter”

Wolf Alice: “Bobby” (Live Alex G Cover)

Neil Young & Crazy Horse: “Heading West”

Classic Song of the Week:

Clearlake: “Almost the Same” and “Winterlight”

This week we’ve got two classics, both by the Brighton, England band Clearlake. Whatever happened to them? They put out three great albums in the early 2000s and were signed to the fantastic British label Domino. Their sophomore album, 2003’s Cedars, garnered a rave 9.1 Best New Music review from Pitchfork (and a nice interview in our print magazine), but they haven’t released an album since 2006’s third full-length, Amber. Wikipedia lists them as inactive since 2009, but doesn’t say they ever officially broke up. Perhaps Clearlake will return one day, as many bands seem to do. But it’s likely many current listeners haven’t heard them before. Here’s “Almost the Same,” the propulsive lead singer and opening track to Cedars, and “Winterlight,” the majestic seven-minute closing track to their 2001-released debut album, Lido.

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