11 Best Songs of the Week: IAN SWEET, Yumi Zouma, Sufjan Stevens, Wilco, Vagabon, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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11 Best Songs of the Week: IAN SWEET, Yumi Zouma, Sufjan Stevens, Wilco, Vagabon, and More

Plus Lol Tolhurst x Budgie x Jacknife Lee, Steven Wilson, The Big Moon, Wild Nothing, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Sep 15, 2023 Bookmark and Share


Welcome to the 29th Songs of the Week of 2023. This week’s selections come from artists hailing from across the globe: New Zealand, England, Finland, Israel, and of course America.

In the past week or so we posted interviews with Worriers, Coach Party, Grian Chatten, Steven Wilson, Michael Dinner (showrunner of Justified: City Primeval), 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 11 best the last week had to offer, followed by some honorable mentions. Check out the full list below.

1. IAN SWEET: “Emergency Contact”

IAN SWEET (the project of Jilian Medford) is releasing a new album, SUCKER, on November 3 via Polyvinyl. Yesterday, she shared the album’s second single, “Emergency Contact,” via a music video. Brittany Reeber directed the video, which features Saturday Night Live’s Martin Herlihy. Check out IAN SWEET’s upcoming tour dates here.

Previously Medford shared the album’s first single, “Your Spit.”

Medford had this to say about the new song in a press release: “‘Emergency Contact’ is biting and sarcastic at its core. It’s a protection song to myself mostly. Trying to convince myself that I didn’t really want what I had lost in the first place as a way of coping with the outcome. The video we made for it is one of my favorite IAN SWEET videos ever (especially since it ties in with the ‘Your Spit’ video as well). I wanted to represent the humor that often goes hand in hand with deep sadness. In the video Martin (who plays the director) keeps quickly snapping me out of those deep dark moments and pushing my buttons to try to get a rise out of me so in turn I’ll put on the best performance possible.”

Reeber had this to say about directing the video: “A long time fan of Jilian’s work, I was really thrilled to be asked to collaborate and even more stoked when I realized that she was down to be funny. ‘Emergency Contact’ is probably my favorite track on the new record. It’s gut wrenching. So it felt most true to lean into a concept that played with the self-serious nature of a ballad. We also wanted to make something that would connect thematically to ‘Your Spit’ so we built a concept around a film set (the film you see screening in the movie theatre) and cast Martin Herlihy of SNL to play Jilian’s overbearing, maniacal director.”

SUCKER is the follow-up to 2021’s Show Me How You Disappear and 2022’s Star Stuff EP.

Medford says Show Me How You Disappear “was written during a really difficult period of my life after reckoning with a mental health crisis. I survived that very moment in my life through writing that record, and the extreme urgency to heal is reflected in the songwriting. With SUCKER, I felt more capable to take my time and experiment without being totally afraid of the outcome. It wasn’t life or death—it was just life, and I was lucky to be living it.”

SUCKER was co-produced by Alex Craig (Binki, Claud) and Isaac Eiger of Strange Ranger and was mixed by Al Carlson (St. Vincent, Jessica Pratt).

“I revisited the reasons why I started playing music to begin with,” Medford says. “I wanted to get more personal and showcase a more confident side musically and lyrically.”

Check out our COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In with Medford.

2. Yumi Zouma: “KPR”

On Wednesday, New Zealand alt-pop group Yumi Zouma shared a new song, “KPR,” via a music video directed by the band. The band say its first single from an upcoming EP (details of which are TBA). Yumi Zouma are touring North America this fall. Check out the tour dates here.

The band’s last album, Present Tense, came out in 2022 via Polyvinyl. The band features Christie Simpson, Josh Burgess, Charlie Ryder, and Olivia Campion.

The band collectively had this to say about “KPR” in a press release: “All four of us are New Zealanders, but we live between NZ, the US, and the UK, which makes it difficult to spend time physically together. This was a particular challenge during the pandemic, which made the creation of our last album Present Tense a fully remote process. However, last year, we played over 70 shows in 13 countries, including one show and 24 hours in Japan—a fleeting glimpse which planted a seed that Tokyo could be a good middle point for us to meet again to write and record one day.”

“And so, it transpired—over three weeks in April and May, we wrote and recorded at Studio Mech, a studio based in the quiet neighbourhood of Yutenji, south of Shibuya. Working in a different environment without the pressures of being on tour was a new experience, while the mix of routine and residency brought us all closer together. The sessions also sparked new creative conversations—this was the first time Olivia had been able to join the group for each step of making a record, and the proximity of organic instruments in the studio for sharing ideas meant that songs primarily became established on the guitars and pianos around us, instead of software instruments shared wirelessly between our laptops at home.

“The result is our fourth EP, and ninth Yumi Zouma record overall—a fuller, more natural-sounding collection of recordings crammed full of cascading piano lines, pummelling drums, chorused gang vocal takes, and waves of distorted guitars. Particularly inspired by the sounds of ’90s noise, shoegaze, and midwestern emo, these new songs push the band’s signature dream pop sheen to new extremes, exemplified by the bursts of screeching feedback and spoken word on lead single ‘KPR,’ and the overdriven screams in the bridge of the anthemic ‘be okay.’ There are even surprises during the record’s more classic Yumi Zouma moments, such as the naked, intimate vocals in the coda to ‘Kicking Up Daisies,’ and Olivia’s joyous shout of ‘whoo!’ before the piano-led second verse of the alt-folk-leaning ‘Desert Mile.’”

The tracks on the EP were mixed by Kenny Gilmore (Weyes Blood, Julia Holter, Chris Cohen), Jake Aron (Grizzly Bear, Snail Mail, Solange), Tom Healy (The Chills, Tiny Ruins, Marlon Williams) and Simon Gooding (Fazerdaze, Neil Finn, Dua Lipa). Antoine Chabert (Daft Punk, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Christine & The Queens) mastered the EP.

Burgess had this to add about the EP: “The time we spent together writing and recording this EP will forever be one of my most cherished memories.”

While Ryder says the EP “is the best music we have ever released, without a shadow of a doubt—it feels like a very dramatic update to the world of who we are as a band.”

The EP’s exact title, tracklist, cover artwork, and release date all have yet to be announced.

Yumi Zouma’s 2020 album, Truth or Consequences, was featured on our Top 100 Albums of 2020 list.

Read our COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check-In interview with the band’s Charlie Ryder.

In March 2020, we posted our My Firsts interview with the band, which can be read here.

Read our 2017 interview with Yumi Zouma on their second album Willowbank.

3. Sufjan Stevens: “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?”

Sufjan Stevens is releasing a new album, Javelin, on October 6 via Asthmatic Kitty. On Wednesday, he shared its second single, “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?,” via a music video. Stephen Halker directed the video, which features artwork by Stevens.

Stevens has also announced some Javelin listening parties at independent record stores across North America on October 3. Below find those details.

“Will Anybody Ever Love Me?” features additional vocals from Adrienne Maree Brown, Hannah Cohen, and Megan Lui. In a press release, each of them offered a quote on working with Stevens.

Adrienne Maree Brown: “The first time I sang the song I started crying, I was so moved by the honesty of the questions. Sufjan is an impossibly brave and gifted writer.”

Hannah Cohen: “Being in the studio with Sufjan is like watching an alchemist at work. He creates a new realm, building our voices from a gentle choir, then morphing us into sirens raging from the sea.”

Megan Lui: “‘Will Anybody Ever Love Me?’ felt like a glimpse into Sufjan’s past records but spins into an epic collage of voices and instruments. His vision of melody and composition are astonishing and working with him and Hannah in the room was pure joy.”

Stephen Halker had this to add about directing the “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?” video: “This piece serves as an exploration into the intricate landscapes of the human psyche, akin to an open invitation to wander through the vast emotional domains of the mind. It illustrates the journey from surface-level facades to the profound yearnings, vulnerabilities, and fixations that reside within the human heart.

“I was playing with this concept by putting these two dimensional collaged icons into three dimensional spaces that slowly become less and less tethered to the real world. We can never truly know each other, we all just live with our own somewhat flattened interpretations of those around us. The less we are deeply known, the less we can be deeply loved.

“Will anybody ever love me? I don’t know.”

Javelin is being billed as Stevens’ first full on singer/songwriter solo folk album since 2015’s acclaimed Carrie & Lowell. Previously Stevens shared the album’s first single, “So You Are Tired,” via a lyric video. “So You Are Tired” was one of our Songs of the Week.

In 2021, Stevens released the five-volume album Convocations, as well as A Beginner’s Mind, a collaborative album with Angelo De Augustine. Read our digital cover story interview with the duo about that album. In 2020 he put out The Ascension. Earlier this year, Stevens released Reflections, his score for the Justin Peck ballet of the same name that was performed by pianists Timo Andres and Conor Hanick.

Adrienne Maree Brown, Hannah Cohen, Pauline Delassus, Megan Lui, and Nedelle Torrisi all provide harmonies on many of Javelin’s songs. Bryce Dessner of The National plays acoustic and electric guitar on “Shit Talk.” Album closer “There’s a World” is a Neil Young cover. Stevens recorded the album himself at home, but a press release points out that Javelin still sometimes has a big sound and that it “pairs musical sweep with emotional breadth.”

4. Lol Tolhurst x Budgie x Jacknife Lee: “Ghosted At Home” (Feat. Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie)

Lol Tolhurst (formerly of The Cure), Budgie (formerly of Siouxsie and the Banshees), and producer/musician Jacknife Lee have all teamed up to release a debut album together, Los Angeles, on Nov 3 via Play It Again Sam. On Wednesday they shared another song from it, “Ghosted At Home,” which features guest vocals from Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie. It was shared via a black & white music video directed by Julian Gabriel Bendaña. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

Los Angeles also features an array of other notable guest stars, including: James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem), The Edge (U2), Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse), Lonnie Holley, Mary Lattimore, Arrow de Wilde (Starcrawler), Mark Bowen (IDLES), and others.

Tolhurst had this to say about the new song in a press release: “The first sound you hear on ‘Ghosted at Home’ is also the first recording we made together in the sacred area of Yosemite. With it, we attached all our hopes and expectations for the music we were making. It seemed appropriate that the first instrument we played in the forest for our record was also the most ancient—a drum.”

Lee adds: “We were aiming for a sense of claustrophobia that Bobby skilfully picked up on.”

Budgie also had this to say about working with Gillespie: “In life it is rare to hear someone telling their story and for us to recognize it as our own. It is rarer still when that story relates to a complex, dangerous and psychologically damaging relationship. To induce this feeling of empathy is perhaps the gift and skill of a great lyricist and writer. Bobby Gillespie is one of those writers.”

Previously Lol Tolhurst x Budgie x Jacknife Lee shared the album’s title track, “Los Angeles,” which features James Murphy.

Tolhurst is also releasing a book, GOTH: A History, on September 26 in the U.S. via Hachette Books. He was a founding member of The Cure, but left the band in 1989.

5. Wilco: “Cousin”

Wilco are releasing a new album, Cousin, on September 29 via dBpm. Yesterday, they shared its second single, title track “Cousin,” via a lyric video.

A press release describes the meaning of the song: “‘Cousin’ is, musically and lyrically, a fight with a relative. Rather, a refusal to fight: the narrator holds their familial opponent in a de-escalatory bear hug, while admitting, ‘My cousin/I’m you.’”

Cate Le Bon produced Cousin. Previously Wilco shared its lead single, “Evicted.”

Of Cousin, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy said in a previous press release: “I’m cousin to the world. I don’t feel like I’m a blood relation, but maybe I’m a cousin by marriage.”

Of the collaboration, Le Bon said: “The amazing thing about Wilco is they can be anything. They’re so mercurial, and there’s this thread of authenticity that flows through everything they do, whatever the genre, whatever the feel of the record. There aren’t many bands who are able to, this deep into a successful career, successfully change things up.”

Of working with Le Bon, Tweedy added: “Cate is very suspicious of sentiment. but she’s not suspicious of human connection.”

Cousin sees Glenn Kotche on drums, John Stirratt on bass, Mikael Jorgensen on synths, Pat Sansone on piano, Euan Hinshelwood on saxophone, Tweedy on electric guitar and vocals, and Nels Cline on guitar.

Wilco’s previous album was 2022’s Cruel Country.

Tweedy is also releasing a new book, World With a Song: Music That Changed My Life and Life That Changed My Music, on November 7 via Penguin Random House’s Dutton,

6. Steven Wilson: “Rock Bottom” (Feat. Ninet Tayeb)

British musician/producer Steven Wilson is releasing a new album, The Harmony Codex, on September 29 via Spinefarm. This week he shared its second single, “Rock Bottom,” which features Israeli singer Ninet Tayeb and was shared via a music video. Nimrod Peled directed the video.

We recently posted part one of our two-part interview with Wilson about the album. Read the interview, which was conducted by Stephen Humphries, here.

Previously Wilson shared the album’s first single, “Economies of Scale,” via a music video. “Economies of Scale” was one of our Songs of the Week.

A deluxe edition of The Harmony Codex includes remixes/reimaginings by Interpol, Manic Street Preachers, Tears for Fears’ Roland Orzabal, and others.

The album features Ninet Tayeb, Craig Blundell, Adam Holzman, Jack Dangers (Meat Beat Manifesto), and Sam Fogarino (Interpol).

In 2022 Wilson released his memoir, Limited Edition of One, and The Harmony Codex is based on a short story featured in that book.

“I’ve always seen my music in cinematic terms,” Wilson says in our new interview with him. “But something about this record has taken that aspect, I think, to another level. Maybe it’s the fact it was based on the short story. Maybe it’s the fact that every song seems distinctly different to every other song, and it has its own sort of internal musical world and musical vocabulary, and yet it still seems to form a cohesive whole, a cohesive journey.”

7. The Big Moon: “Summer Still Comes”

This week, The Big Moon shared a new song, “Summer Still Comes,” and announced some new tour dates, including three in North America. “Summer Still Comes” is taken from an upcoming deluxe edition of their 2022 album, Here Is Everything, which will be out on October 13 via Fiction (almost exactly a year since the album first came out). Check out the band’s tour dates here.

The band’s lead vocalist Juliette Jackson had this to say about the song in a press release: “It’s a song about longing for your friends and loved ones. Experiences just don’t really mean anything to me unless I can share them with someone else. And the changes of the seasons feel so relentless and unforgiving when your life isn’t moving at the same speed.”

The deluxe edition also includes another new song, “Round Forever” (which features lead vocals from bassist Celia Archer), as well as remixes from Marika Hackman and Art School Girlfriend.

We previously posted the Here Is Everything tracks “Trouble,” which was one of our Songs of the Week, and “This Love,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. The album also made our Top 100 Albums of 2022 list.

8. Wild Nothing: “Suburban Solutions”

Wild Nothing (aka Jack Tatum) is releasing a new album, Hold, on October 27 via Captured Tracks. On Tuesday, he shared its second single, “Suburban Solutions,” via a music video. Tatum co-directed the video with Josh Burgess (of Yumi Zouma).

Previously Wild Nothing shared the album’s first single, “Headlights On,” which features Hatchie and was shared via a music video. “Headlights On” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Tatum has also announced that he is releasing two limited edition wines tied into Hold. He has teamed up with New York State’s Osmote Wines for a special “Suburban Solutions” Riesling. And in the UK he has partnered with Blackbook Winery on a bottle for “Headlights On.” The wine will be available via a vinyl bundle.

Tatum had this to say about the wines in a press release: “I’m really thrilled to be partnering with Blackbook and Osmote for these limited run bottles inspired by my new album Hold. Sergio and Ben are both so passionate about what they do and when this partnership fell in my lap it felt like such a special opportunity to bring people in on something else that I love.

“We landed on a Riesling from Osmote and Sparkling Seyval Blanc from Blackbook, not only because they showcase what these guys do so well, but because they’re also exactly the kind of crisp, dry wines I’d reach for myself when out at dinner or having a few friends over. Ian Miller, who designed the Hold album art, also designed these labels and we had a blast tying them into the larger visual world of the record.”

Wild Nothing’s last album, Indigo, his fourth, came out in August 2018 via Captured Tracks. Indigo was our Album of the Week and one of our Top 100 Albums of 2018. In 2020 he released the Laughing Gas EP, also via Captured Tracks.

Jorge Elbrecht (Japanese Breakfast) mixed “Headlights On,” which features drum production by Tommy Davidson of Beach Fossils, and backing vocals from Hatchie’s Harriette Pilbeam. Tatum self-produced Hold and Geoff Swan (Caroline Polachek, Charli XCX) mixed it. The album also features Molly Burch, Becca Mancari, and Tatum’s his wife, Dana.

“I’ve sat with this record for a very long time now, so naturally I’m both excited and apprehensive to let it see the light,” said Tatum of Hold in a previous press release. “It’s my first record as a father. My first self-produced record since my debut. It’s a record that deals in existential themes but doesn’t always take itself too seriously. It’s not afraid of pop but it’s hopefully not afraid to be strange either. It has fun, gets sad, dwells in the quiet moments and embraces the loud ones. It’s me doing what I love and feeling grateful for it.”

Read our 2018 interview with Wild Nothing on Indigo.

Read our 2018 Anatomy of a Song article on Wild Nothing where he detailed Indigo single “Partners in Motion.”

Also read our review of Indigo.

Wild Nothing’s 2012 album, Nocturne, was Under the Radar’s #1 album of that year.

Read our 2016 interview with Wild Nothing.

9. Vagabon: “Lexicon”

Vagabon (the project of Lætitia Tamko) released her third album, Sorry I Haven’t Called, today via Nonesuch. On Tuesday she shared its latest single, “Lexicon,” via a music video. Kathleen Dycaico directed the video.

In a press release, Tamko says that the album’s co-producer Rostam (Vampire Weekend, HAIM) helped her realize her final vision for the track. “I wrote the song, the verses, the chorus, all of the bridge, and all of that, but I couldn’t find a place for it on the record sonically,” she says. “When I revisited the album with Rostam in LA, he said give me a minute with it’ and he just got it.”

Sorry I Haven’t Called was inspired by the 2021 death of Tamko’s best friend. And yet Tamko tried to turn that grief into something more uplifting. “This record feels like what I’ve been working towards,” she says. “When I think of this album, I think of playfulness. It’s completely euphoric. It’s because things were dark that this record is so full of life and energy. It’s a reaction to what I was experiencing at the time, not a document of it.”

Vagabon has previously shared three singles off of Sorry I Haven’t Called: “Carpenter” (which also made our Songs of the Week), “Can I Talk My Shit?,” and “Do Your Worst” (which made a special Songs of the Week playlist).

Check out our 2019 interview with Tamko on her self-titled sophomore album.

10. Jaakko Eino Kalevi: “Palace in My Head” (Feat. Alma Jodorowsky)

Finnish multi-instrumentalist Jaakko Eino Kalevi is releasing a new album, Chaos Magic, on November 17 via Domino imprint Weird World. On Monday, he shared another new song from it, “Palace in My Head,” via a music video. The song features guest vocals from French actress Alma Jodorowsky, who also directs and co-stars in the video.

Kalevi met Jodorowsky via a mutual friend in Athens, where he is now based. The two wrote the lyrics together, which Kalevi says in a press release “was all very spontaneous and easy.”

He continues: “I had an early demo of this for many years on my computer and didn’t know how to finish it. I re-recorded it in the studio and luckily got Alma to help me finish the chorus part. The chorus and verse are from different worlds, in my opinion. The verse is very dramatic and dark and then the chorus is bright and comforting.”

Of the video, Jodorowsky says: “Knowing that we wanted to shoot the video in Athens, where Jaakko and I met, I had this idea of our ghosts missing on each other and leading the viewers to these beautiful Greek landscapes. This parallel world, just like a dream, is like an incarnation of the creative mind of us two musicians. It resonates with the lyrics of the song that of course inspired me, evoking mind palaces and the border between fiction and reality.”

The video was filmed on an old Bolex camera by cinematographer Sean Price Williams.

Chaos Magic also features Jimi Tenor, Faux Real, Yu-Ching Huang, and John Moods. It was recorded at Mutual Sound Studios in Athens and was co-produced and mixed by Teemu Takatalo, who runs the studio and is friends with Kalevi.

Kalevi calls the album “a ‘back to the roots’ album” and “a collection of songs from a certain period without trying to tie them together.”

Previously Kalevi shared a video for the album’s first single, “I Forget,” which made a special Songs of the Week playlist we did.

Kalevi’s last full-length was 2018’s Out of Touch. In 2020 he released the mini-album, Dissolution,

Read our The End interview with Kalevi.

Also read our My Firsts interview with Kalevi.

Plus read our Self-Portrait interview with Kalevi.

Read our 2015 interview with Jaakko Eino Kalevi.

11. Jamila Woods: “Good News”

Chicago musician and poet Jamila Woods is releasing a new album, Water Made Us, on October 13 via Jagjaguwar. On Wednesday, she shared its third single, “Good News.”

Woods co-wrote the song with Biako and Jean Placide and had this to say about it in a press release. “The title of the album comes from one of the lyrics, ‘the good news is we were happy once/the good news is water always runs back where it came from/the good news is water made us.’ For me the song is a lesson in surrender, a lesson I learn from water over and over again.”

Previously Woods shared a video for the album’s first single, “Tiny Garden,” which features duendita. “Tiny Garden” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared its second single, “Boomerang,” via a music video. “Bommerang” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Woods had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “Water Made Us feels like the most personal and vulnerable piece of art I’ve ever made. I love creating from source material, diving deep into a subject and extrapolating from what I discover. We sat in the house for two years and I became my own source material. Shout out to the therapists, the astrologers, the family members and friends who listened, who helped me process and transform my journaled thoughts and questions into this body of work. I hope it feels like a playlist that carries you through the life cycle of a relationship, whatever stage of the journey your heart may be in.”

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 11.

Big Thief: “Born For Loving You”

Cherry Glazerr: “Sugar”

Drop Nineteens: “A Hitch”

Harp: “I Am the Seed”

Nation of Language: “Sightseer”

Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 11 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions:

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