11 Best Songs of the Week: John Cale, M83, U.S. Girls, Miss Grit, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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11 Best Songs of the Week: John Cale, M83, U.S. Girls, Miss Grit, and More

Plus Lonnie Holley and Michael Stipe, Vagabon, Young Fathers, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Jan 13, 2023 Bookmark and Share

Welcome to the second Songs of the Week of 2023. After a quiet period last week, this week was roaring with album announcements and new songs. We settled on a Top 11 this week.

Don’t forget to check out our Top 100 Albums of 2022 list.

In the last week we reviewed some albums.

Remember that our current print issue, the My Favorite Movie Issue, is out now.

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. John Cale: “NOISE OF YOU”

John Cale is releasing his first new album in a decade, MERCY, on January 20, 2023 via Double Six/Domino. On Wednesday, he shared its third single, “NOISE OF YOU,” via a music video. Pepi Ginsberg directed the video.

Cale had this to say about the song in a press release: “I don’t tend to romanticize the idea of love. It represents ‘need’ and that’s not something I’m particularly comfortable with. When it gets ahold of you though—don’t let go—no matter how many times you mess it up!”

Of directing the video, Ginsberg says: “I was so inspired by John’s relationship to process and collaboration and wanted to mirror his approach to art in this video for ‘NOISE OF YOU,’ which John describes as a love song. Setting out to make a ‘moving’ portrait of John, we have mapped images and video of John’s life over his former home of New York City, creating a conversation between past and present, reflecting the way that distant, and sometimes dissonant, voices can reach across divides of space and time to speak their own language of love.”

MERCY features musical contributions from Animal Collective, Sylvan Esso, Laurel Halo, Tei Shi, Fat White Family, and Actress. Last August, Cale shared the album’s “NIGHT CRAWLING.” When the album was announced in October, Cale shared the Weyes Blood collaboration “STORY OF BLOOD,” via a music video. “STORY OF BLOOD” was one of our Songs of the Week.

2. M83: “Oceans Niagara”

On Tuesday, M83 (aka Anthony Gonzalez) announced a new album, Fantasy, and shared its first single, “Oceans Niagara,” via a music video. He also announced some new U.S. tour dates. Fantasy is due out March 17 via Mute. Yann Gonzalez (Anthony’s brother) directed the “Oceans Niagara” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates, here.

Anthony Gonzalez had this to say in a press release: “Very proud to present the first track of my new album Fantasy. It’s called ‘Oceans Niagara ‘and it’s the very first collaboration between my brother Yann Gonzalez and myself on a music video. I wanted to create this sense of friendship. Listening to that song, I imagine people running, driving fast, or riding spaceships together. It’s this sense of going forward, like a magic potion that you take to discover new worlds. Beyond Adventure!”

Video director Yann Gonzalez adds: “‘Oceans Niagara’ is the perfect synthesis of M83’s music: a wall of sound and emotions that goes crescendo until it climaxes, with moments of pure melodic ecstasy that personally make me feel like I’m floating, loving and crying all at once, almost like being a teenager again. This is the first time I’m directing a music video for Anthony and this was a great chance for us to share our common references and emotions from our own childhood and teenage years with hints of our favorite French-Japanese animes, horror films and kid’s strange TV shows from the ’80s and ’90s.”

M83’s last regular full-length album was 2016’s Junk, although in 2019 he released the ambient album DSVII.

Anthony Gonzalez had this to say about the direction of the new album: “I wanted this record to be very impactful live. The idea was to come back with something closer to the energy of Before the Dawn Heals Us. The combination of guitars and synths is always in my music, but it’s maybe more present on this new record than on the previous ones…. I wanted to be more present lyrically and vocally even if that was daunting at first. I thought if I could achieve that, this album will be more personal than those that came before.”

Read our cover story interview with M83 on Junk.

3. U.S. Girls: “Futures Bet”

On Tuesday, U.S. Girls (aka Meghan Remy) announced a new album, Bless This Mess, and shared a new song from it, “Futures Bet,” via a music video. She also announced a North American tour. Bless This Mess is due out February 24 via 4AD. Alex Kingsmill directed the “Futures Bet” video, which also features Carlyn Bezic (aka Jane Inc), who sings on the song and will be opening for U.S. Girls on her tour. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates, here.

Bless This Mess includes two 2022 singles. The title track was shared in October and was one of our Songs of the Week. Last July, Remy shared the album’s “So Typically Now.”

Bless This Mess was concieved at the same time Remy conceived, was pregnant, and gave birth to her twin boys. As a press release explains: “As Remy’s body changed so did her voice; her diaphragm lost breathing room, adjusting to the growing lives inside. Many takes on Bless This Mess were tracked with the babies in utero, or in her arms. (She even samples her breast pump on the album’s poetic closing cut, ‘Pump’). The resulting performances are suffused by the physicality of this journey: more blood, more feelings, the interwoven wonders, and wounds of procreation.”

The album features an array of collaborators, including Alex Frankel of Holy Ghost!, Marker Starling, Ryland Blackinton of Cobra Starship, Basia Bulat, and Roger Manning Jr. of Jellyfish and Beck. Various audio engineers were involved too—Neal H Pogue, Ken Sluiter, Steve Chahley, and Maximilian Turnbull—with Turnbull also being Remy’s longtime collaborator, husband, and the father of her twins.

Remy’s last album, Heavy Light, came out in 2020 via 4AD. Read our interview with Remy on the album here.

4. Miss Grit: “Lain (Phone Clone)”

Miss Grit (aka Margaret Sohn, who uses they/she pronouns) are releasing their debut album, Follow the Cyborg, on February 24 via Mute. Yesterday, they shared the album’s third single, “Lain (Phone Clone),” via a music video.

A press release says the song is inspired by Serial Experiments Lain, which is Yasuyuki Ueda’s anime “about a girl whose online self attempts to drag her physical self away from reality.”

Sohn has this to say about the song in a press release: “I feel like the divide between my inner and outer self can grow so big sometimes that it feels like I’m being eclipsed by this big cringey monster. I wanted to write this to mock the monster and remind myself I’m not powerless against it.”

Follow the Cyborg was self-produced and features musical contributions from Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint, Aron Kobayashi Ritch of Momma, and Pearla.

In September, Miss Grit shared the album track, “Like You,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. In November, they shared the album’s title track, “Follow the Cyborg,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week.

In 2021, Miss Grit released the EP Imposter.

5. Lonnie Holley: “Oh Me, Oh My” (Feat. Michael Stipe)

On Wednesday, Lonnie Holley announced a new album, Oh Me Oh My, and shared its first single, near title track “Oh Me, Oh My,” which features Michael Stipe. The album also features Sharon Van Etten, Bon Iver, and others. Oh Me Oh My is due out March 10 via Jagjaguwar. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Holley worked with producer Jacknife Lee (The Cure, R.E.M., Modest Mouse) on the album.

Holley had this to say about the album in a press release: “My art and my music are always closely tied to what is happening around me, and the last few years have given me a lot to thoughtsmith about. When I listen back to these songs I can feel the times we were living through. I’m deeply appreciative of the collaborators, especially Jacknife, who helped the songs take shape and really inspired me to dig deeper within myself.”

In 2021, Holley released Broken Mirror: A Selfie Reflection, a collaboration with singer/producer Matthew E. White, via Spacebomb/Jagjaguwar. In 2020, Holley released the Richard Swift-produced EP, National Freedom. In 2018, Holley released the solo album MITH.

6. Vagabon: “Carpenter”

Yesterday, Vagabon (aka Lætitia Tamko) shared a new song, “Carpenter.” Rostam produced the song. Check out her upcoming tour dates opening for Weyes Blood here.

Tamko had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Carpenter’ is about that humbling feeling when you desperately want to be knowledgeable, you want to be advanced, you want to be mature, forward thinking, and evolved. It’s about being confronted with your limitations. It’s about that A-HA moment, when a lesson from the past finally clicks and you want to run and tell someone who bore witness to the old you, ‘I finally get it now.’”

Vagabon released a new self-titled album in 2019 via Nonesuch. The press release says she is currently working on her new album, due out for release later in 2023.

In 2020, Vagabon shared the new song “The Wild,” from the soundtrack to the horror film The Turning. In 2021, Vagabon teamed up with Courtney Barnett for a cover of Karen Dalton’s version of “Reason to Believe” and the two artists also covered Sharon Van Etten’s “Don’t Do It” for Van Etten’s anniversary album, epic Ten.

Read our interview with Vagabon on Vagabon.

7. Young Fathers: “Rice”

Scottish hip-hop trio Young Fathers are releasing a new album, Heavy Heavy, on February 3 via Ninja Tune. On Monday, they shared its fourth single, “Rice,” via a lyric video.

A press release simply describes the creation of Heavy Heavy like so: “The 10-track project signals a renewed back-to-basics approach, just the three of them in their basement studio, some equipment and microphones. Everything always plugged in, everything always in reach.”

In July, Young Fathers shared the album track “Geronimo,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. Upon announcement of the album in October, they shared the single, “I Saw,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. In December they shared the album’s third single, “Tell Somebody,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week.

The band consists of Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole, and G. Hastings. Young Fathers’ last album, Cocoa Sugar, came out in 2018 via Ninja Tune.

Read our interview with Young Fathers on Cocoa Sugar.

8. Belle and Sebastian: “When the Cynics Stare Back From the Wall” (Feat. Tracyanne Campbell)

On Monday, Scotland’s Belle and Sebastian announced a brand new album, Late Developers, that was released today via Matador this Friday, only seven months since their last one came out. Also on Monday, the band shared the album’s first single, “I Don’t Know What You See In Me,” via a music video. But that wasn’t actually our favorite song from the album, instead we preferred “When the Cynics Stare Back From the Wall,” which is a duet with Tracyanne Campbell of fellow Scots Camera Obscura. Murdoch wrote the song in 1994 before Belle and Sebastian formed and has finally recorded it.

The band’s last album, A Bit of Previous, came out last May also via Matador. Late Developers was recorded during the same sessions.

Frontman Stuart Murdoch had this to say about “I Don’t Know What You See In Me” in a press release: “I was bicycling across Scotland last summer, listening to a mix of this song. It was written and produced for us by our friend Pete ‘Wuh Oh’ Ferguson. As I listened to it, I felt lucky to be the first person to get to sing this song. I let my voice swoop and soar in ways that it maybe hasn’t before. And as I continued through fields of gold and green I allowed myself to forget it was Belle and Sebastian, and pretend it was the latest hit on some random radio station. All music is escape, and perhaps we managed to escape a little further than usual with this unexpected tune. Thanks Pete!”

The album’s “So In the Moment” was written by the band’s Stevie Jackson and is described in the press release as “breathless psychedelic pop.” Album opener “Juliet Naked” (seemingly named after Nick Hornby’s 2009 novel of the same name) is said to channel Billy Bragg, “with rugged electric guitar and a football stadium worthy chant from Stuart Murdoch.” “When We Were Very Young” is described as “Smiths-esque jangle rock that is bittersweet, devotional, and yearning.”

The press release further describes the album like so: “Arriving almost back-to-back to 2022’s Top Ten album A Bit of Previous, Late Developers comes on like its predecessor’s sun-kissed cousin. It is a full-hearted embrace of the band’s brightest tendencies that is not only fresh and immediate but possessing of that Belle and Sebastian je ne sais quoi of a group that will always be there for you with the perfect word or melody for the moment, while admitting tunefully that ‘Every girl and boy/each one is a misery’ (‘When the Cynics Stare Back From the Wall’).”

In June they shared a new song, also titled “A Bit of Previous,” but not featured on the album of the same name. Stream A Bit of Previous here and read our review of it here.

A Bit of Previous was the band’s first proper full-length album in seven years. But in that time they had released EPs (plus an album that collected all the EPs), a soundtrack, and a live album. Their last regular album was 2015’s Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. In late 2017 and early 2018 Belle and Sebastian released three interconnected EPs via Matador, all titled How to Solve Your Human Problems. Then all three EPs were collected in a vinyl box set and CD compilation that came out in 2018. In 2019 they released the soundtrack for the indie film Days of the Bagnold Summer. In 2020 they released the live album, What to Look for in Summer.

Read our interview with Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch on How to Solve Your Human Problems.

Read our review of How to Solve Your Human Problems.

Read our interview with Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch on Days of the Bagnold Summer.

9. Sweet Baboo: “The Worry”

Welsh singer/songwriter Sweet Baboo (aka Stephen Black) is releasing a new album, The Wreckage, on January 27 via his own Amazing Tapes From Canton label. On Wednesday, he shared another song from it, “The Worry,” via a music video in which he climbs a volcano.

Black had this to say about the song in a press release: “This is the oldest song on the album and, although it’s kind of like a throwaway kids’ tune, it took me a long time to get the lyrics right. I wanted the lyrics to be as direct as possible. No trimmings. I think it’s me telling either myself, or my son, or both that there’s no need to worry. Like a mantra. I think that’s easier said than done. In my mind the Rainbow theme tune was inspiration.”

Rainbow was a long-running British children’s TV show that ran from 1972 to 1992.

Previously Black shared three other singles from The Wreckage: “Hopeless,” “Good Luck,” and “Horticulture” (which was one of our Songs of the Week).

10. Temples: “Gamma Rays”

On Wednesday, British psychedelic pop four-piece Temples announced a new album, Exotico, and shared its first single, “Gamma Rays,” via a music video. Exotico is due out April 14 via ATO. Molly Daniel directed the “Gamma Rays” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.

In a press release Temples frontman James Bagshaw had this to say about “Gamma Rays” (which alas isn’t about The Incredible Hulk, who got his powers from gamma rays): “In the verse lyrics we’re talking about the grandness of nature, And then the chorus flips that on its head, it sounds like a rejoiceful summer tune about soaking up the rays, but the truth is that soaking up gamma rays will kill you. So, it’s about that juxtaposition of beauty and danger that we often find in nature.”

Daniel had this to say about directing the video: “Filming in Benidorm was inspiring. It’s a very surreal and futuristic space—like Margate meets Vegas meets the end of the world! I wanted a video that felt fast-paced and took you on a journey through some great locations.”

Sean Ono Lennon produced Exotico, which was mixed by Dave Fridmann (Tame Impala, The Flaming Lips, MGMT).

In 2020 Temples shared a new song, “Paraphernalia,” that was also produced by Lennon and mixed by Fridmann, but isn’t featured on the new album.

Lennon’s band The Claypool Lennon Delirium is also on ATO and the two artists connected at the Desert Daze festival in 2019, although Lennon was already very much familiar with the band. “I’d always been a fan of the band. Had seen them play some pretty great shows over the years,” Lennon said in 2020.

Temples’ last album, Hot Motion, came out in 2019 via ATO (it was their first for the label). Hot Motion was the band’s third album and followed 2014’s debut album, Sun Structures, and 2017’s sophomore album, Volcano.

Temples’ full lineup is James Bagshaw (guitar, vocals) Tom Walmsley (bass guitar, backing vocals), Adam Smith (keyboards, rhythm guitar, backing vocals), and Rens Ottink (drums and percussion).

Read our 2020 COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check-In interview with Temples.

Read our 2019 My Favorite Album interview with Temples on Scott Walker.

Read our 2019 interview with Temples on Hot Motion.

Read our 2013 interview with Temples and our 2014 interview with the band. Also read our 2017 interview with Temples on Volcano.

11. The New Pornographers: “Really Really Light”

On Monday, The New Pornographers announced a new album, Continue as a Guest, and shared its first single, “Really Really Light,” via a music video. They also announced some tour dates, with Wild Pink as support. Continue as a Guest is due out March 31 via Merge, their first for the label. Christian Cerezo directed the video for “Really Really Light,” which features an ice skater not skating on ice. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates, here.

Longtime member/contributor Dan Bejar (aka Destroyer) co-wrote “Really Really Light” with frontman Carl “A.C.” Newman. “Part of my process throughout the years has been messing with things I never finished. I really liked Dan’s chorus, and for a while I was just trying to write something that I felt like belonged with it,” Newman says in a press release. “I was thinking of the Aloe Blacc song ‘The Man’ which interpolated the chorus from Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ and thought it would be fun to interpolate a song that no one knows. Not trying to sound like Aloe Blacc, just doing some interpolating of my own. It became a game of writing a verse that felt like a part of the same song. In my mind, I was striving for a little Jeff Lynne–era Tom Petty, a classic go-to.”

The New Pornographer’s last album was 2019’s In the Morse Code of Brake Lights, released via the band’s own Collected Work imprint, in partnership with Concord. After touring for that album finished, Newman began writing the new album at his home in Woodstock, NY. The lineup for this album was Newman, Neko Case, Kathryn Calder, John Collins, Todd Fancey, and Joe Seiders, as well as contributions from saxophonist Zach Djanikian. Sadie Dupuis (Speedy Ortiz, Sad13) co-wrote the song “Firework in the Falling Snow.”

The press release says Continue as a Guest deals with “themes of isolation and collapse, following the ambivalence of day-to-day life during the pandemic and the endless pitfalls of living online” but that the title track “also addresses the continually rolling concerns that come with being in a band for so long.”

“The idea of continuing as a guest felt very apropos to the times,” Newman explains. “Feeling out of place in culture, in society—not feeling like a part of any zeitgeist, but happy to be separate and living your simple life, your long fade-out. Find your own little nowhere, find some space to fall apart, continue as a guest.”

The general onsale for tickets for the tour starts on Friday at 10 a.m. local time, with a presale tomorrow at 10 a.m. local time. The press release points out: “A portion of proceeds from presale tickets sold via the band’s website will be donated to abortion rights organization Frontera Fund.”

Read our 2017 interview with The New Pornographers’ Carl Newman on Whiteout Conditions.

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 11.

Death Valley Girls: “Sunday”

Liv.e: “Find Out”

Paramore: “C’est Comme Ça”

Shame: “Six Pack”

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

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