11 Best Songs of the Week: John Grant, The Decemberists, Storefront Church, Bat For Lashes, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, May 17th, 2024  

11 Best Songs of the Week: John Grant, The Decemberists, Storefront Church, Bat For Lashes, and More

Plus Maya Hawke, Elbow, Julia Holter, Parsnip, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Mar 22, 2024 Bookmark and Share

Welcome to the tenth Songs of the Week of 2024. This week Andy Von Pip and Scott Dransfield both helped me decide what should make the list. We settled on a Top 11 this week, narrowed down from the 16 songs we seriously considered.

In the past few weeks we posted interviews with Julia Holter, Ride, Slowdive, Eaves Wilder, Spiritualized, and others.

In the last week we reviewed some albums.

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 Grant: “It’s a Bitch”

This week, John Grant announced a new album, The Art of the Lie, and shared its first single, “It’s a Bitch,” via a music video. The Art of the Lie is due out June 14 via [PIAS]. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

The Art of the Lie is the follow-up to 2021’s Boy from Michigan (which was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2021). Grant worked with producer Ivor Guest on the album. The two met when Grant performed at the Meltdown Festival that was curated by Grace Jones and was produced by Guest. Guest produced Jones’ Hurricane and Brigitte Fontaine’s Prohibition. “Grace and Brigitte are two very big artists for me,” explains Grant in a press release. “I love the albums he did for them. Hurricane is an indispensable piece of Grace’s catalogue.”

This led to Grant suggesting to Guest that they work together. “I said, ‘I really think you should do this next record with me.’ He said, ‘I think you’re right,’” says Grant.

The press release compares the album to Laurie Anderson, The Art of Noise, Vangelis’ soundtrack for Blade Runner, and “The Carpenters if John Carpenter were also a member.”

The album’s title and its themes are inspired by the current political climate.

“Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal, is now seen by MAGA disciples as just another book of the Bible and Trump himself as a messiah sent from heaven. Because, God wants you to be rich,” Grant explains. “This album is in part about the lies people espouse and the brokenness it breeds and how we are warped and deformed by these lies. For example, the Christian Nationalist movement has formed an alliance with White Supremacist groups and together they have taken over the Republican party and see LGBTQ+ people and non-whites as genetically and even mentally inferior and believe all undesirables must be forced either to convert to Christianity and adhere to the teachings of the Bible as interpreted by them or they must be removed in order that purity be restored to ‘their’ nation. They now believe Democracy is not the way to achieve these goals. Any sort of pretence of tolerance that may have seemed to develop over the past several decades has all but vanished. It feels like the U.S. in is free-fall mode.”

Grant had this to say about the new single: “It was a blast making this track which is just about having fun with words, synths and dope rhythms and bass lines and also making fun of post-COVID malaise. Plus, people get to ponder what a ‘hesher’ is. I loved going to the arcade in the ’80s and watching smokin’-hot heshers hold court while playing Tempest, Stargate, Robotron, and Asteroids, and while also blasting Iron Maiden and Rush on their Walkmans.”

In 2023, Grant teamed up with Midlake for two new songs: “Roadrunner Blues” and “You Don’t Get To.” He also guested on the CMAT song “Where Are Your Kids Tonight?”

Be sure to read our in-depth 2013 article on Grant, one of the most honest and personal interviews we’ve ever done.

Also read our 2015 interview with John Grant on Grey Tickles, Black Pressure.

Plus read our The End interview with John Grant. By Mark Redfern

2. The Decemberists: “Joan in the Garden”

This week, The Decemberists announced a new album, As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again, and shared a new song from it, the epic 19-minute closing track, “Joan in the Garden.” As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again is due out on June 14 via YABB Records and Thirty Tigers. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.

The Oregon-based band features frontman Colin Meloy, bassist Nate Query, keyboardist Jenny Conlee, guitarist Chris Funk, and drummer John Moen. As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again is the band’s first album in six years, the follow-up to 2018’s I’ll Be Your Girl. Meloy produced the album with Tucker Martine.

Last month the band shared the album’s opening track, “Burial Ground,” which features backing vocals from James Mercer of The Shins and was one of our Songs of the Week. They also announced some tour dates. The album also features R.E.M.’s Mike Mills.

As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again is the band’s longest album and is a double LP featuring four different thematic sides.

Meloy had this to say about “Joan in the Garden” in a press release: “‘Joan in the Garden’ has been kicking around as an idea since the I’ll Be Your Girl sessions. I got into a Joan of Arc kick after reading Lydia Yuknavitch’s beautifully batshit novel The Book of Joan. I wanted to make my own version of Joan—but the song that came was as much about the creative process as it was about the actual woman, about angelic visitation and creative visitation and the hallucinogenic quality of both.”

Read our interview with Meloy on I’ll Be Your Girl. By Mark Redfern

3. Storefront Church: “The High Room”

Storefront Church (the Los Angeles-based project of Lukas Frank) has shared a new song, the lush, string-backed “The High Room.” It’s the taste of a forthcoming new album, which has yet to be announced.

Storefront Church’s debut album, As We Pass, came out in 2021 via Sargent House. That album’s lead single, “After the Alphabets,” which featured Cole Smith of DIIV, was one of our Songs of the Week.

Previously, Storefront Church’s “The Gift” was featured on the soundtrack to Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit. More recently, Frank collaborated with Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier on the track “La Langue Bleue,” which was featured in an episode of the AMC series Monsieur Spade. This week he’s been on a short U.S. tour opening for Sadier. By Mark Redfern

4. Bat For Lashes: “Letter to My Daughter”

Bat For Lashes (aka Natasha Khan) is releasing a new album, The Dream of Delphi, on May 31 via Mercury KX. This week she shared its second single, “Letter to My Daughter,” in which she sings to her daughter. Freddie Leyden directed the accompanying video.

Khan had this to say about the song in a statement: “This title is pretty self-explanatory. If I was on my deathbed, it’s what I’d say to Delphi to give her some sense of being at home in the world, the galaxy, the universe we live in. Before Delphi was born I started writing her a book of letters, inspired by Maya Angelou’s book of the same name, Letter to My Daughter. It documents a very strange but magical year, full of special memories and historic worldly moments. This ride of life is always continuing and we’re all just energy moving from one form into another, always. She’s also just part of an echo, ancestral line or spiral in the cosmos, like the spiral that I saw in her soft hair when she was a baby. She is part of something much greater than any of us individually; she comes from the past and she comes from the future.”

Bat For Lashes previously shared the album’s title track via a music video. It was one of our Songs of the Week.

The Dream of Delphi is the sixth Bat For Lashes album and follows 2019’s Lost Girls. The album is named after her daughter, who was born in 2020. “I thought motherhood would take me away from my art, but it opened up this massive world,” says Khan.

Bat For Lashes was one of the artists on the cover of our 20th Anniversary Issue, which you can still buy directly from us here.

Also read our 2016 interview with Bat For Lashes, as well as our 2007 one. By Mark Redfern

5. Maya Hawke: “Dark”

Singer/actress Maya Hawke is releasing a new album, Chaos Angel, on May 31 via Mom + Pop. Now she has shared its second single, “Dark,” via a music video. Alex Ross Perry directed the video, which starts with a spoken word section from musician Shahzad Ismaily.

Hawke had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Dark’ is a cut and dry love song about a relationship struggling to find its footing. It’s about trying to sort out the mixed bag of history and pain two people bring into a new love to find the path forward. The chorus was written a few years ago when I was going through a particularly debilitating bout of bedtime anxiety: I would lay in bed with the fear that if I let myself fall asleep, my brain would forget how to breathe and I would die in my sleep. I saw a doctor who told me that I had to become okay with dying. He said if I accepted it, I would be able to sleep and would likely…not die. He was right, I didn’t die. And I wrote this song to celebrate it.”

Previously Hawke shared the album’s first single, “Missing Out,” via a music video. “Missing Out” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Chaos Angel is the follow-up to 2022’s MOSS. As with that album, Hawke co-wrote songs with Christian Lee Hutson, who produced the album. Chaos Angel also features regular Hawke collaborators Benjamin Lazar Davis and Will Graefe.

Hawke, who is the daughter of actors Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, made a name of herself on the hit Netflix show Stranger Things. Last year she appeared in the acclaimed movies Asteroid City and Maestro. Upcoming projects from Hawke including starring as Flannery O’Connor in Wildcat (directed and co-written by her father Ethan), voicing the new emotion Anxiety in Inside Out 2, and the fifth and final season of Stranger Things (due out next year).

Read our review of MOSS it here.

Read our interview with Maya Hawke on MOSS and balancing acting and music in our My Favorite Movie Issue (buy the print version directly from us here). By Mark Redfern

6. Elbow: “Things I’ve Been Telling Myself For Years”

Elbow released a new album, AUDIO VERTIGO, today via Polydor/Geffen. Today they also shared a video for the album’s latest single, opening track “Things I’ve Been Telling Myself For Years.”

This week we also posted our review of the album. Read the review here. Stream the album here.

Previously the band shared the album’s first single, “Lovers’ Leap,” which was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then they performed the song on the British chat show The Graham Norton Show. The band also shared a video for “Lovers’ Leap.” Then Elbow released its second single, “Balu,” via a music video. “Balu” once again topped our Songs of the Week list. Then they shared its third single, “Good Blood Mexico City,” which also made it on Songs of the Week.

Many of the songs on AUDIO VERTIGO were born of Elbow’s members working in smaller groups, before the whole band finished the songs.

AUDIO VERTIGO is the follow-up to 2021’s Flying Dream 1 and in contrast to that more intimate sounding album, the new record embraces a more varied and rhythmically diverse musical landscape, or as Garvey puts it, “gnarly, seedy grooves created by us playing together in garagey rooms.”

The band recorded the album throughout 2023 at the members’ individual studios, Migration Studios in Gloucestershire, and at the band’s facility at Blueprint Studios in Salford (in Greater Manchester).

Elbow’s album before last was 2019’s Giants of All Sizes (read our rave review of the album).

Read our interview with Elbow’s Guy Garvey on 2017’s Little Fictions.

Also read our 2014 print article on Elbow and our 2014 web-exclusive interview with Garvey on his favorite cities. Plus read our 2016 The End interview with Garvey on endings and death.

Garvey was also one of the artists on the cover of our 20th Anniversary Issue. By Mark Redfern

7. Julia Holter: “These Morning”

Julia Holter released a new album, Something in the Room She Moves, today via Domino. Now that the album is out we can share one of its album tracks we love, “These Morning.”

Also, today we posted our interview with Holter about the album.

The album’s title was in part inspired by The Beatles song “Something” and its lyrics, “Something in the way she moves.” Holter, a lifelong Beatles fan, has been singing Beatles songs to her daughter at night.

Something in the Room She Moves features “Sun Girl,” a new song Holter shared in November that was one of our Songs of the Week. When the album was announced, she shared its second single, “Spinning,” via a music video. “Spinning” was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared its third single, “Evening Mood,” via a music video (it was again one of our Songs of the Week).

Something in the Room She Moves is the follow-up to Aviary, her last regular new album, released six years ago. It was our Album of the Week and made the Top 10 in our Top 100 Albums of 2018 list.

Since then she has kept busy, including composing the score for Eliza Hittman’s 2020 film Never Rarely Sometimes Always and working with England’s Chorus of Opera North on a new live soundtrack to the 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc, which Holter wrote and performed. She’s also recently worked with Call Super, Beverly Glenn-Copeland, and Max Tundra.

Read our rave review of Aviary.

Read our interview with Julia Holter on Aviary.

Read our 2015 interview with Holter. By Mark Redfern

8. Parsnip: “Turn to Love”

Melbourne four-piece Parsnip are releasing a new album, Behold, on April 26 on Upset the Rhythm. This week they were back with a new song from it, “Turn to Love.”

This time around the band look to the spiritual for divine inspiration. The track expands on an English translation of a poem by Indian saint Mirabai, featured in Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. Parsnip’s energetic, DIY punk sound collides with Mirabai’s message of love being the key to finding the divine, a sentiment echoed in the song’s closing lines.

The music video for “Turn to Love” is just as eclectic as its inspiration. A burst of color during the chorus evokes the transition to the magical Land of Oz. Influences from photographer Serge Lutens, the Oskar Schlemmer Triadic Ballet, Yohji Yamamoto’s fashion campaigns, and even costumes from the Ziegfeld Follies and American circuses (1870s-1950s) all come together to create a visually stunning accompaniment to the song.

Of the track Parsnip’s Paris Rebel Richens says: “Imagine what the world would be like if everyone stopped for a moment or two every day and fixed their attention on the heart. All anyone really wants is love. This song is a plea, for everything that you do in the outer, the most profound changes must be made within. It is not a weakness, if anything, choosing love is courageous and wise.” By Andy Von Pip

9. Adrianne Lenker: “Free Treasure”

Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief released a new solo album, Bright Future, today via 4AD. Earlier this week she shared another song from it, “Free Treasure,” via a lyric video.

In 2020, Lenker released two solo albums, one simply titled songs and another simply titled instrumentals, via 4AD. Bright Future will be her first solo album since then. Philip Weinrobe co-produced the album, which also features contributions from Nick Hakim, Mat Davidson, and Josefin Runsteen.

In the autumn of 2022, Lenker was pleased that three of her friends (“some of my favorite people,” as she describes Hakim, Davidson, and Runsteen in a press release) had the time to take a break from their own music careers and join her at Double Infinity, an analog studio in a forest. The three musicians didn’t really know each other that well. “I had no idea what the outcome would be,” Lenker admits, but says the results turned out well. “It was magical,” she says.

Of Davidson, Lenker says: “I’ve known Mat a long time. It doesn’t matter what instrument, his spirit just pours through.”

Lenker has known Hakim since she was 17. “The way Nick would hold my songs, he would put every ounce of love,” she says.

Of the trio of collaborators, Lenker adds: “I think the thing these people have in common, they are some of the best listeners I know musically. They have extreme presence.”

Summing up the recording of Bright Future, she says: “It felt like everyone’s nervous systems released. Once we were IN the song, somehow we just knew. No one stopped a take. We didn’t listen back. I only listened after everybody else left.”

Bright Future includes “Ruined,” a new song Lenker shared in December via a music video. “Ruined” was one of our Songs of the Week. When the album was announced, Lenker shared “Sadness as a Gift,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. She also announced a whole lot of North American tour dates for this summer and fall. “Fool” was the next single, also one of our Songs of the Week.

In September 2023, Big Thief shared a new song, “Born For Loving You.” It followed “Vampire Empire,” a new song the band shared in July 2023.

Read our 2016 Pleased to Meet You interview with Big Thief.

Read our 2017 interview with Big Thief on Capacity. By Mark Redfern

10. Broadcast: “Follow the Light”

Last September, Broadcast announced a new demo collection, Spell Blanket - Collected Demos 2006-2009, on what would have been late singer Trish Keenan’s 55th birthday. This week they confirmed a release date for the album and also announced another collection, Distant Call - Collected Demos 2000-2006, as well as sharing one track from each album, the unreleased demo “Follow the Light” from Spell Blanket and the demo version of Tender Buttons track “Tears in the Typing Pool,” from Distant Call. “Follow the Light” may be a demo, but it was compelling enough to make this week’s Songs of the Week list. Find the tracklists and cover artwork for each collection here.

Spell Blanket is a collection of unreleased demos by Keenan and is due out May 3 via Warp. It features demos recorded to 4-track tapes and MiniDiscs, songs that were intended for the follow-up to Tender Buttons.

Distant Call collects demos of Broadcast songs that ended up on Haha Sound, Tender Buttons, and The Future Crayon. It also includes two songs, “Come Back to Me” and “Please Call to Book,” that Keenan had recorded in response to Broadcast’s 2006 “Let’s Write a Song” project, in which fans submitted lyrics on postcards to be used in finished songs.

A press release states that Distant Call will be the last release by Broadcast.

Spell Blanket was originally announced via a Facebook post and with a then projected early 2024 release date (its album cover was also shared at the time).

Keenan unexpectedly died in January 2011 from complications with pneumonia after contracting swine flu virus H1N1 while touring Australia. At the time of her passing Broadcast was a duo with James Cargill, also her romantic partner. In 2017, in honor of what would’ve been Keenan’s 49th birthday, Cargill shared the previously unreleased demo, “Tunnel View.” In 2020, in honor of her 52nd birthday, the previously unreleased four-track demo, “Where Are You?,” was shared.

In an exclusive interview with Under the Radar in November 2011, Cargill told us he was working on a new Broadcast album with vocals and music worked on before Keenan’s passing. “Trish left a lot of tapes, four-tracks and stuff, and I’ve been going through those,” Cargill said. “It’s difficult, and I’m connected to it at the same time. It’s wonderful, but I’m also feeling a sense of loss.” The album never surfaced and this demo collection is being released instead.

Read our 2003 interview with Broadcast, all the way back in our fifth print issue. By Mark Redfern

11. Lionlimb: “Hurricane”

This week, Lionlimb announced a new album, Limbo, and shared its first single, “Hurricane,” via a music video. Limbo is due out May 24 via Bayonet. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

Lionlimb is the New York-based project of Stewart Bronaugh and it also features Joshua Jaeger. One track on the album, “Dream of You,” features Angel Olsen (Bronaugh and Jaeger have also performed in Olsen’s touring band).

Limbo follows 2021’s Spiral Groove. A press release says the new album was “inspired by a palette of ’70s Italian film soundtracks, ’60s girl group music, and funk and soul ballads.”

“When I’m working on music, it’s like I’m trying to make my own world,” Bronaugh says in the press release. “It’s that feeling of wanting to exist somewhere else. I’m trying to express something and get out of my head and body.”

Of the new single, he adds: “‘Hurricane’ is about escapism and searching for THAT feeling that puts you in a flow state, away from the anxiety and uncomfortableness of being human. Creativity can help, and then there are other ways that are much more harmful. This song is about saying goodbye to those, but I feel like I’m always searching for that next thing.” By Mark Redfern

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 11.

Efterklang: “Getting Reminders” (Feat. Zach Condon of Beirut)

Sam Evian: “Jacket”

Khruangbin: “Pon Pón”

Lenny Kravitz: “Human”

Travis: “Gaslight”

Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 15 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions:

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