11 Best Songs of the Week: Yard Act, Kim Gordon, Adrianne Lenker, Jane Weaver, and More | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, April 24th, 2024  

11 Best Songs of the Week: Yard Act, Kim Gordon, Adrianne Lenker, Jane Weaver, and More

Plus Boeckner, IDLES, Sam Evian, Tomato Flower, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Jan 19, 2024
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Welcome to the second Songs of the Week of 2024. This week’s list was fueled by lots of notable album announcements.

This week Andy Von Pip, Caleb Campbell, Mark Moody, and Scott Dransfield all helped me decide what should make the list. We settled on a Top 11 this week, narrowed down from the 20 songs we seriously considered.

In the past week or so we posted interviews with Slow Pulp, Spiritualized, Mutual Benefit, 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. Yard Act: “We Make Hits”

British post-punk band Yard Act are releasing a new album, Where’s My Utopia?, on March 1 via Republic. This week they shared another song from it, “We Make Hits,” via a music video.

Yard Act’s frontman James Smith had this to say about the song: “‘We Make Hits’ started like most Yard Act songs do these days, in Ryan’s spare bedroom. He’d recorded a couple of basslines and I went round to throw some words on top just to see what might happen. I was reflecting on how things had changed so much for us over the last few years when I realized that sat round a laptop trying to make each other laugh, necking black coffee and craning our heads out of the window to smoke cigs every hour or so, all that had really changed within the writing process was that, thanks to my baby, we were at Ryan’s house rather than mine and that Ryan had a place of his own now, which was nice. Despite the outside blowing up, behind closed doors, we were the same, and I’m grateful for that. You can see the cynicism and the silliness on the surface of ‘We Make Hits’ without much effort, but at its core, for me, it’s really an ode to friendship and the unfiltered joy you feel when you’re making music with the people you hold dear in your life. Meanwhile back in the Yardiverse, we’re getting the origin story of the hitmen Dynamite Dave and Dudley Sunglasses. A valid parable about the trappings of late capitalism, and the compromises we have to make to survive sometimes.”

On Facebook, the band collectively also had this to say about the song: “Cynical, silly, but ultimately full of heart if you ask us. It’s the Yard Act origin story and it’s a love letter to making music with the people you love and how good it feels. No doubt some people will misinterpret its many meanings, no doubt the cloth-eared amongst us will dismiss it by way of heuristics but ultimately you’re all wrong and only positive opinions matter. No irony necessary.”

Regular collaborator James Slater had this to say about directing the song’s video: “For ‘We Make Hits’ I took a song which charts the origin story of the band and used it to tell the backstory of two hapless hitmen who upon receiving an eviction notice in their student bedsit embark on a job search which ultimately leads them to gainful employment as assassins for the Holy Global Enterprise. As ever with the Yard Act vids I’ve made, this vid is part of an ever expanding cinematic universe—a continuation of The Visitor’s journey we began with ‘The Trench Coat Museum.’”

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. Then when the album was announced they shared its second single, “Dream Job,” also via a music video (and also one of our Songs of the Week). Then they shared its third single, “Petroleum,” via a music video that stars British-based Australian comedian/actress Rose Matafeo (creator/star of Max’s acclaimed Starstruck).

Where’s My Utopia? is less post-punk and more finds the band embracing an upbeat dance-rock vibe.

“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,” Smith 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.

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. Kim Gordon: “BYE BYE”

This week, Kim Gordon (formerly of Sonic Youth) announced a new solo album, The Collective, and shared its first single, “BYE BYE,” via a music video that stars Gordon’s daughter, Coco Gordon Moore. She also announced some tour dates. The Collective is due out March 8 via Matador. Clara Balzary directed the “BYE BYE” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the tour dates, here.

The Collective is Gordon’s second solo album and follows 2019’s No Home Record. As with that album, Gordon once again collaborated with producer Justin Raisen (Lil Yachty, John Cale, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Charli XCX, Yves Tumor). Anthony Paul Lopez provided additional production.

A press release describes the album in more detail: “The album advances their joint world building, with Raisin’s damaged, blown out dub and trap constructions playing the foil to Gordon’s intuitive word collages and hooky mantras, which conjure communication, commercial sublimation, and sensory overload.” By Mark Redfern

3. Adrianne Lenker: “Sadness as a Gift”

This week, Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief announced a new solo album, Bright Future, and shared a new song from it, “Sadness as a Gift.” She also announced a whole lot of North American tour dates for this summer and fall. Bright Future is due out March 22 via 4AD. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the tour dates, here.

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.

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

4. Jane Weaver: “Perfect Storm”

This week, British singer/songwriter/guitarist Jane Weaver announced a new album, Love In Constant Spectacle, and shared a new song from it, “Perfect Storm.” Love In Constant Spectacle is due out April 5 via Fire. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as Weaver’s upcoming tour dates, here. Also here is the album’s title track, which was shared last year.

Love In Constant Spectacle is the follow-up to 2021’s Flock. John Parish produced the album, which was recorded at Rockfield Studios and Geoff Barrow’s Invada studio.

Weaver had this to say about the album in a press release: “A lot of the album’s themes stem from interpretation and translation, observations and emotional cues. I love the nuances in translation on foreign film subtitles, sometimes it’s exaggerated or more beautiful, stand-alone statements that don’t make sense but when accompanied by a visual image, we can see the scene play out.”

Read our recent My Firsts interview with Weaver.

Read our review of Flock. By Mark Redfern

5. Boeckner: “Lose”

This week, Daniel Boeckner of Wolf Parade announced his debut solo album, Boeckner!, simply released under his last name, and shared its first single, “Lose,” via a music video. Boeckner! is due out March 15 via Sub Pop. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

Randall Dunn produced, engineered, and mixed the album, which was recorded at Circular Ruin in New York City and mastered by Heba Kadry in Brooklyn. The album also features Matt Chamberlain on drums, Medicine’s Brad Laner, and Jeremy Gaudet of labelmates Kiwi Jr., who co-wrote the song “Dead Tourists.”

“As a teenager, I imported cassettes of Medicine’s flawless shoegaze noise records, and I absolutely loved Brad Laner’s sandblasting, Chernobyl guitar,” says Boeckner in a press release.

Of working with Dunn, he says: “I’d been a fan of his forever, especially the Sunn0))) records he produced. Working with Randall really unlocked some suppressed musical urges, things that I enjoy in my private life but don’t normally weave into what I’m releasing—like occult synth, pseudo-metal, krautrock, and heavy psych influences.”

Outside of Wolf Parade, Boeckner has been involved in several other projects, including Operators, Divine Fits, Atlas Strategic, and Handsome Furs.

“This record is like an autobiography—Atlas Strategic music concrete synth explosions, lush synth stuff from Operators, the noise guitar from Handsome Furs, drawing influence from everything from Stockhausen to Tom Waits all at the same time,” Boeckner says.

“I think in a lot of ways in my mind I’m still playing in a punk band in Vancouver,” Boeckner adds. “Starting back when I was a teenager, my life in music has been trying to develop my own musical language, and this record is the beginning of presenting that.”

Wolf Parade’s last album, Thin Mind, came out in 2020 via Sub Pop.

Read our 2017 interview with Wolf Parade. By Mark Redfern

6. IDLES: “Gift Horse”

IDLES are releasing a new album, TANGK, on February 16 via Partisan. This week they shared its third single, “Gift Horse,” via an amazing music video. David Helman directed the video.

Frontman Joe Talbot had this to say about the single in a press release: “Look at us go! Music and movement for you and yours. Be bold and ride us like the disco donkeys we are.”

Previously IDLES shared the album’s first single, “Dancer,” via a music video. “Dancer” featured guest vocals from LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and Nancy Whang and was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared its second single, “Grace,” via a lyric video. “Grace” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, The Smile, Beck) and Kenny Beats (Denzel Curry, Vince Staples, Benee) co-produced TANGK with IDLES’ Mark Bowen. TANGK (which is simply pronounced as “tank”) follows CRAWLER, which was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2021.

Talbot had this to say about the new album in a previous press release: “TANGK. I needed love. So I made it. I gave love out to the world and it feels like magic. This is our album of gratitude and power. All love songs. All is love.” By Mark Redfern

7. Sam Evian: “Wild Days”

This week, Sam Evian announced a new album, Plunge, and shared its first single, “Wild Days.” He also announced some U.S. tour dates. Plunge is due out March 22 via Evian’s own Flying Cloud Recordings imprint and Thirty Tigers. CJ Harvey directed the “Wild Days” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the tour dates, here.

Evian recorded the album at Flying Cloud Studios in the Catskills in Upstate New York with various friends and collaborators, including Liam Kazar, Sean Mullins, El Kempner of Palehound, and Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief.

“No-one knew the songs or what the plan was. We kept it loose and fun. This was the spirit of the sessions. No headphones, no playback, minimal overdubs, or bleed. Fast and loose,” says Evian in a press release.

“I wrote the songs so that I could just play them and sing them on a guitar. I wanted them to be like really focused, classic songs,” he further explains.

“Wild Days” was written from Evian’s mother’s perspective and the whole of Plunge sees Evian writing “from the eyes of his creative musician parents, tracing their complicated love story and adding his own ruminations throughout,” as the press release puts it.

Plunge is the follow-up to 2021’s Time to Melt, which was released on Fat Possum.

Read our The End interview with Evian from 2021. By Mark Redfern

8. Tomato Flower: “Saint”

This week, Baltimore-based four-piece Tomato Flower announced their debut album, simply titled No, and shared a new song from it, “Saint.” They also announced some U.S. tour dates. No is due out March 8 via Ramp Local. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the tour dates, here. Also here is “Destroyer,” a No track the band shared last year.

Singers Austyn Wohlers and Jamison Murphy lead the band. Formerly a couple, they broke up while keeping the band together and then wrote songs about it. Mike Alfieri and Ruby Mars complete the lineup. In 2022 the band released two EPs, Gold Arc and Construction. Despite being a relatively new band, that same year Tomato Flower supported fellow Baltimore band Animal Collective on a national tour. A press release cites Stereolab, Crumb, Broadcast, Pylon, This Heat, Deerhunter, and Jesus Lizard as reference points for the band.

Tomato Flower collectively had this to say about “Saint” in the press release: “Frenetic guitars and drums reflect a racing mind, while a slower guitar, cold vocal delivery, and a bass that crashes into the ground reflect the speaker’s failure to articulate herself in time. The outro can be read as rhapsodic, ironic, or remorseful—a remembrance or acknowledgment of overwhelming emotion.” By Mark Redfern

9. Linn Koch-Emmery: “ebay Armour”

This week, Swedish singer-songwriter Linn Koch-Emmery unveiled her latest musical endeavor, which follows up her Swedish Grammy-nominated debut album, Being The Girl, released in 2021. The lead single, “eBay Armour,” produced by Pete Robertson of The Vaccines, precedes her upcoming album, Borderline Iconic

Reflecting on the inspiration behind her new single, Linn reveals, “Trauma and grief have their own illogical ways. Sometimes, we cope with them through substances; others, by buying a life-sized armor off the internet. This song delves into the experiences of a person close to me, someone I never truly understood.” By Andy Von Pip

10. Khruangbin: “A Love International”

This week, Khruangbin announced a new album, A LA SALA, and shared its first single, “A Love International,” via a music video. A LA SALA is due out April 5 on Dead Oceans in partnership with Night Time Stories Ltd. Scott Dungate directed the “A Love International” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

Khruangbin’s last regular album, Mordechai, came out in 2020. Read our interview with them about it here.

In 2022 Khruangbin teamed up with Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré for the collaborative album, Ali. By Mark Redfern

11. Gruff Rhys: “Bad Friend”

Gruff Rhys, Welsh frontman of Super Furry Animals, is releasing a new solo album, Sadness Sets Me Free, on January 26 via Rough Trade. He recently shared its third single, “Bad Friend,” via a music video. He also announced some new U.S. tour dates, including SXSW. Mark James directed the video. Check out Rhys’ upcoming tour dates here.

Rhys had this to say about the song in a press release: “People always refer to ‘good friends’. This song is toying with the idea of the ‘bad friend’. Maybe a bad friend is still better than not being a friend at all. Some friends function better than others, but they’re not enemies. Within the structures of 21st-century life, the pressure on people’s time—and what we are expected to be able to perform in daily life—is so kaleidoscopic. If I could shorten the sentiments to one line, it would be ‘all in good time.’ It’s me reaching out to friends through song because maybe I haven’t had the chance to go to their house or talk to them on the phone.”

(Note: We are chearting a bit here. This song actually came out last week, but we missed it and didn’t post about it until this Monday, so we are including it in this week’s Songs of the Week.)

Previously Rhys shared the album’s first single, “Celestial Candyfloss,” via a music video. “Celestial Candyfloss” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then he shared its second single, the horn-backed “Silver Lining Lead Balloons” (which was again one of our Songs of the Week).

Rhys’ backing band on the album features Osian Gwynedd (piano), Huw V Williams (double bass), and former Flaming Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock (drums). Sadness Sets Me Free was recorded at La Frette Studios, a studio on the outskirts of Paris in a 19th-century house. The initial recordings were done in only three days. Kate Stables from This is the Kit contributed backing vocals (Rhys produced This is the Kit’s latest album, Careful of Your Keepers, which came out in June). Sadness Sets Me Free is the 25th album Rhys has released, taking into account Super Furry Animals, his solo work, and various side-projects.

“At this point I quite like working with serendipity,” he says. “Not in a cosmic way, [but] I try and leave things open to chance encounters and chance geography. As I’m around 25 albums in I’m always looking for ways to make a different-sounding record.”

Back in February, Rhys released the soundtrack for the film The Almond and the Seahorse via Rough Trade. His last regular solo album was 2021’s Seeking New Gods. It was one of our Top 100 Albums of the 2021. In 2022 he also shared the new songs “People Are Pissed” and “Arogldarth.” “People Are Pissed” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Read our 2015 interview with Gruff Rhys. By Mark Redfern

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 11.

Madi Diaz: “Everything Almost”

ellis: “obliterate me”

The Fauns: “Shake Your Hair”

Friko: “Where We’ve Been”

(The band shared both a live version of the song to YouTube and the studio/album version to Spotify, so we have included both.)

The Jesus and Mary Chain: “Chemical Animal”

Jlin: “The Precision of Infinity” (Feat. Philip Glass)

Pouty: “TV on TV”

Real Estate: “Haunted World”

Chelsea Wolfe: “Everything Turns Blue”

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

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