12 Best Songs of the Last Two Weeks: Squid, Baio, Bernice, serpentwithfeet, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, June 25th, 2024  

12 Best Songs of the Last Two Weeks: Squid, Baio, Bernice, serpentwithfeet, and More

Plus Madeline Kenney, Ohtis, Tune-Yards, Arlo Parks, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Jan 29, 2021 Madeline Kenney Bookmark and Share

Welcome to the third Songs of the Week of 2021. We didn’t do a Songs of the Week last week. Due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and the inauguration, it was a week light on compelling new tracks. So this week we chronicle the best songs of the last two weeks, so it’s a Top 12 (and our Top 2 are both super long songs).

2021 got off to rocky start and while the pandemic still rages and the vaccine rollout isn’t exactly at warp speed, it’s been nice for the news to be somewhat more boring in the last couple of weeks with our new president in charge (it’s also been nice casually hearing the phrases “President Biden” and “Vice President Harris” in the background on NPR). The constant turmoil of the last administration was quite exhausting.

In the last two weeks we posted interviews with Jónsi, Suzanne Vega, The Beths, Kelly Lee Owens, Doves, Steven Wilson, Hinds, Madeline Kenney, Westerman, The Dears, and more.

In the last two weeks we also reviewed a bunch of albums.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, then be sure to dive into our Top 100 Albums of 2020 list.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last two weeks, we have picked the 12 best the last two weeks had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last two weeks. Check out the full list below.

1. Squid: “Narrator” (Feat. Martha Skye Murphy)

This week Brighton, England-based five-piece Squid announced their debut album, Bright Green Field, and shared its eight-minute long first single, “Narrator” (which features Martha Skye Murphy), via a video for the song. “Narrator” is chaotic and abrasive, but it also has a hypnotic quality to it.

Bright Green Field is due out May 7 via Warp. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

The band features Ollie Judge (drums, lead vocals), Louis Borlase (guitars, vocals), Arthur Leadbetter (keyboards, strings), Laurie Nankivell (bass, brass), and Anton Pearson (guitars, vocals). Dan Carey produced the album.

Judge writes most of the band’s lyrics and had this to say in a press release: “This album has created an imaginary cityscape. The tracks illustrate the places, events and architecture that exist within it. Previous releases were playful and concerned with characters, whereas this album is darker and more concerned with place—the emotional depth of the music has deepened.”

The band collectively had this to say about the new single: “‘Narrator’ was inspired by the 2019 film A Long Day’s Journey Into Night. The song follows a man who is losing the distinction between memory, dream and reality and how you can often mold your memories of people to fit a narrative that benefits your ego. Martha Skye-Murphy made the point that the unreliable narrator is, more often than not, a male who wishes to portray women as submissive characters in their story. After some discussions with Martha she thought it’d be a good idea that she play the part of the woman wanting to break free from the dominating story the male has set.”

Felix Green directed the “Narrator” video and had this to say: “I had wanted to make a video about the virtual creation process for some time. I often think this ‘behind the digital curtain’ part of 3D design looks more interesting than the final finished product since it conveys a process and an authorship. When I was approached to pitch on ‘Narrator’ I immediately thought it could be the perfect match for this very visual idea.”

In 2019 Squid released the Town Centre EP via Dan Carey’s Speedy Wunderground. Previously Squid shared the EP’s seven-and-a-half minutes long “The Cleaner,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared another song from Town Centre, “Match Bet,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. Last year Squid shared two new songs: “Sludge” (which was one of our Songs of the Week) and “Broadcaster.”

2. Baio: “O.M.W.”

Baio (Vampire Weekend’s Chris Baio) released his third solo album, Dead Hand Control, today via Glassnote (you can stream it here). Baio wrote all the songs on the album himself, except for the near 10-minute long closing track, “O.M.W.,” which was written with his Vampire Weekend bandmate Ezra Koenig. Now that the album is out we can include “O.M.W.” (which wasn’t previously released as a single) on our Songs of the Week list.

We also recently posted a podcast interview with Baio, as part of the Why Not Both podcast we present, and you can listen to that here.

When Dead Hand Control was announced, Baio shared its first two singles, “Endless Me, Endlessly” and “What Do You Say When I’m Not There?,” via videos for the new songs. “Endless Me, Endlessly” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then Baio shared two more songs from the album: title track “Dead Hand Control” and “Take It from Me.” The former was shared via a video for it and made our Songs of the Week list.

Baio released his debut solo album, The Names, in 2015 via Glassnote, and released his sophomore album, Man of the World, in 2017, also via Glassnote.

Dead Hand Control was recorded at Damon Albarn’s 13 Studios in London and Baio’s C+C Music Factory studio in Los Angeles (founded with Vampire Weekend bandmate Chris Tomson). According to a press release, the album’s title comes from two sources: “Dead Hand” is the name “a rumored Soviet missile system designed to obliterate America” and “Dead Hand Control” is “a legal strategy for attempting to control the beneficiaries of your will after you die.”

“I was looking at the past five years of American life and obsessing about topics like death, wills, and nuclear war,” Baio says. “But at its heart, it’s about how the only thing you can control is the way you treat the people in your life.”

3. Bernice: “It’s Me, Robin”

Toronto five-piece Bernice are releasing a new album, Eau De Bonjourno, on March 5, 2021 via Telephone Explosion. Last week they shared another song from it, “It’s Me, Robin,” via a quirky video for the jazzy single. The band’s lead singer is named Robin Dann, which explains the song’s title. Sonia Beckwith directed the amusing video.

NPR’s All Songs Considered premiered the song and Dann had this to say about it to host Bob Boilen: “This song for me, lyrically, was an exercise in trying to be as blunt and transparent as possible with myself. It starts out in a non-poetic way: ‘It’s me, Robin. You don’t really know me. I thought if I just expressed this you might let me be me’—which I think is a universal desire. We all just kind of want to feel permission to exist, unconditionally, not based on any career milestones or whatever personal successes or failures. We want every life to inherently have value. This song, in a really playful way, (referencing ducks and potatoes) addresses the not-so-straightforward feelings that we have in life, but ultimately asks the big question, who are you? We’re all just in this beautiful, endless search for joy.”

Previously Bernice shared Eau De Bonjourno’s first single, “Groove Elation,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.

Eau De Bonjourno is the band’s third full-length, the follow-up to 2018’s eclectically named Puff LP: In the air without a shape. Shahzad Ismaily produced Eau De Bonjourno.

In a previous press release Dann said the album “openly plays with the shape of a pop song.”

4. serpentwithfeet: “Fellowship” (Feat. Sampha & Lil Silva)

This week Experimental R&B/gospel vocalist serpentwithfeet (aka Josiah Wise) announced a new album, DEACON, and shared its first single, “Fellowship,” via a video for the track, which is an ode to friendship. DEACON is due out March 26 via Secretly Canadian. Check out the album’s cover art and tracklist here.

DEACON is serpentwithfeet’s second album, the follow-up to his acclaimed debut album, soil, from 2018.

A press release sets the scene for the album: “With DEACON, serpent is not only imagining but exploring a world wherein Black love is paramount. It’s a study rather than a story delving into Black, gay love and the tenderness present in the best companionships, romantic or otherwise.”

“I originally approached this project wanting to make something that felt very sensuous. Something a lot softer, a lot more gentle than my previous work,” adds Wise in the press release.

The album’s title comes from the position in the Christian church. “I wanted to create something that felt calm and restrained. This was my way of tapping into the energy many deacons possess,” Wise explains.

“Fellowship” was co-written and co-produced by Wise with Sampha and Lil Silva. Kordae Jatafa Henry directed the video, which features Wise and his partner on the beach.

“I dedicate ‘Fellowship’ to anyone who has had a good friend or been a good friend,” says Wise.

5. Madeline Kenney: “Wasted Time”

Last week Oakland-based singer/songwriter Madeline Kenney surprise-released a new self-produced EP titled Summer Quarter, via Carpark. Kenney also shared a self-directed video for the EP’s “Wasted Time,” which was shot at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. Check it out the full EP here and “Wasted Time” makes this list.

Kenney states regarding the video in a press release: “In making this music video, something inherently hands on and collaborative, I wanted to make the process not only safe and comfortable for dancers amidst a pandemic, but also celebratory of their talents and a venue for them to move/create/express themselves in a way they may have not gotten the chance to do in a long time. We were super lucky to get let into the Greek Theatre to film, and using the drone made it easier to shoot the dancers safely. ‘Wasted Time’ is about making art and finding the process of selling that art to be the thing that kills it, and how hard it can be to create under duress and urgency. The dancers seemed to fully embrace that theme and run with it, and I wanted the video to show them running (or improvising) with it.”

Kenney’s most recent album, Sucker’s Lunch, came out last year via Carpark, and made it to #63 on our Top 100 Albums of 2020 list. By Joey Arnone

6. Ohtis: “Schatze” (Feat. Stef Chura)

This week Illinois-based band Ohtis returned with a sharp new single, “Schatze,” featuring Stef Chura. Though the band’s debut, Curve of The Earth, released in 2019, the record itself was over a decade in the making with the band forming over 20 years ago. Frontman Sam Swinson’s struggles with addiction resulted in a 15-year hiatus, but with sobriety came an invigorating creative outpouring that coalesced into the band’s acclaimed debut. Thankfully, fans haven’t had to wait another decade for more music as the band has returned with an upcoming 7-inch vinyl release through Saddle Creek’s Document Series.

Though Curve of The Earth’s incisive lyrical reflections were primarily accompanied by a homespun mix of bluegrass, alt-country, and folk, “Schatze” may point to new paths for Ohtis. Opening on spacey synths tones, the band then kicks into gear with a raw, lo-fi garage rock riff, recalling elements of Stef Chura’s debut record.

However, the real highlight is the snarky call-and-response interplay of Chura and Swinson with Swinson playing an anti-social man stuck in arrested development and Chura his exasperated girlfriend. While at times playful the track is nonetheless a scathing take on stagnating relationships and entitled attitudes. As Chura elegantly puts it on her verse, “You’ve been playing that same goddamn video game for 27 nights and 28 days/Grow the fuck up dude, what the fuck.” Of course, Swinson has no qualms about admitting that he’s the problem. He just doesn’t care—“I do what I please/I’m a piece of shit I just think I’ll get away with it,” he admits. The accompanying video watches the argument play out over text as the band interrupts a meditation app.

Swinson explains of “Schatze” in a press release: “I got the idea for the song on an oceanfront balcony up in Cambria when my wife got annoyed by my neurotic vape addiction crampin’ the vibes. Most of the rest was written and recorded last year, late at night in a hotel room in Amsterdam.”

Stef Chura says of her contribution: “Sam is a rare songwriter. He speaks from an honest and dark place with a sincerity that I think is refreshing and deeply relatable. Adam [Pressley] is an old friend who was living down the street from me in Detroit at the time this collaboration came to be tossed around. I think someone on my Instagram kept asking me about doing a song with them…. So I made a poll as a joke which led to the inevitable. When they showed me the song and the call and response format I was instantly in love with it.” By Caleb Campbell

7. Tune-Yards: “hold yourself.”

This week Tune-Yards (Merrill Garbus and Nate Brenner) announced a new album, sketchy., and shared a new song, “hold yourself.,” via a video for the single. Sketchy. is due out March 26 via 4AD. Basa Studio directed the “hold yourself.” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Sketchy. includes “nowhere, man,” a new song the band shared last September, which was one of our Songs of the Week.

Garbus had this to say about “hold yourself.” in a press release: “This song is about feeling really betrayed, by my parents’ generation, and at the same time, really seeing how we are betraying the future.”

Garbus says their goal with sketchy. was to make something joyous and colorful. “I started remembering that people come to us to be entertained, to move, to feel joy. And together, I think, we can wake up,” she says.

Tune-Yards’ last album was 2018’s I can feel you creep into my private life.

8. Arlo Parks: “Alone”

Arlo Parks released her debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams, today via Transgressive. This week she shared one last pre-release song from it, “Alone,” via a touching video in which Parks supports a depressed friend. Molly Burdett directed the cinematic video.

Parks had this to say about “Alone” in a press release: “This video to me is a warm, vibrant exploration of friendship and introversion. I think there’s something so powerful about the saturated, filmic textures, the human portraits and depictions of euphoria…. The song surrounds isolation, being present in your pain and knowing that you’re not the only one on the planet feeling low. I think especially in times like these it’s important to focus on the inevitability that things will get better.”

Last month, Parks shared a video for the song “Caroline,” which will be featured on her debut album and performed for her show. “Caroline” was one of our Songs of the Week.

When Collapsed In Sunbeams was announced, Parks shared the single “Green Eyes,” via a video for the track (which features Clairo). “Green Eyes” was one of our Songs of the Week. Parks previously shared Collapsed In Sunbeams“Hurt,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week.

9. Django Django: “Free From Gravity”

Django Django are releasing a new album, Glowing in the Dark, February 12 via Because Music. Last week they shared another song from it, “Free From Gravity,” via a video for it that features a young alien. James Canty directed the video.

Django Django collectively had this to say about the song in a press release: “It’s really about the planet being in such a mess that we eventually have to leave.”

Glowing in the Dark includes “Spirals,” a new song they shared in September via a kaleidoscopic video. “Spirals” was one of our Songs of the Week. Following “Spirals,” Django Django also shared a remix of the song by Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio as an Amazon Music exclusive. Then they shared another new song, the instrumental track “The Ark,” which was the B-side to “Spirals” but is also featured on the new album. Then they shared a remix of “Spirals” by MGMT (Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser), who stretched out the song to nearly eight minutes. Then they shared the album’s title track, “Glowing in the Dark,” via a video for it. “Glowing in the Dark” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared a remix of “Glowing in the Dark” by Hot Chip, via a video for it. One song on the album, “Waking Up,” features Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Glowing in the Dark is the band’s fourth album, the follow-up to 2018’s Marble Skies and Winter’s Beach EP. A press release says Glowing in the Dark “has a running theme of escape: from despair, from constraints, from small town life, and even, in dreams, from the Earth.”

Django Django also features producer/drummer David Maclean, bassist Jimmy Dixon, and synthesizer operator Tommy Grace. Marble Skies was the follow-up to the band’s 2015 sophomore album, Born Under Saturn, and their 2012-released Mercury Prize-nominated self-titled debut.

10. Goat Girl: “Badibaba”

South London quartet Goat Girl released a new album, On All Fours, today via Rough Trade. Last week they shared another single from it, “Badibaba,” via a lyric video for the track. They also announced some UK tour dates for this fall, which are found here.

Guitarist/vocalist L.E.D. had this to say in a press release: “‘Badibaba’ is a song about environmental catastrophe and the pessimism and self-destruction that this causes to the human spirit.”

Guitarist/vocalist Clottie Cream adds: “It touches on how the earth’s existence is controlled by exploitative systems, and the feeling of existential helplessness this induces.”

Previously Goat Girl shared On All Fours’ first single, “Sad Cowboy,” via a video. “Sad Cowboy” made it to #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then they shared another single from it, “The Crack,” via a surreal video for the song (which was also one of our Songs of the Week).

On All Fours is the band’s second album, the follow-up to their self-titled debut album from 2018. Dan Carey (Kae Tempest, black midi, Franz Ferdinand) produced the album, which was recorded in South London in early 2020.

11. Xiu Xiu: “A Bottle of Rum” (Feat. Liz Harris)

This week Xiu Xiu announced a new album of duets, OH NO, that features Sharon Van Etten, Chelsea Wolfe, George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow, Owen Pallett, Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater and Loma, Greg Saunier of Deerhoof, Angus Andrew of Liars, and others. They have shared the album’s first single, “A Bottle of Rum,” which features Liz Harris and comes accompanied by a video directed by Xiu Xiu’s Angela Seo. OH NO is due out March 26 via Polyvinyl. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

The band’s Jamie Stewart had this to say about “A Bottle of Rum” in a press release: “About a year ago I bought a cheap bajo quinto, which is a 10 string low register guitar like instrument used in Tejano, conjunto and norteño musics. As it is a cheap one, only certain chords sound good on it. One of them, annoyingly, is the open ‘cowboy’ voicing of D major. When we started Xiu Xiu, founding member Cory McCulloch had a lot of rules for the band. One of them was we could never use this chord. It has become a creative game in the last few years to try and break some of these rules but in a way that respects that Cory had very good reasons for imposing them in the first place. I.e. in this voicing, D major is an insipid chord…. I had been trying to write a song on this bajo quinto to no avail and then drunkenly (A Bottle of Rum) listened to Liz’s song, ‘Heavy Water/I’d Rather Be Sleeping.’ A spark shone and feebly I tried to write something that, at least at first, sounded like it. I had asked Liz Harris, who is an old friend, if she would sing on this new record of duets. Initially I thought of her for another song but she specifically, although not knowing she had been the inspiration behind it in the first place, asked to be on this one. If the stars ever have aligned… well then.”

Angela Seo had this to say about the video: “This video, as often is with Xiu videos, is an amalgamation of things that I want and am into lately. When I was a kid, I always wanted a video camera and was fascinated with tapes, but couldn’t afford one. I’m an adult now, and can buy what I want, so I bought a used mini DV camera. I like how the tapes look, the specific way they capture color, and also the tactile feeling of inserting and ejecting a tape…. Also, I’ve always had a love for noir films and their penchant for shadows, fate, doom, and drama. Our friend and superb drummer David Kendrick (Sparks, Devo, Xiu Xiu) wrote a three part noir story and this is part 1. In keeping with the times, most of this was intentionally DIY, shot alone or with just a couple of friends and a tripod.”

Of the album as a whole, Stewart says: “The guest stars of OH NO reflect the types of people, and many of the very same, who helped remind me that the ratio of beautiful humans to shitty humans is more like 60/40 rather than what I have always assumed was 1/99. Although there is an ‘I HATE PEOPLE’ pin on my guitar strap, I hate them less now.”

OH NO is the follow-up to 2019’s Girl with Basket of Fruit and 2017’s FORGET.

12. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: “CYHSY, 2005”

This week Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (the project of Alec Ounsworth) shared a new song titled “CYHSY, 2005.” It will be featured on their upcoming album New Fragility, which will be out on February 12 via CYHSY/Secretly Distribution.

Ounsworth speaks about the inspiration behind “CYHSY, 2005” in a press release: “Part of being away so often is leaving people behind, and never feeling you’re able to establish conventionally meaningful relationships. You can be searching for stabilitybeing in one placeand discover that that’s an illusion.”

Back in October of last year, the band shared the songs “Hesitating Nation” and “Thousand Oaks” from the album. A few months later, they shared the song “Where They Perform Miracles.” Their most recent album, Only Run, came out back in 2014. By Joey Arnone

Honorable Mentions:

These 11 songs almost made the Top 12.

Another Michael: “Big Pop”

Badlands: “Southbound Call”


Valerie June: “Call Me a Fool” (Feat. Carla Thomas)

Jenny Lewis and Serengeti: “Vroom Vroom”

Lost Horizons: “Marie” (Feat. Marissa Nadler)

Miss Grit: “Blonde”

Billy Nomates: “Heels”

PONY: “Couch”

The Staves: “Devotion”

Chad VanGaalen: “Samurai Sword”

Other notable new tracks in the last two weeks include: The Chills: “Monolith”

The Coral: “Faceless Angel”

Desire: “Zeros”

Billie Eilish and Rosalía: “Lo Vas A Olvidar”

FKA twigs, Headie One, and Fred again..: “Don’t Judge Me”

HAERTS: “Shivering”

Half Waif: “Orange Blossoms”

Hand Habits: “4th of July”

Juliana Hatfield: “Mouthful of Blood”

Charlie Hickey: “Ten Feet Tall” (Feat. Phoebe Bridgers)

The Hold Steady: “Spices”

Sophia Kennedy: “Cat on My Tongue”

The Killers: “C’est La Vie”

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: “O.N.E.”

Loney dear: “Trifles”

Imelda May and Noel Gallagher: “Just One Kiss” (Feat. Ronnie Wood)

Jensen McRae: “Immune”

Nervous Dater: “Middle Child”

Pino Palladino & Blake Mills: “Just Wrong”

Esther Rose: “How Many Times”

Small Black: “Duplex”

Julia Stone: “We All Have” (Feat. Matt Berninger)

Teenage Fanclub: “I’m More Inclined”

TRZTN: “Hieroglyphs” (Feat. Karen O)

Weezer: “All My Favorite Songs”

Matthew E. White & Lonnie Holley: “This Here Jungle of Modernness/Composition 14”

Chelsea Wolfe: “Anhedonia” (Feat. Emma Ruth Rundle)

Yuno: “Somebody”

(Thanks to Joey Arnone for helping to put this week’s list together.)

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