12 Best Songs of the Week: Elbow, Still Corners, Arab Strap, Cheekface, and More | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, April 22nd, 2024  

12 Best Songs of the Week: Elbow, Still Corners, Arab Strap, Cheekface, and More

Plus Fat White Family, Phosphorescent, English Teacher, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Jan 26, 2024
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Welcome to the third Songs of the Week of 2024.

This week Andy Von Pip, Caleb Campbell, Matt the Raven, Scott Dransfield, and Stephen Humphries all helped me decide what should make the list. We settled on a Top 12 this week, narrowed down from the 18 songs we seriously considered.

In the past week or so we posted interviews with Heather Woods Broderick, Birthmark, 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 12 best the last week had to offer, followed by some honorable mentions. Check out the full list below.

1. Elbow: “Lovers’ Leap”

This week, Elbow announced a new album, AUDIO VERTIGO, and shared its first single, “Lovers’ Leap.” AUDIO VERTIGO is due out March 22 via Polydor/Geffen.

In a press release, frontman Guy Garvey says “Lovers’ Leap” is designed “not to reflect but distract from the bad things happening in the world. We found seedy, gnarly grooves playing in back rooms and those pulled some dark memories and plenty of humor from me.”

The song’s genesis started with bassist Pete Turner and drummer Al Reeves working together and 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

2. Still Corners: “The Dream”

Dream-pop duo Still Corners are releasing a new album, Dream Talk, on April 5 via the band’s own Wrecking Light label. This week they shared the album’s second single, “The Dream,” via a self-directed music video.

A press release describes the genesis of the video in greater detail: “The video is based on the duo’s deep love of mystery novels and cozy crime fiction. Tessa Murray plays a new character called ‘Penelope Braithwaite’ as she investigates the ‘Mystery of the Repeating Dream.’ Folks from the fictitious town of ‘Reverwood, Sussex’ have been falling into a repeating dream trap, when they wake up they realize they are in fact in the same dream. Penelope arrives at a mysterious house to investigate. Does she solve the mystery or is she too stuck in a looping dream? Beautifully filmed in England by the band themselves and featuring steam trains and a dilapidated mansion set on vast gardens, this is a detective story not to be missed!”

Still Corners previously shared the album’s first single, “Secret World,” which was one of my Songs of the Week.

Still Corners are the American/British duo of Greg Hughes and Tessa Murray. The band’s last album, The Last Exit, came out earlier in 2021. It was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2021.

Murray had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “The genesis for a lot of these songs came from dreams. Every night I would write down the dreams I could remember. While recording I would pull out my book of dreams and sing over various looped phrases Greg had been working on. The repetitive nature of the looping and singing almost felt like going into a trance. A lot of the songs came from that process, it was fun and what I thought were sort of ramblings ended up surprising us with their various meanings and imagery.”

The album was written in the south of France, East Sussex, UK, and Woodstock, New York.

“The songs came together quickly and being able to write from anywhere kept up our momentum,” said Murray.

Hughes produced Dream Talk at the band’s studio in Woodstock. He said: “We tried various things like different mics, amps and effects before committing to anything. Everything was mixed analog through our new SSL console, there’s a gleam to the sound.”

In 2016 Murray wrote a My Inner Geek guest blog post for us about Star Trek: The Next Generation and you can read that here. By Mark Redfern

3. Arab Strap: “Bliss”

This week, Scottish duo Arab Strap (Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton) announced a new album, I’m totally fine with it don’t give a fuck anymore, and shared its first single, “Bliss.” They also announced some UK tour dates. The album is due out May 10 via Rock Action. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the tour dates, here.

I’m totally fine with it don’t give a fuck anymore is supposed to be written with two yellow thumbs up emojis, one between “it” and “don’t” and another at the end of the title, but for technical reasons we can’t include the emojis on our website.

The album follows their 2021 comeback album, As Days Get Dark, and their 2022 single, “Aphelion.”

Moffat had this to say about “Bliss” in a press release: “It’s about women being terrorized online; it’s about cowardice and bigotry. It’s about how we expose ourselves on social platforms while hiding alone at home. But you can dance to it too!”

As Days Get Dark was Arab Strap’s first album in almost 16 years (stream it here). Also, read our review of the album and our My Firsts interview with Middleton. The album made our Top 100 Albums of 2021 list.

The band’s album before As Days Get Dark was 2005’s The Last Romance. Arab Strap were interviewed in Under the Radar’s very first print issue in 2001, for The Red Thread, an album released the same year.

Arab Strap recently did a tour in honor of the 25th anniversary of their 1998 album Philophobia, but are looking forward to performing the more energetic songs from the new album. “The [Philophobia] tour’s been fun, but I’ll be glad it’s over so we can move on,” says Middleton.

Moffat adds: “The Philophobia gigs have been a way of saying goodbye to the old us. It was a very gentle, quiet tour, so I expect this year we’ll just be playing banger after banger—I think we’ve earned the right to make some noise now.” By Mark Redfern

4. Cheekface: “Life in a Bag”

This week, Los Angeles-based indie rock trio Cheekface surprise-released a new album, It’s Sorted, and also shared an amusing video for the album’s new single, “Life in a Bag,” which is the band’s first official music video. David Combs and Ben Epstein directed the video, which features the band frustrated at a silent disco. Stream the album here, where you can also find the band’s upcoming tour dates.

Cheekface is vocalist/guitarist Greg Katz, bassist Amanda Tannen (formerly of stellastarr*), and drummer Mark “Echo” Edwards. It’s Sorted includes “The Fringe,” a new song we posted last year that was one of our Songs of the Week.

Katz had this to say about It’s Sorted in a press release: “We’ve been accused of being a singles band, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. But we made It’s Sorted as an album for album’s sake, united by a theme.”

“Above all, it asks one main question, which is: am I a unique creative person forced to live on a capitalist hamster wheel where I have to pretend I’m a respectable worker bee? Or am I actually an utterly uncool and revolting weirdo who is barely concealing that fact under an ill-fitting veneer of normalcy I wear in a vain attempt to fit into this collapsing empire?”

Cheekface’s last album was 2022’s Too Much to Ask. It included the songs “Pledge Drive” and “We Need a Bigger Dumpster.”

Fun fact: I went to elementary school with Amanda Tannen, back when I lived in New Jersey for four years. We reconnected as adults when we were doing an article on stellastarr* and realized we were in fourth grade together. By Mark Redfern

5. Fat White Family: “Bullet of Dignity”

This week, British punk band Fat White Family announced a new album, Forgiveness Is Yours, and shared a new song from it, “Bullet of Dignity,” via a music video. Forgiveness Is Yours is due out April 26 on Domino. Niall Trask directed the video.

Forgiveness Is Yours includes “Religion for One,” a new song the band shared in December that was one of our Songs of the Week.

The band’s last album, Serfs Up!, came out in 2019 via Domino, which was their first for the label (and third album overall). It was our Album of the Week.

In a press release, frontman Lias Saoudi says Forgiveness Is Yours “is about life as eternal contingency…about no longer suspecting, but knowing that this shit will never get any easier…in fact, it’s about to get a whole lot worse, your body’s going to go into decay and the people you love will slowly start dropping dead around you…but somehow, you’ve smashed enough of your expectations thus far in life, you’re sort of fine with it…you accept it.” By Mark Redfern

6. Phosphorescent: Revelator”

This week, Phosphorescent (aka Matthew Houck) announced a new album, Revelator, and shared its first single, its title track, via a music video. Revelator is due out April 5 via Verve, his first for the label.

Houck had this to say about the new song in a press release:

“This is the song that made me realize I was writing an album.
There’s always one that does that
Until then I’m sort of floundering around with a bunch of song bits in various stages
With no clear picture of what it is I’m doing

Once the song ‘Revelator’ came to be
I could see what the album could be

I truly struggled with naming the album Revelator
As I feel like it probably has certain biblical and genre connotations
That don’t apply to this album or to Phosphorescent at all

But in the end I know what I mean by it
And the album really couldn’t be called anything else
And so that’s why this is the title track

I think it might be the best song I’ve ever written”

Houck produced the album and recorded it in his Nashville studio. Collaborators on the album include Jack Lawrence of The Raconteurs and Jim White of Dirty Three. Houck’s partner—singer/songwriter/pianist Jo Schornikow—wrote “The World Is Ending” for the album, which makes it the first Phosphorescent song not written by Houck.

Phosphorescent’s last album of original songs, C’est La Vie, came out in 2018 via Dead Oceans.

Read our exclusive 2018 joint interview between Phosphorescent and Ethan Hawke. By Mark Redfern

7. English Teacher: “Albert Road”

Last Friday, Leeds, England-based four-piece English Teacher announced their debut album, This Could Be Texas, and shared a new song from it, “Albert Road,” via a music video. They have also announced some UK tour dates. This Could Be Texas is due out April 12 via Island. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the tour dates, here.

We heard the song after we’d already voted on last week’s Songs of the Week and wrote about it after last week’s Songs of the Week was posted, which is why we made it eligible for this week’s list.

English Teacher is Lily Fontaine (vocals, rhythm guitar, synth), Douglas Frost (drums, piano, vocals), Nicholas Eden (bass), and Lewis Whiting (lead guitar). This Could Be Texas features three previously released singles by the band: “The World’s Biggest Paving Slab,” “Nearly Daffodils,” and “Mastermind Specialism.”

“I want this album to feel like you’ve gone to space and it turns out it’s almost identical to Doncaster. It’s about inbetweens, it’s about home, and it’s about Desire Paths,” says Fontaine in a press release.

Of “Albert Road,” Fontaine says: “When people ask where I’m from I usually say I’m mixed race: half Yorkshire, half Lancashire. It allows me to divert with comedy from the potential connotations of that question, which change wildly depending on who’s asking it. One end of Albert Road in Colne (her hometown) is cold, underfunded and uninspiring; the other is warm at night with live music. It sums up how I look back on the place I lived for 19 years.”

Co-director Douglas Frost had this to say about the song’s video: “This video, co-directed alongside the talented Sarah Oglesby at Sodium Films, represents the complex feelings of love one might have towards their hometown. I wanted ‘Albert Road’ to have a dream-like feel whilst keeping a firm grip on reality. That’s why we chose to film in one of our favorite pubs in Leeds, The Cardigan Arms—its classic interior was a great juxtaposition to the ethereal qualities of the video. There are also a few Easter eggs for those die hard English Teacher fans (if you’re out there please make contact). This is technically my directorial debut so sit back, shut up and be nice.” By Mark Redfern

8. Grandaddy: “Long as I’m Not the One”

Grandaddy are releasing a new album, Blu Wav, on February 16 via Dangerbird. This week they shared it’s third single, “Long as I’m Not the One,” via a lyric video.

Grandaddy’s frontman Jason Lytle had this to say about “Long as I’m Not the One” in a press release: “While the lyrics arrived early and remained mostly unchanged, I ended up recording two or three other versions of this song and just couldn’t get it right. Too folky and/or too country was the culprit. Luckily, I hung in there and settled on this rendition. Just enough shine and dirt. Just enough modern and vintage. I’m still confused as to what it is, but that’s pretty normal for me.”

When the album was announced, Grandaddy shared its first single, “Watercooler,” via a music video. “Watercooler” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared its second single, “Cabin in My Mind,” via a music video. It was also one of our Songs of the Week.

The album’s title Blu Wav is a mash-up of “bluegrass” and “New Wave,” as the new album tries to combine the lyrics associated with bluegrass waltz’s with the synthesizers and electronic sounds of ’80s New Wave, with the latter being more in Grandaddy’s wheelhouse. This came about when Lytle discovered a classic country radio station while driving through the Nevada desert and heard Patti Page’s “Tennessee Waltz” and wondered what it sound like in more of a Grandaddy style. “There’s an inordinate amount of pedal steel [on the new album],” says Lytle.

In 2017 Grandaddy released their comeback album, Last Place, which was their first album in 11 years, since 2006’s Just Like the Fambly Cat. Blu Wav is their first new album since Last Place, but they’ve been busy with archival releases since then.

Earlier this year they released Sumday Twunny, a 20th anniversary box set reissue of their 2003 album, Sumday, which included Sumday: The Cassette Demos and Sumday: Excess Baggage, a 13-song collection of rarities and B-Sides that was also released separately.

In 2020, Grandaddy released a 20th anniversary reissue of The Sophtware Slump, which included a solo piano version of the album played by Lytle.

Grandaddy were on the cover of Under the Radar’s very first print issue, in 2001, in which we interviewed them about The Sophtware Slump.

Grandaddy also features Aaron Burtch, Jim Fairchild, and Tim Dryden. The band’s Kevin Garcia passed away in 2017.

Read our 2017 interview with Grandaddy about Last Place.

Grandaddy also contributed to our Covers of Covers 20th anniversary album, where they covered Metric’s “Blindness.”

We also interviewed Grandaddy for our 20th Anniversary Issue and you can read that article here. By Mark Redfern

9. The KVB: “Labyrinths”

“Labyrinths” is the dark pulsating lead single taken from The KVB‘s forthcoming album Tremors, out on Invada Records on April 5th.

Emerging in 2010, The KVB started as the solo project of musician Nicholas Wood before evolving into an audio-visual duo. This transformation occurred when Kat Day, a talented artist with a background in fine art, joined on synthesizers and visuals in late 2011.

The band describes the majestic “Labyrinths,” with its menacing dystopian doom pop soundscape, as “the most aggressive track on the album and a nod to some of our early releases. Lyrically, it was inspired by the collection of short stories by Jorge Luis Borges and its references to historical subjectivity.” By Andy Von Pip

10. Work Wife: “Strangers”

In 2022, Brooklyn-based indie singer/songwriter Meredith Lampe shared the Quitting Season EP, her debut EP leading dreamy indie rock outfit Work Wife. In the years since, Lampe and her bandmates Cody Edgerly and Kenny Monroe have been crafting their forthcoming sophomore EP, Waste Management, due out on April 12th via Born Losers Records. As the band describes, the EP finds them taking their sprawling soundscapes in reflective new directions, exploring what it feels like to watch the world pass by when it feels as if you’re stuck in slow motion.

Lampe says, “Living in New York, watching the world change rapidly and feeling like you should too, wandering in and out of friendships and relationships and locations and moments. We wanted to explore the tension of opposites: feeling extreme stress from busyness but having nothing to do, feeling lonely while surrounded by people, how time speeds up and slows down in periods of confusion and joy, respectively. There aren’t instructions for this stuff, and most of the time it feels like we’re shooting in the dark. This EP is us processing how to navigate life with only intuition, reading between the lines and peering out as the city goes by through a squint.”

Accompanying the EP announcement, this week the band also shared the EP’s lead single, “Strangers,” premiering with Under the Radar.

“Strangers” hits a lot of the same notes as the band’s previous tracks, taking on a tone that is at once languid, melancholic, and cinematic. Swaying rhythms and layers of guitar build as the track unfurls into a heartfelt sing-along, with the band’s vocals lacing together into swirls of warm vocal tones and gauzy guitar textures. By its end, the track hits a triumphant high, pairing Lampe’s downcast meditations with lush, shining melodies.

Lampe explains, “‘Strangers’ is about the loft that Kenny and I live in, the strangeness that exists therein and the city that surrounds it. When I first moved to New York, I came home exhausted every day from always feeling in the way and the constant noise. Eventually, all that chaos fades into the background but still serves as the soundtrack to our lives. It creeps into our phone calls and our subconscious and settles like a layer on our skin.” By Caleb Campbell

11. Mildlife: “Yourself”

Australian quartet Mildlife, who are described in a press release as a “psychedelic jazz outfit,” are releasing a new album, Chorus, on March 1 on Heavenly. This week they shared another new song from it, “Yourself.” The smooth six-minute track has a bit of a pleasing yacht rock vibe. There are also hints of French bands Air and Daft Punk in their music.

The band’s Kevin McDowell had this to say about the song in the press release: “‘Yourself’ is emotionally very positive, uplifting and bright; especially the chorus has this uplifting ascension in the chords. I remember sitting on that and feeling like we were all happy. I think we’d maybe matured to the point where these are the kind of brighter sounds that we probably should embrace just out of a sense of freshness, and even just for our own curiosity.”

Chorus is the band’s third album, the follow-up to 2020’s Automatic and 2017’s Phase.

“Chorus is about a coming together of disparate elements. Not in some sort of utopian aesthetic where everything works perfectly, but in the natural flow and state of things,” says the band’s Jim Rindfleish in the press release. “It’s about cosmic compatibility and chemistry: what makes things work? Not just what makes the band work, but what makes good music, art or love? It’s the rhythm of nature.” By Mark Redfern

12. Squid: “Fugue (Bin Song)”

This week, British experimental post-punk five-piece Squid shared a new song, “Fugue (Bin Song),” ahead of their North American tour dates next month (for which they will be joined by Water From Your Eyes). Check out the tour dates here.

Squid released a new album, O Monolith, last June via Warp. “Fugue (Bin Song)” was recorded during the O Monolith sessions with Dan Carey at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio in the spring of 2022, but didn’t make the album. John McEntire (of Tortoise) then re-mixed and edited the song in the later half of 2023.

Previously Squid shared O Monolith’s first single, album opener “Swing (In a Dream),” via a music video. Then they shared its second single, “Undergrowth,” as well as an accompanying video game. “Undergrowth” was one of our Songs of the Week. They also announced some new 2024 North American tour dates. Then they shared its third single, “The Blades,” via a music video that starred British actress Charlotte Ritchie (of the original UK version of TV’s Ghosts). “The Blades” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

O Monolith is the band’s sophomore full-length and followed 2001’s debut album, Bright Green Field.

Squid features Louis Borlase, Ollie Judge, Arthur Leadbetter, Laurie Nankivell, and Anton Pearson. Long-time collaborator Dan Carey produced O Monolith, which was mixed by John McEntire (of Tortoise).

Read our 2021 interview with Squid. By Mark Redfern

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 12.

Bnny: “Good Stuff”

Drahla: “Default Parody”

Liam Gallagher and John Squire: “Mars to Liverpool”

Brittany Howard: “Prove It to You”

Justice: “One Night/All Night” (Feat. Tame Impala)

The Zutons: “Creeping on the Dancefloor”

Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 12 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions:

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