12 Best Songs of the Week: Ezra Furman, Nilüfer Yanya, Belle and Sebastian, Wet Leg, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, May 29th, 2024  

12 Best Songs of the Week: Ezra Furman, Nilüfer Yanya, Belle and Sebastian, Wet Leg, and More

Plus Sharon Van Etten, Bartees Strange, Alex Izenberg, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Mar 04, 2022 Bookmark and Share

Welcome to the ninth Songs of the Week of 2022. It was a stellar week for new tracks and we could only narrow it down to a Top 12, with several strong honorable mentions.

Covers of Covers, our first album, came out today on CD and digitally via American Laundromat. You can stream it here. You can also buy it directly from American Laundromat, via Bandcamp, or on Amazon. Today we posted a track-by-track article on the album, in which all 20 artists discuss their contribution, which you can read here.

In the last week we posted interviews with Pixies, Nation of Language, Adam Olenius of Shout Out Louds, Kristine Leschper, and Nilüfer Yanya.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums.

Don’t forget to pick up our new double print issue, our 20th Anniversary Issue (which is out now) and to preorder our first album, the 20th anniversary compilation Covers of Covers. Also check out our Top 100 Albums of 2021 list and our Top 130 Songs of 2021 list.

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, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last seven days. Check out the full list below.

1. Ezra Furman: “Point Me Toward the Real”

Ezra Furman has signed to ANTI- and on Tuesday shared her first single for the label, “Point Me Toward the Real.” She also announced some new North American tour dates. The horn-backed “Point Me Toward the Real” is about someone getting out of a psychiatric hospital. Furman’s lyrics paint a truly vivid picture.

Furman had this to say about the song in a press release: “This is a neo-soul song about getting released from a psychiatric hospital, which has never happened to me. But really it’s a song about what you do right after abuse, imprisonment, a brush with death. Who do you call when it’s supposedly over? Where do you go? How do you know what you want? “We’ve all recently been going through something terrifying. We’ve all made friends with death in the last two years. When I look to the future, I want to know who has my back? Whose back do I have? And what is real, what and who can I rely on? Point me toward the real; there’s no other direction I want to go.”

The song is also being released by the UK label Bella Union. Check out Furman’s upcoming tour dates here.

John Congleton (Angel Olsen, Future Islands, Sharon Van Etten) produced, engineered, and recorded the new song, which features backing vocals from Shannon Lay and Debbie Neigher and horn arrangements by Nathaniel Walcott (Bright Eyes).

Furman’s last full-on album was 2019’s Twelve Nudes. In 2021, Furman surprise released a new EP that features songs she has written for season 3 of the Netflix show Sex Education. It was fittingly titled Sex Education - Songs from Season 3 and featured three new songs, alongside two songs previously released with her former band Ezra Furman & The Harpoons in 2011. Furman has done the music for all three seasons. In 2020, Furman shared the official soundtrack for seasons 1 and 2 of Sex Education, along with a video for the song “Every Feeling.”

Check out our 2020 interview with Furman in episode two of our official podcast’s first season.

Read our 2018 interview with Furman. By Mark Redfern

2. Nilüfer Yanya: “the dealer”

Nilüfer Yanya released her sophomore album, PAINLESS, today via ATO. On Monday, she shared the album’s fourth and final pre-release single, “the dealer.” It’s the album’s opening track and once again shows that Yanya is a singular talent.

View Yanya’s upcoming tour dates here.

Yanya had this to say about “the dealer” in a press release: “When I was writing this song I was thinking about the transient nature of life and the cyclical nature of the seasons. I find it interesting how we attach certain memories and feelings to different seasons and tend to revisit them time and time again, yet our lives move in a more linear motion and even when we feel like we are going back we never really get to go back anywhere. Musically speaking it’s a bit more playful and relaxed.”

Yanya is one of the artists on the cover of our 20th Anniversary print issue.

Previously Yanya shared PAINLESS’ lead single “stabilise,” which was #2 on our Songs of the Week list and also landed on our Top 130 Songs of 2021. Then she shared the album’s second single, “midnight sun,” via a visualizer video for it featuring Yanya in pink angel wings. “Midnight sun” was also #2 on our Songs of the Week list. Then she shared the album’s third single, “anotherlife,” via a video for it directed by her sister Molly Daniel and featuring Yanya on holiday in Sri Lanka. “Anotherlife” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list.

Yanya’s debut album, Miss Universe, came out in 2019 via ATO. In 2020 she shared the EP Feeling Lucky?

PAINLESS was recorded in a basement studio in Stoke Newington and Riverfish Music in Penzance. For the sessions Yanya worked with Miss Universe collaborator and producer Wilma Archer, DEEK Recordings founder Bullion, Big Thief producer Andrew Sarlo, and musician Jazzi Bobbi.

“It’s a record about emotion,” Yanya says in a press release. “I think it’s more open about that in a way that Miss Universe wasn’t because there’s so many cloaks and sleeves with the concept I built around it.”

This time, she says: “I’m not as scared to admit my feelings.” By Mark Redfern

3. Belle and Sebastian: “Unnecessary Drama”

On Wednesday, Scotland’s Belle and Sebastian announced a new album, A Bit of Previous, and shared its first single, “Unnecessary Drama,” via a video for it.

They also announced some new tour dates that include shows in America, the UK, and Europe. A Bit of Previous is due out May 6 via Matador and has four different album covers. Check out a composite of the four album covers, the album’s tracklist, and the band’s upcoming tour dates here.

Frontman Stuart Murdoch had this to say about “Unnecessary Drama” in a press release: “The song is about a young person experimenting in being a human again after a forced hiatus. The person is weighing up whether or not it’s worth the mess! Still, you dip your toe in and it becomes delicious, and you get too much of it. Between trouble and nothing, we still choose the trouble.”

A Bit of Previous was recorded in the band’s hometown of Glasgow after plans to record in Los Angeles in the spring of 2020 were scrapped due to the pandemic. The band self-produced the album, recording it themselves. The album features contributions from Brian McNeill, Matt Wiggins, Kevin Burleigh, and Shawn Everett.

“We did it together, us and the city,” says Murdoch in the press release. “This record was the first ‘full’ LP recording for B&S in Glasgow since Fold Your Hands Child, 1999. We clocked in every morning, we played our songs, we wrote together, we tried new things, we took the proverbial lump of clay, and we threw it every day.”

A Bit of Previous is the band’s first proper full-length album in seven years. But in that time they have 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. How to Solve Your Human Problems Part 1 came out in December 2017, Part 2 came out in January 2018, and Part 3 came out in February 2018. Then all three EPs were collected in a vinyl box set and CD compilation that also came out in February 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. By Mark Redfern

4. Wet Leg: “Angelica”

British duo Wet Leg (Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers) are releasing their self-titled debut album on April 8 via Domino. On Monday, they shared a new song from it, “Angelica,” via another one of their amusing self-directed videos.

“Angelica” is named after Teasdale’s oldest friend. It was recorded in Chambers’ living room by bandmate Joshua Mobaraki.

“It’s laced with disenchantment,” Teasdale says in a press release. “Even though the chorus is ‘good times, all the time.’ That’s just impossible, isn’t it?”

Wet Leg features the songs “Chaise Longue” (which was one of our Songs of the Week), “Wet Dream,” which topped our Songs of the Week list, “Oh No,” and “Too Late Now,” the latter of which also topped our Songs of the Week list. Then they shared a video for “Oh No.”

Then the duo did a Tiny Desk (Home) Concert for NPR, performed “Chaise Longue” on Late Night with Seth Meyers, and stopped by SiriusXMU to perform a cover of Madonna’s “Material Girl.”

“Chaise Longue” was #1 on our Top 130 Songs of 2021 list.

Read our 2021 interview with Wet Leg on “Chaise Longue.”

Also pick up our 20th anniversary print issue to read a separate article on Wet Leg.

Check out the band’s upcoming tour dates (most of which are sold out) here. By Mark Redfern

5. Sharon Van Etten: “Used to It”

On Tuesday, Sharon Van Etten shared a new song, “Used to It,” via a video for the gorgeous single. Charley Damski, Van Etten’s bandmate and musical director, directed the “Used to It” video, which features the dancer and choreographer Hayden J Frederick. View Van Etten’s tour dates, including the upcoming The Wild Hearts tour this summer with Angel Olsen and Julien Baker, here.

“Used to It” was originally penned for an HBO documentary, Baby God, about “a fertility specialist who takes it upon himself to impregnate women with his own sperm.” Van Etten was asked to help create the score for the film.

“Ultimately, the film team changed their musical direction, but I found myself welcomely challenged to the idea of writing a song about the concept of family, connection through blood, nature vs nurture, while attempting to incorporate ideas of love and the complexities of science and technology,” explains Van Etten in a press release. “I am grateful for this song to be able to have a new life, relating more to the times we have all been living through and redefining the meaning of this song by focusing on the positives of seeking connection and understanding what family means to the individual.”

Van Etten had this to add about the video and working with Damski and Frederick: “Together, they helped me convey the feelings of internal struggles, while also finding space for oneself and embracing that pain in order to move on.”

“Used to It” is a standalone single on Jagjaguwar for now and follows “Porta,” a new song Van Etten shared in February via a video for it. “Porta” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Last year Van Etten and Angel Olsen released the joint song, “Like I Used To,” which was shared via a Kimberly Stuckwisch-directed video. The duet easily landed at #1 on our Songs of the Week list and was also #3 on our Top 130 Songs of 2021 list. Then they performed the song with a full band on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Then they shared an acoustic version of the song and performed the acoustic version on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.

In April 2021, Van Etten released epic Ten, an anniversary reissue of her 2010 Epic album, via Ba Da Bing. It featured covers of the some of the album’s songs by notable artists, including Fiona Apple, Courtney Barnett and Vagabon, IDLES, and more. Van Etten’s most recent new album, Remind Me Tomorrow, came out in 2019 via Jagjaguwar.

Read our in-depth interview with Sharon Van Etten on Remind Me Tomorrow and check out our exclusive photo shoot with her. By Mark Redfern

6. Bartees Strange: “Heavy Heart”

On Tuesday, Bartees Strange announced that he has signed to the iconic British label 4AD and shared a new song, “Heavy Heart,” via a video for it. He also announced some new UK and European tour dates, his first headlining shows in those territories. Missy Dabice directed the “Heavy Heart” video.

Check out all his upcoming tour dates, including a run of shows opening for Car Seat Headrest that start this month, here.

“Heavy Heart” follows his highly acclaimed debut album, Live Forever, which came out in 2020 via Memory Music (a deluxe edition followed last year and included the new song “Weights,” which was one of our Songs of the Week). Live Forever was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2020.

A press release describes “Heavy Heart” and its video in greater detail: “On new song ‘Heavy Heart,’ Bartees is letting go of the guilt he has felt for years; guilt for his father’s sacrifices to build a better future for his family; guilt for the recent passing of his grandfather; guilt for the time he spends on tour and away from his partner; guilt for experiencing success while everyone else in his life was suffering after the release of Live Forever during the first year of the pandemic. Relinquishing those feelings Bartees is hoping to move forward and towards an optimistic future – celebrating the wins even when life can be heavy and hard. The first hint of new music in two years, the single is accompanied by visuals directed by Missy Dabice who places Bartees front and center. Echoing many of the themes of ‘Heavy Heart,’ Bartees also proudly wears his father and grandfather’s clothes as a tribute to them.”

Bartees Strange has also been active as a producer lately, working on the upcoming new albums by Proper. and Oceanator.

Strange (real name Bartees Cox Jr.) first garnered attention for covering a string of The National tracks, including on Say Goodbye to Pretty Boy, his EP of National covers released in 2020 on Brassland, a label run by members of the band. He was born in Ipswich, England, but grew up in Mustang, a largely the white and conservative rural town outside Oklahoma City, before launching his music career in Washington, D.C.

Read our interview with Strange on Live Forever. By Mark Redfern

7. Alex Izenberg: “Egyptian Cadillac”

On Tuesday, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Alex Izenberg announced the release of his third studio album, I’m Not There, which will be out on May 20 via Domino. Izenberg also shared a video for the album’s lead single, “Egyptian Cadillac.” The video stars Ray Wise, who played Leland Palmer in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

In a press release, Izenberg elaborates on the new single: “I’m getting closer to making the unconscious conscious with this song and the others. It is difficult to just write when you are constantly bombarded with what is right or wrong, I’ve started looking within more so than before.”

I’m Not There was produced by Izenberg alongside Greg Hartunian. It also features string and woodwind arrangements by Dave Longstreth of Dirty Projectors.

Izenberg’s last album, Caravan Château, came out in 2020 via Weird World. Read our My Firsts and The End interviews with Izenberg. By Joey Arnone

8. Gwenno: “An Stevel Nowydh”

On Monday, Welsh musician Gwenno (full name Gwenno Saunders) announced the release of her third studio album, Tresor, which will be out on July 1 via Heavenly. She also shared a self-directed video for the album’s lead single, “An Stevel Nowydh.” View the album’s tracklist here.

In a press release, Gwenno states: “‘An Stevel Nowydh’ (The New Room) is a song about finding yourself somewhere entirely new and realizing that you’re completely lost, and acknowledging that the only thing to do in an existential crisis is to don your favorite hat and dance!

“The short is part of a longer film that I’ve created with Anglesey-born filmmaker Clare Marie Bailey due to be revealed this summer. It was shot on Super 8 in Bryn Celli Ddu, Mynydd Parys, and Porth Ia (St. Ives) during summer 2021, it was edited by Joan Pope and stars the incomparable Eddie Ladd as ‘Greddf’ (Instinct).”

Tresor was written in St. Ives, Cornwall and features co-production from Rhys Edwards. Gwenno adds that the new album primarily deals with “rediscovering oneself after the life-changing experience of becoming a mother.”

Gwenno’s most recent album, Le Kov, came out in 2018 via Heavenly. Read our interview with her on the album here. By Joey Arnone

9. Kevin Morby: “This Is a Photograph”

Yesterday, Kevin Morby announced the release of a new studio album, This Is a Photograph, which will be out on May 13 via Dead Oceans. In addition to announcing a world tour, Morby also shared a video for the album’s title track. View the full list of tour dates and the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

The new album features production by Sam Cohen, as well as musical contributions from Nick Kinsey, Oliver Hill, Cassandra Jenkins, Tim Heidecker, and Alia Shawkat.

“Sam Cohen and I wanted to throw everything at the wall with this one,” states Morby in a press release. “It’s about the battle every family faces, that of chasing the clock, to live our lives and hold onto one another for as long as possible. That, and, the dreams that come with being a young family in America and where those dreams eventually end up.”

Morby’s previous studio album, Sundowner, came out in 2020 via Dead Oceans.

Read our interview with Morby on his 2017 album City Music, along with our City Music Track-by-Track interview with him. By Joey Arnone

10. Tank and the Bangas: “Stolen Fruit”

On Monday, New Orleans’ Tank and the Bangas shared videos for two new songs: “Stolen Fruit” and “Black Folk,” the latter of which features Alex Isley and Masego. They are the latest releases from the group’s forthcoming album Red Balloon, which will be out on May 13 via Verve Forecast. It was a tough call, but we chose “Stolen Fruit,” which sounds like the glorious 1970s sounds of Stevie Wonder, for the main list, with “Black Folk” on the honorable mentions list below.

In a press release, frontwoman Tarriona “Tank” Ball states: “‘Stolen Fruit’ is basically about the slave trade. There’s ‘Strange Fruit,’ and I call this one ‘Stolen Fruit,’ because not only were the fruit strange, but they were also stolen. They weren’t from here.”

She adds: “‘Black Folk’ is about my love for Black people—everything that they are, everything that they do, their hair, the little girls, Jazzfest. All the beautiful things about us and the things that we like to cover up with pain, laughter, food and music, the family secrets, all of it.”

Upon announcement of the new album last month, the group shared the song “No ID.” By Joey Arnone

11. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: “Tidal River”

Melbourne, Australia five-piece Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are releasing a new album, Endless Rooms, on May 6 via Sub Pop. On Wednesday, they shared its third single, “Tidal River.” Nick Mckk directed the video.

Tom Russo had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Tidal River’ is a little snapshot of living in a place at a time when it feels like there is no-one at the wheel. If there were a complacency Olympics, Australia would win gold by a mile. In the ‘lucky country’, the luckiest ones jealously guard their fortune, as if it will disappear if they share it around. There is so much potential to do better, but it sometimes seems like progress is two steps forward, two steps back. Tidal River is located in what Europeans named Wilsons Promontory, where the river meets the ocean. It has great significance for the Gunai/Kurnai and Boonwurrung peoples, who call it Yiruk and Wamoon respectively. No matter the struggles and politics that go on, the river keeps churning into the sea.”

Previously Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever shared Endless Rooms’ first single, “The Way It Shatters,” via a video for it. “The Way It Shatters” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list.

The band features singer/songwriter/guitarists Tom Russo, Joe White, and Fran Keaney, as well as bassist Joe Russo and drummer Marcel Tussie.

Endless Rooms is the band’s third full-length and is the follow-up to 2020’s Sideways to New Italy and 2018’s debut album, Hope Downs, both of which also came out via Sub Pop. The album began with the band members trading ideas remotely during lockdown and it was recorded in “a mud-brick house in the bush around two hours north of Melbourne built by the extended Russo family in the 1970s.” The lakeside house also appears on the album’s cover.

The band self-produced the record, working with engineer and collaborator Matt Duffy. “The result is a collection of songs permeated by the spirit of the place; punctuated by field recordings of rain, fire, birds, and wind,” stated a previous press release.

The band collectively added: “It’s almost an anti-concept album. The Endless Rooms of the title reflects our love of creating worlds in our songs. We treat each of them as a bare room to be built up with infinite possibilities.”

Read our interview with Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever on Sideways to New Italy.

Read our review of Sideways to New Italy.

Hope Downs was our Album of the Week, one of our Top 100 Albums of 2018, and our #1 Debut Album of 2018.

Read our 2018 interview with Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.

12. Soundwalk Collective: “Empower and Enhance” (Feat. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lyra Pramuk)

Yesterday, Soundwalk Collective shared a new single, “Empower and Enhance,” featuring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lyra Pramuk. It is the latest release from their forthcoming album, LOVOTIC, which will be out on April 1 via Analogue Foundation.

Upon announcement of the new album last month, Soundwalk Collective shared the album’s title track.

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 12.

HAIM: “Lost Track”

Hater: “Hopes High”

LIFE: “Big Moon Lake”

Mallrat: “Teeth”

Midlake: “Noble”

My Idea: “Crutch”

Papercuts: “Lodger”

Tank and the Bangas: “Black Folk” (Feat. Alex Isley and Masego)

The Weather Station: “To Talk About”

Special Mention:

Cults: “Bourgeois” (Phoenix Cover) and Nation of Language: “Stars and Sons” (Broken Social Scene Cover) from Under the Radar’s Covers of Covers Album

The aforementioned Covers of Covers, our first album, came out today via American Laundromat. In honor of our 20th anniversary we approached some of our favorite musicians and asked them to cover any song by any artist who had been on the front or back cover of our print issue over the years. On Monday we shared two final pre-release singles: Cults’ cover of Phoenix’s “Bourgeois” and Nation of Language’s cover Broken Social Scene’s “Stars and Sons.”

Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 13 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions:

(Note: The Soundwalk Collective song is not on Spotify and thus not on the playlist.)

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Adult Mom: “91”

Barrie: “Concrete”

Calexico: “Harness the Wind”

Alex Cameron: “K-Hole”

Charli XCX: “Baby”

Club Intl: “Ride” (Feat. Desire)

Coach Party: “Weird Me Out”

Dave: “Starlight”

Deer Scout: “Peace With the Damage”

Madi Diaz: “Forever (New Feelings Version)” (Feat. Angel Olsen)

Ex-Vöid: “No Other Way”

fanclubwallet: “Gr8 Timing!”

Dominic Fike: “Elliot’s Song” (Feat. Zendaya)

Francis of Delirium: “The Funhouse”

S.G. Goodman: “Teeth Marks”

Iceage: “Pull Up” (Abra Cover)

Damien Jurado: “What Happened to the Class of ’65?”

James Krivchenia: “Emissaries of Creation”

Ted Leo: “Ping Pong” (Stereolab Cover)

Le Pain: “Is That How You Want Me to Feel?”

The Linda Lindas: “Talking to Myself”

Lucius: “Heartbursts”

Many Voices Speak: “Within Reach”

Walter Martin: “Hiram Hollow” and “Baseball Diamonds”

The Natvral: “A Portrait of Sylvie Vartan”

New Kids on the Block: “Bring Back the Time” (Feat. Salt-N-Pepa, Rick Astley, and En Vogue)

Palm Friends: “Domino”

Pixies: “Human Crime”

Poliça: “Rotting”

POND: “Lights of Leeming”

PUP: “Matilda”

Red Hot Chili Peppers: “Poster Child”

Robyn: “Buffalo Stance” (Feat. Mapei) (Neneh Cherry Cover)

Emma Ruth Rundle: “Pump Organ Song”

Super Furry Animals: “Of No Fixed Identity” (Feat. Rhys Ifans)

Trust Fund: “can’t take it”

Kurt Vile: “Hey Like a Child”

Weird Nightmare: “Searching for You”

Jack White: “Hi-De-Ho” (Feat. Q-Tip) and “Queen of the Bees”

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